Entering Second Grade

I sat down at the kid’s school table the other day and reminisced about the past year. All we have accomplished in reading and writing and the struggles we went through in math. Through the tears, whining, and frustration, there were days of joy, wonderful Ah-Ha! moments, and accomplishment. We had fun in first grade. Yes, it was hard at times and sometimes it took a while for the information to “click” but we had fun.

The stack of finished first grade curriculum sits on the shelf. The edges of the workbooks are beat up, pages are all filled out, and doodlings are drawn on almost every page. Right next to it are the fresh, new second grade curriculum books. Flipping through the pages, reminds me of that new shoe feel. No pages have yet been creased, there’s no writing in the margins and the name line is still blank. You can flip through the pages and feel the stiffness of the paper. They’re just waiting to be put to use.

I took a pad of lined paper from the shelf, the kind that has the dashes in the middle for early writers, and I placed it on the table in front of me. My kids were playing nearby. My almost second grader was playing with his cars, with a fresh reading of Beverly Cleary’s Mouse and the Motorcycle book still in his thoughts. My daughter making use of the stencils as she added more to the piles of papers on the table of letters she wanted to send to people.

I grabbed a pencil from the middle bin and asked, “So, what do you want to learn in second grade?”

My son looked up at me with a puzzled look on his face and said, “I don’t know.”

I had asked him this question when he entered first grade as well, but I hadn’t received much of a response. He was interested in robots, but not much else piqued his interest. So, I decided to choose a few things for him to see what he would like. We found a few things that worked and a few that didn’t. We enrolled in 4-H (didn’t work out), started violin lessons (doing well in), joined a science group (a little advanced), took lots of field trips, learned about the weather (passing fancy), and the American Revolution (which he LOVED learning about).

I left the list sitting there for a while. The paper just as blank as it had been ten minutes before. “Well,” I said, “any ideas?”

Suddenly, he face changed from bewilderment to excitement, “Planes!” he shouted.

“That’s a great start! Planes would be so fun to learn about. What else?” I pressed.

That’s when the ideas started pouring out. I had him write them down on his list.

“I want to cook every Friday! I want to play soccer! Ooh, swimming lessons too! Reading my favorite books!” he added.

“Great! These are wonderful ideas!” He continued adding to his list, thinking carefully about each idea. I suggested a few ideas too to help with brainstorming. He rejected a few with indifference, but others happily added to the list: the water cycle, simple machines and a homeschool style Olympics all made the cut. Then came Tuesday game night, theater, rock climbing, inventors, Spanish, art, and more history, wanting to know why America fought America in the Civil War.

“This is quite a list we have going!” I said.

Then his face saddened, “I’m going to do everything in second grade and there will be nothing left for third grade.”

“No,” I reassured him, “there is plenty left. You have the whole world to learn about and a lifetime of learning is not going to cover it.”

Now, we may not get through that whole list this year but that’s not the point. The point is this is his education and he has control of what he wants to learn. There are a few weeks left before we officially begin second grade. The curriculum, still uncreased on the shelf, will have to wait until then but without the child-led activities to fill our school year our school year would not be complete. One of the best reasons for homeschooling is the freedom we have to choose our own path. Freedom not only for the parent, but for the child to choose his path in life. We are blessed in this country to not be tied down to a one-size-fits-all method of education, but to choose the one that works best for our family.

Homeschooling is so much more than academics. It’s about life! There must be an interest, there must be trial and error, there must be failure — with tears of frustration when it’s difficult and tears of joy when those wonderful Ah-ha moments are reached!

We are embracing the freedom we’ve been given and are going to make this a great year to remember.

Now, we are ready to start second grade.

Field Trips

During the second part of the first grade year, we took several field trips in Colorado around Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. Here are a few of the highlights:

To see a full list of field trips available to homeschoolers along the Front Range of Colorado, visit Homeschool Treasury.

Butterfly Pavilion

The Butterfly Pavilion is like a zoo for invertebrates. More than butterflies, it has spiders, beetles, bees, lobsters, starfish and others. You can pet starfish, hold a tarantula, count the bees flying out of the hive or go to watch the butterflies in their tropical habitat. Located in Broomfield.

Sunflower Farm

This place is a diamond in the rough. It’s a place where kids can be kids in nature. The stress of the world melts away on this charming farm in Longmont.

Hudson Gardens

Another place of relaxation and taking a break from the world is the Hudson Gardens. This oasis is located in Lakewood. Free year-round, there’s always something beautiful and breath-taking to be found here.

Triceratops Trail

Hidden away in Golden, lies Triceratops Trail where tracks can be seen that formed when the ground was wet and palm fronds existed in this area. It’s a little hard to find, but once you are able to find it, it’s a short 1 mile walk around the trail. (Go south through the parking lot, to about the middle of the lot and there will be an open pathway in the fence. Follow it to the right and up the golf course path and the trail will begin on your right.)


