Friday, August 31, 2012

History and Geography

             Last night we watched the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the boys were quite surprised that it was nothing like the book.  They did love the movie though and thought it was neat.  My husband had never read the book so the boys had to give him a brief summary of the story once the movie was over.  It was a great lesson on comparing and contrasting.  Ian also spent a bit of time on the Lego Castle Adventure website reading all about medieval castles and creating his own coat of arms.   By the time everyone finally got to bed it was a bit late and I figured they'd sleep a little bit later but I should have known better. 
              So bright and early this morning we finished up our lesson on Florida. We read two books on the Florida Everglades.  They happened to be the only two books I found on Florida at our library this week, but after watching the movie about Florida, it's the area of Florida they seemed most interested in.  Our favorite book was called simply Everglades by Jean Craighead George and the illustrations of the animals were unbelievable.   I printed out a blank Florida map for them to color and label with the state capital, the everglades, the gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.  They also had a blank US map that I plan to have them color & label each state on as we learn about them (Evan just colored).  Lastly, we had a sheet for them to draw the state flag, flower, and bird as well as listing things like the capital, tree, motto, etc.  I wasn't sure how they would do on this paper but they loved it.  The drawings of the bird, flower, tree and flag came out amazingly well.   It was a great unit lesson on Florida found here.  There's a lesson for each state and a few of the sheets can be used interchangeably from state to state as a way to compare them all and hopefully keep them all straight.  

             While the boys finished up their maps Evan went on the Lego Castle site and with my help was able to earn a few trophies for his room.  He made a coat of arms and it was neat to hear his logic for all the things he picked.  He made his shield a diamond shape because he figured it would offer the most protection.  He picked the colors blue and yellow because they are his favorite.  He made the Falcon (bird) in the middle a deep red to match the trim he had chosen.  We read about castle jobs and took a little quiz.  He kept getting one or two wrong and in order to get the trophy you had to get them all right.  He got frustrated and quit and I couldn't blame him.  We moved over to the Medieval Times site and looked at some of the weapons of the time period.  Then he asked me to print out a coat of arms for him to color.   They all seem pretty caught up in the coat of arms so I thought I'd let them each make one out of cardboard next week and they can paint & decorate it. 

