I have been using Scholastic Magazines for science, reading, writing, math, and social studies. I love it very much. I wish I had them when I was a kid. It makes learning so much fun. Here’s a compilation video that I made about how we use them at home.
Category Archives: Science
I recently subscribed to Scholastic’s Geography Spin. I got it as an add-on when I subscribed to Scholastic News Grade 3. It costs $1.09/year (including shipping and handling) which is a great deal considering there are 8 issues per year. Each issue is 4 pages long. That’s 32 pages per year. But that’s just the start. The best part is that it also comes with online access to the website, which is amazing. The Geography Spin website has a section for the digital version of the issue, video, vocabulary, games, teacher’s guide and printables. It also contains more than a year’s worth of archived issues.
I think Geography Spin is an awesome way to learn about geography. We start our lesson with the vocabulary section. It has a definition (read aloud by the computer) and a picture of each word. After listening to the word and its description, I ask the kids (six and four year old, respectively) what it means in their own words. I want to make sure that they understand these words because it will help them understand the video and the magazine later. Next, we watch the video together. I do not stop when we watch it the first time. But when we watch it for the second time, I stop it from time to time to ask questions to make sure that they comprehend what they are hearing. I also ask questions that are relevant to the video. For example, have you been there? Do you want to go there? What do you think of ……? I ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Sometimes when they do offer their own commentaries, I pause the video so that we can talk more about it. The videos are amazing. It’s quite engaging for me and the kids. It’s also very short – no more than 5 minutes – so it’s great to keep their attention. Plus, it takes us about 20 minutes to watch the video, re-watch it and discuss it, which is just the right amount of time for me. Afterward, we listen to the magazine. Just like the vocabulary section, the magazine can be read by the computer. I love it because I don’t have to read it aloud. I like to save my voice for discussion. Also, the narrator is very good. It doesn’t sound like a robot at all. It’s probably a human recording. When the kids start to goof off and stop listening, it doesn’t yell either. I just click on a section that the kids missed and starts again. Sometimes, my 6-year old daughter reads the magazine so it’s also great for practicing her nonfiction reading skills. There are some words that are very unusual in fiction so the magazine really helps widen her vocabulary.
From time to time, I pair the lesson with arts and crafts. Arts and crafts always makes the kids happy. Furthermore, I use this time to have my own peace and quiet. They’ll spend at least half an hour working on their art project while I do whatever I want at the same time.
I originally got the map below to teach my 6-year old, Katie, about states. I ask Katie to search for a random state each day for two weeks. I also used to ask her which states we had visited, but that became too boring for me. After subscribing to Geography Spin, the map is relevant again and it’s more interesting to study the states when paired with a story and a purpose. I love this map. It’s very colorful as you can see. I can use a dry-erase marker on it and wipe it off after our lesson is done. There are also not a lot of city names which is great for little kids starting to learn geography. It can be quite frustrating to search for a specific location when there are too many details. As an added bonus, it is also great for hiding children’s fingerprints on the wall. 🙂
Geography Spin is not just good for learning about geography but also science, reading/listening comprehension and arts integration. For the April/May 2017 issue of Geography Spin, Make Way for Monarchs, I was also able to insert a Bible lesson. When the video talked about how nobody knows how the second generation of monarch butterflies are able to go to the same trees in Mexico that their parents originally came from without being there before, I told the kids that there is somebody who knows and that is Jesus because he’s omniscient. Jesus knows everything.
I think Geography Spin is a must whether your kids are homeschooled or your kids go to a traditional school. If the school does not subscribe to it nor have the budget for it, it is definitely worth sponsoring the whole class for a classroom subscription. It’s quite difficult to find a Geography resource that is as engaging as Geography Spin. Scholastic is offering a free 30-day trial on their website. Check it out here.
Products used for this lesson:
Afterschooling My First Grader
When my daughter started kindergarten two years ago, she was initially excited. It was her first year in a “big girl” school. However, it didn’t take long before she got bored with the lessons at school. She was able to read and write before she entered kindergarten, so most of the lessons were just a review to her. By the time half of her kindergarten year had gone by, she didn’t like school at all. She wanted to be homeschooled because she said that she wasn’t learning in school. She told us that they were doing baby stuff in kindergarten. So, I looked into homeschooling and decided that I really didn’t want to do it. I loved going to school when I was a kid. It was fun to hang out with the other kids. I don’t want her to miss that experience. But at the same time, I do not want her to hate school either so my husband and I found a school for her that offered a gifted program.
The school that Katie is in for first grade is a lot better than her kindergarten school. Her teacher provides her more challenging material than the regular class. However, when we had our first conference with the teacher, she suggested that we move Katie to a gifted magnet program. She needs more challenging lessons and she thinks it’ll be good if Katie can be with other kids who are closer to her level. There’s probably two or three other kids who are about the same level as Katie in her current class, and while the rest are advanced compare with the students in the regular class, the variation in skill level is still wide. Fortunately, her teacher is awesome so Katie is not bored in class. When Katie finishes her work, she does not give Katie more of the same work just to keep busy. She let Katie play with educational toys that she has in her classroom, or read books.