The word has gotten out. NCAR is the place to be for field trips! We went to several Boulder-based NCAR field trips last year, but this year I tried to schedule a trip and the ENTIRE YEAR is booked until next fall! Yes, they’re that good! The kids learned about the different types of clouds and the sun. Maybe next year…

Children’s Museum of Denver

The Children’s Museum of Denver has changed since we visited it several years ago. They’ve expanded their activities to include an area with a zipline, climbing net, tower, balloon, classes and other things. We didn’t get to stay long this trip, but will need to go back!

Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory

Learn about birds and bird watching at RMBO, now Bird Conservancy of the Rockies! The kids drew birds in their journals, listened to bird calls, and bird watched. They also has other great programs at their observatory like Archery! If you make it to Brighton, look them up. Reservations required.

Wildlife Experience

The Wildlife Experience is an animal lover’s dream. While there are not many live animals, besides some aquatic life, the Wildlife Experience in Parker has a great movie theater, and walk-thru museum. They also had a great class for the kids. Where else do you get to pet a snake?


Every Friday at 3pm, Sparkfun offers a tour through their facility where you get to see the latest and greatest projects that their team is working on. They’re an online technology company in Boulder, that sells their own quality arduino, inventors kits, and other electronic components. See how they’re made!

Wings Over the Rockies

If you love planes, Wings Over the Rockies in Denver has a lot of them — from bi-planes, and tri-planes, to WW2, and even an X-Wing replica. Walk around, under, and in some of the planes. See what the pilots wore, ejection seats, and watch a movie by Harrison Ford. Did you know he was a pilot?

What is a Maker? Can my child be one?

What Is A Maker?
Have you ever heard someone use the term “Maker” and didn’t know what they were referring to? Simply put, a Maker is someone who makes something. Easy enough, right? There’s a little more involved. Specifically, they combine the Arts, Technology, and Engineering to make whatever they put their minds to. The movement is really starting to get off the ground here in Colorado with makerspaces opening as quickly as lemonade stands during the heat of summer.

What Is A Makerspace?
Then you ask, so what then is a Makerspace? Think of your garage, but bigger and with more equipment and tools and technology than you can pack into your space. It can have workspaces, laser burners, 3D printers, silk screen machines, firing kiln, pottery wheels, sewing machines, and the list goes on. If you have an idea, you can usually make it at a Makerspace.

Can My Child Be A Maker?
Can you child make things? Then, yes, absolutely! Some Makerspaces may have a minimum age restriction due to the nature of the equipment, but children as young as 2 or 3 can be Makers. All they need is an idea and the material to make it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. My 4-year-old recently made a machine out of a crayon box. You’ll have to ask her what it does, but it took a lot of effort on her part and she was pretty pleased with her creation. There’s an online Maker Camp now available as well so that you can make things from the comfort of your couch or dining room table.

Where Can I Find A Makerspace?
Check you local listings for makerspaces if you live outside Colorado. If you want information for Colorado, I have a list of makerspaces along the Front Range for you check out. Usually, there is a monthly fee associated with using the equipment of the makerspace and being a part of the club. The recently opened BLDG 61 in Boulder, however, is free and open to all ages thanks to its association with the Boulder Public Library.

Maker Books To Get You Started
The synopsis for these books were taken from Amazon and are affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you. I am supported by a small portion of the seller’s profits in return for advertising.

Making Makers
This is a book for parents and educators. It builds the case for why it is crucial to encourage today’s youth to be makers. The Maker Movement history is introduced as well as practical advice for getting kids started in making. For those who are already familiar with the Maker Movement, this book provides information about many of the “big names” of the movement and their stories that make them so passionate about making.

Make: Electronics
Burn things out, mess things up-that’s how you learn. Make: Electronics begins with the basics. You’ll see for yourself how components work–and what happens when they don’t. You’ll short out a battery and overheat an LED. You’ll also open up a potentiometer and a relay to see what’s inside. No other book gives you such an opportunity to learn from real-life experiences. Ultimately, you will build gadgets that have lasting value, and you’ll have a complete understanding of how they work. From capacitors to transistors to microcontrollers–it’s all here.

Cardboard Box Book
Don’t throw away that box! Why not turn it into something amazing instead? This creative book shows kids that by using easy-to-find art and craft materials, the ideas, templates and stickers included in the book, and most importantly, a ton of imagination, simple cardboard boxes can be transformed into a robot costume, a princess castle, a circus, and so much more!

The Most Magnificent Thing
This book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl’s frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s likely to light up the imaginations of youngsters eager to create their own inventions and is a great tie-in to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Kondi is determined to make a galimoto — a toy vehicle made of wires. His brother laughs at the idea, but all day Kondi goes about gathering up the wire he needs. By nightfall, his wonderful galimoto is ready for the village children to play with in the light of the moon.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she’s a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions her one unfinished goal–to fly–Rosie sets to work building a contraption to make her aunt’s dream come true. But when her contraption doesn’t fl y but rather hovers for a moment and then crashes, Rosie deems the invention a failure. On the contrary, Aunt Rose insists that Rosie’s contraption was a raging success. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit.

You can also check out The Instructables. They have a reservoir full of ideas of things to make.

Happy Making!