             We started reading our new chapter book Wonderstruck for reading today.  The boys were very intimidated by the size of the book and weren't sure they wanted to read it at all.  However, once we actually started flipping through it there are a lot of pictures and I convinced them the reading portion probably wasn't all that long.  They agreed to at least give it a try.  I read aloud to them for a bit and they LOVED it!  We read to page 97 and when I said we'll stop  here Alec begged me to read more, and we probably will later on at some point today. 
              We did some cereal math today on probability.  They were each given a cup of apple jacks with a mixture of green and orange pieces.  They pulled out 1 piece at a time, recorded the color, replaced the piece, shook up the cup and pulled another one out.  They did that 10 times then they dumped out the cup, sorted between the two colors and counted up how many of each color they had.  We talked about which color they were more likely to pull out and even Evan quickly realized he was more likely to pull out whatever color he had more of.   I made sure his cup only had 4 pieces of green and a bunch of orange to make it very obvious for him.  Of course, they all thought the best part of math was eating the cereal when they were done. 
             By then it was pretty close to lunch time so they went outside and played in the sand for a bit.   Alec got me to play a quick game of ping- pong with him.  This is something new the boys have gotten into since the Olympics.  My husband loves ping- pong and grew up playing; we have his family's table set up in our basement so they often play together at night.  I'm not as huge of a fan but will play with the kids when asked.  They're getting pretty good too.  We watched two Big Cat Diary educational shows on Animal Planet while getting lunch ready and Alec and Evan seemed to really enjoy it.  It reminded us of the African Cats movie we watched a few weeks ago.  I figured that covered our science lesson for the day.  Then we headed to the park to ride bikes and play.  The older boys read books in the car on the way since they hadn't done any reading; just listening today.  I'm not entirely sure they read anything but they looked at the pictures and discussed what they saw.  I figured they did a bunch of reading about medieval times when they were playing the computer games and didn't want to argue.
        It was just too nice a day not to get out and enjoy the fresh air.  They rode bikes for a bit and then played on the swings.  I was amazed that Evan seemed to learn how to pump his legs on the swings literally over night!  He could not do that yesterday.  He still needed a bit of help today but for the most part once I gave him a starting push or two he was able to maintain height and speed.  There was a tether ball at the park and while I have no idea how to play we decided to make up our own game.  They had a blast and the laughter was priceless.  I think the kids were a bit disappointed to be the only ones at the park on such a nice day but they got along really well.   We stayed for almost 2 hours and then headed home to get dinner ready.  One thing I'm sure I'll remember for a while is a conversation I had with Ian while walking through the park.  We were talking about the fair this weekend and buying tickets vs. buying ride bracelets.  I told him the bracelets were only good for today and were $23 each.  He paused for just a moment and said "so that's $69 total right?"  I was floored that he figured out what was essentially 23x3 in his head in just a few moments.  I love teaching my kids and hearing these little tid bits they come out with throughout the day.  Not to mention the fun we had at the park in the nice weather. 
        I was excited to see our new books from Rainbow Resource were in and now we have a crafting book with all 50 states.  I groaned aloud though when I saw that the recommended craft for Florida was making rock candy.  We all know how that turned out last time.  But perhaps we'll give it another shot... or maybe we'll just move onto the next state.  I can't wait to learn a bit more about the other states so we can start playing some of the 50 states game I ordered.  It sounds like fun and has a bunch of different versions of the game. 
        The boys put on their suits and jumped into the lake while I grilled dinner for our picnic outside.  They took, what will probably be their last for the season, baths in the lake.  And had jumping contests. It was a pretty great day... with the occasional threats to send them back to school, the constant warnings to stop asking me if we were done yet so they could go play, and the thousands of, rather loud, reminders to clean up toys and clothes when they were done with them.  I don't mention these too often mostly because I don't always remember those moments at the end of the day when I'm finally sitting down to type.  I also think they're just that.. moments.  They are far outnumbered by the wonderfully fun things we get to do.  Besides I feel like these annoying behaviors are no worse than when they were in school and I had to remind them to do homework, re- pack backpacks, clean up toys and clothes when they were done with them and threaten to get a move on or else we'd be late.  I think that kind of nagging is just part of being a parent and as long as it doesn't make me or the boys miserable while we're homeschooling I try to ignore it or look for creative ways to deal with it.   So far we're happier and more laid back with our homeschooling than we ever were trying to prepare for a typical school day and we get to be extra comfy in our jammies when we want or snuggle in bed to read our books like we did today.  Those are the things we'll always remember!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Writing can be fun?