What Is Afterschooling and How We Do It
For the past year, I have been afterschooling Katie. If you haven’t heard of the word afterschooling, basically, it means homeschooling after kids go to their regular school. Katie has been reading chapter books since kindergarten. She likes reading a lot. I subscribe to Raz-plus.com so I just let her choose any books that she likes. She also has great comprehension. Raz-plus.com has comprehension questions, which she gets right most of the time. The good thing about Raz-plus is that the books are for K-5th grade so Katie can choose any reading level she wants. She tends to pick books from 2nd grade and higher. The books are longer so they have more interesting story lines. I also take her to the library and let her choose any books that she wants to read. If a child is reading books that are interesting to them, you won’t need to force them to read. Since her reading and comprehension skills are several grades ahead of her math skills, we mostly focus on her math skills. She uses a program called ST Math, which is a visual game-based program. We play math games such as monopoly, abacus, card games, ten-frame blocks, legos, and etc. It is a lot easier for her to remember her math lessons when she is having fun so I try my best to find materials that would make math learning fun. Below are some of the items that we use for our math lessons. In addition to her afterschooling, she also goes to swimming lessons and piano lessons. She loves to play in the water with the other kids. She gets a lot of exercise while having fun as well. I love her swimming lessons because it helps regulate her sleeping schedule. The school that she’s going to does not provide music lessons in first grade, so I just signed her up for piano lessons for half an hour a week. It’s quite interesting to hear her play. She also has Bible lessons from me. I want her to learn about God. We have been listening to the NIRV version of the Bible. We listen to Bible stories, and recently, we started memorizing Bible scriptures. Go to the bottom of this page for a list of products that I am using and have used in the past.
Benefits of Afterschooling
I believe that parents are their children’s primary educators. In my case, I afterschool my child in order to provide her with lessons that are interesting to her and for her to continue her growth. She goes to a class where the reading levels of the kids span multiple grades. Even if the kids in her class are advanced, most of them are not as advanced as my daughter. Her teacher is amazing. But it is quite difficult to provide instruction that would make sure each child is challenged to his/her level. The core curriculum that the school provides is for their grade level. Schools do not have the budget to provide multiple grade levels that would be just right for all of the kids. Imagine: if your kid starts reading at first grade level at the beginning of the year and decides to keep reading at home for pleasure, chances are your kid will be reading at a level that is higher than the other kids who were not reading at home in just a few months. At home, I can easily look for programs that match my daughter’s level since I do not have to consider whether twenty four or so other kids would benefit from it. I can also tailor the content to whatever subject my daughter is currently interested in. There’s a lot more individualization that I can easily provide at home compared to she gets from school. No matter how great the teacher is, it is quite difficult to know each kid at the same level that a parent can.
If you are reading my blog, chances are you and your spouse are working full-time because I usually put the links to my blog in Facebook and most of my friends are working. So, if you are interested in afterschooling, my best advice to you is do it every day even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. Find something that is interesting to both you and your child because it’s quite difficult to keep on doing something in the long term if one of you is not interested in it. You will be surprised at how much of a difference five minutes each day can make.
Finally, if your first grader is still not reading chapter books, please check out my posts How to Convert Your Reluctant Reader to an Enthusiastic Reader and How My Non-Reader Child Came to Read Charlotte’s Web in 8 months.
List of Products
Headsprout.com has two components: early reading and reading comprehension. For kindergarten, Katie used the early reading section. For first grade, she is currently using the reading comprehension. The reading comprehension section of Headsprout is for 2nd-5th grade level readers. I like that they introduce different genres. It includes fiction, non-fiction, poems. It also teaches map skills, analyzing charts in addition to reading strategies.
ST Math is an online game-based program that teaches math. Katie is a visual learner. This program has definitely helped her understand math concepts easily.
Raz-plus.com is an online reading program. It literally has thousands of books. It has both fiction and non-fiction stories. I like it a lot because the stories are very interesting.
This NIRV audio Bible is great for little kids. It’s an easier version. It’s a great introduction to kids to the Word of God.
I love these toys. I bought them because I figured if my kids are not interested in them, at least someone else would be. It turns out that they like them as much as I do!
Electronics for Kids
I was browsing Amazon for some toys and found an Electronics playground. I mentioned to my husband that I wanted one when I was in college but couldn’t afford to get one. So, my husband got one for me. He had one when he was a kid and thought that they were pretty cool. Apparently, my daughter Katie thought it was also cool. She asked me to play with it and we worked on the first experiment. I wasn’t able to catch it on video but her expression was priceless when she connected the last part and it sounded off. The experiment starts with simple connection but it gets harder. The instruction is clear so as long as the child can read numbers, he/she can play with this already.
Here’s the link to the Amazon site if you’re interested.
My Daughter Ate Her Science Project
“Crystals! Crystals!”, exclaimed Katie excitedly. She was bouncing up and down asking me to make crystals with her. Katie loves crystals. She made a miniature christmas tree last December with my husband by forming crystals. She thought it was cool to grow her own crystals, so she had been asking me to make another one with her.
In order to get Katie interested in science, I try to look for science projects that she would find interesting. When I was a kid, our teacher taught science by giving a lecture on a specific subject, and then we copied the information on the board, then we memorized that information. If we were learning about crystals, then our teacher would show us pictures of crystals and discuss how they were formed. Then, at the end of the week, we would be tested on our knowledge of crystals by answering questions based on the information that we copied from the board. I want my kids to have a lifelong love of learning. I try to find something that would spark their interest and hopefully, dig deeper from there. My kids are not interested in memorizing facts so I try to provide as much hands-on learning as possible to get them excited.
When Mother’s Day came, my husband helped Katie on her science project. The one they made was from water and sugar so it was safe to consume. When the crystals had formed, Katie was very happy to eat her science project.