         Not really meaning to, we ended up doing quite a bit of a writing today.  The boys each received a letter from my mom and wanted to write back to her.  I thought today would be a good day to do that since I didn't plan on going to far.  Evan, once again dictated his to me.  I did make him write a few of the words in the letter though ("I love you"-- just some very small words to start) while the older two boys wrote their own.   Once again this was a struggle for Alec but Ian wrote quite a bit sitting in his room at his own desk.  We did have to edit quite a bit for punctuation and missing words but all in all it wasn't horrible when I took into account the fact that he wrote it totally on his own in the same amount of time it took me to help Evan write his.  Before writing I asked them if they remembered the right way to set up the letter and we talked about the format of a letter, and Ian definitely did.  I figure by writing letters once a month or so they should have this format down pat in no time. 
          Our math lesson also ended up including quite a bit of writing too.  It was another lesson pulled from my cereal math packet, but instead of estimating or counting, today they had to create.  They decided on the ingredients for their very own cereal and wrote a recipe using fractions and measurements.  We pulled out my cookbook and looked at recipes.  I showed them that they have to list all ingredients and then write the instructions.  On the front of the sheet there were lists of ingredients, shapes, colors, textures, etc. to choose from in making the cereal.  They also had to describe how the cereal would taste and name it too.  Of course the descriptions they came up with orally were much more descriptive than the ones they wrote down but that's pretty much how elementary aged writing goes.  I got them excited about writing by telling them that if they got me excited about their cereal and, if they used ingredients we could find at the grocery store, I'd allow them to create it "for real" one day next week along with designing their own cereal box.  Alec started the project and told me it was the best ever!  They loved writing up the recipe and I did have a few mini lessons about how 2 1/2 cups and 2- 1/2 cup measures are not the same thing.  We were basically talking about adding fractions without them realizing it.  I probably should have waited until they told me what kinds of cereal they'd like to make before offering to let them eat it.  I think some of the combinations will not only make my stomach hurt but my teeth too! Let me share them with you:  Evan's recipe calls for 1/3 cup apple jacks cereal, 1/4 cup crushed potato chips, 1/4 cup whole Oreo sandwich cookies with 1 Tbsp. milk.  Ian's cereal ended up becoming a milk shake since he used 6 cups coffee ice cream, 1 cup milk, 5 cups whipped cream, two cherries, 1/4 cup crushed potato chips and 1/4 cup choc. chip cookies and instructed his audience to blend the milk, ice cream, chips and cookies together in the blender.  Alec's cereal: Marshmallow Toast Crunch used 8 cups of milk, 4 cups of cinnamon toast crunch, 1 cup of rainbow colored diamonds (that don't even exist so he told me we could make them), 1 cup marshmallows, 4 Oreo cookies and 3 chocolate chip cookies.   But true to my word we'll take a day (or three if they want to try each other's and get to [have to?] eat them).   I think I'll definitely try another math/ writing activity like this again.   I bet we'd learn a lot by writing and then trying out our own recipes and it was very engaging. 

Look at that grin he has on his face while writing-- priceless!
        We took turns reading portions of the book Smelly Old History; Medieval Muck.  It's supposed to be a scratch and sniff history book, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!), we couldn't really get it to smell, though the kids claimed they could smell it.   It's a disgusting series that really grossed my kids out by describing the urinals, the lack of bathing, the abundance of animals and illnesses found throughout history, and in the case of this particular book, during Medieval times. They seemed to like it and I think they definitely have a more realistic idea of what life was like back then.  It was a bit more graphic than I would've liked but boys seem to enjoy being grossed out more than girls.  Afterwards we quickly filled some names and dates of some Medieval events onto our world history timeline and added the date Gillette's castle was built also.  While we had it open I asked the boys if there was anything else they wanted to add.  Ian wanted to add Sojourner Truth's birth date and the date she actually took the name Sojourner Truth to use as her own.  I told the boys that so far I had only written a few things and that they were free to add words, pictures, etc and that this would be an on-going project for years to come where we could just add things as we covered them or heard about them.  I'm hoping in the end it will really help us all learn to connect events around the world in a more chronological order. 
         For art today I told the boys could draw and paint or create in 3- D their own castle.  We studied pictures of castles found on the Internet and I showed them some art samples I had found on pinterest the other day.  I then left them to create.   They though play- d'oh would be the best choice (I was surprised and thought Ian at least would want Lego's) but we pulled out the jars and I left them to it.  Here's what they came up with so far:

The bright pink/ purple color dotted around are the window holes
Ian's castle may be a bit hard to see on the mat but he included window holes, drawbridge, and the center keep

Alec's castle is two floors with mote and parapets. 
           The boys watched another episode of Dirty Jobs and learned about the 2nd most deadliest snake in Australia; the Brown snake.  They learned that the venom can kill in 14 minutes.  Baby Browns have enough venom to kill 20 grown men when they hatch.  Nests can have up to 30 eggs in them.  It's illegal to kill them so once captured and removed from a home they have to be returned to the wild.  I had to leave the room a few times; it made me nervous watching these guys try and catch the snakes.  I hate snakes but the boys, once again, just love them.  They also learned a bit about the King toad, a non- native species that is killing much of the Australian wildlife.  
            My husband's aunt stopped by today and taught the boys a magic trick.  Ian practiced over and over so he could wow his dad when he got home.  She also sneakily hid money and candy inside a box of fruit roll ups (opened it up and then re- glued it), had them say the magic words and when the opened the box they were overjoyed to find money inside.  Ian ran inside the house and got a paper and pen to copy down the magic words... needless to say he was very disappointed when the spaghetti we had for dinner didn't have extra money inside even though he said the magic words multiple times! It was very funny and cute.   Lastly, she taught them a trick using their fingers to learn the 9 times tables.  They thought it was pretty neat but they will need more practice before they master it. 
           We went to the library and returned our movies, books on Cd's, and a few of the books we've already read that I picked out and they don't want to re- read.  We picked up 3 new books on Cd; I am a Manatee (Alec took one look at the title and yelled "If it's about Manatees it must be about Florida!"), I'm Dirty, and I Crocodile.  We checked out some movies on ocean life and Ian was excited to find Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to go along with the book we read last week.  We also checked out six new books including the book Wonderstruck that was recommended to the boys by his cousin.  We listened to the books on Cd on the way to do errands.  They played outside for a bit while their Aunt was here but other than that we just never got around to it today.  It's so hard for me to spend beautiful days like this inside when I know they're numbered.  But schoolwork must be done and this was just one of those days where the projects took longer than anticipated.  On the upside Alec was thrilled he FINALLY got to wear his pajamas all day while we were doing homeschooling.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Castles in Connecticut?

            We started out our morning doing some cereal math.  I have a whole mini book from scholastic on cereal math that I thought would be a neat break from "real" math.  I handed each boy a large cup of Lucky Charms cereal.  They had to estimate how many of each marshmallow shape was in their cup first and then sort and count the actual number of each shape.  Then they naturally made up number sentences comparing the shapes and sorts.   Alec and Ian were excited that they got most of their estimates right.  Evan needed help on forming most of his numbers but other than that had no problem completing this activity.  His sentences mostly compared which shapes had the most and least, but he too noticed when he guessed right.  After math they ate the cereal for breakfast. 
             We watched a documentary on Sharks after breakfast (Alec and Evan watched it twice in a row while Ian surprised me by playing his piano).   After the video's I asked them what they learned and Ian told me he learned that some sharks do lay eggs but some give live birth.  Some sharks wrap their eggs around a plant.  The dog shark finds a shell to put it's egg into.  Sharks babies are on their own once they are born.  Alec told me that only 5 types of shark attack humans.  Some sharks are harmless.  Sharks sometimes get confused between a seal and surfboard because they're both the same length and size the move the same way.  Then sharks will accidentally bite the surfboard but then it won't like it and will want to leave.  Evan did not know that "some sting rays are relatids to sharks" and he did not know that there were "different types of sharks that had different teeth; some are small and some are big and some are sharp. *CRUNCH*"
                We headed out on a day trip today.  The older boys brought a word search of shark terms and a dot- to- dot shark in the car for the long ride to Gillette's castle.   Alec added a worksheet on fractions to his packet because he thought it looked like fun.  Not all that surprising, Evan choose another dot- to- dot today this one was from number 1-20 and on the backside he had to draw jars of equal groups of nuts, count them up, and write the number.  We planned to meet up with my sister and nephews, tour the castle and hike on some of the trails.   We also brought our three books on Cd and the Magic Treehouse chapter book we started the other day to fill in the remainder of the ride.  Ian and Alec each took a turn reading one cheaper and then Alec just continued to read the entire rest of the book out loud to us all!    
           I had planned on starting a Medieval unit on castles and knights this month.  So far I've gotten to the point where I told the boys we'd be learning about castles and knights and that's about it.  I did ask them today to tell me everything they know about castles and knights.  I then explained that while we were headed to a castle today it was not around during medieval times and no knights or kings ever lived there.  But I figured there are some similarities to most castles and it would be neat to see one in person.   I was right.  It was very neat.  We knew William Gillette built his castle as his home.  He was famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes on the stage (long before movies of Sherlock Holmes were ever made).   We found out many more things throughout the tour though.  William Gillette played Sherlock over 1,300 times and was the one to give him the watch cap and pipe.  He was a crafter and an inventor as shown by his house.  The 40 something door inside the castle are all made of intricate wood designs and no two are alike.  He had secret staircases and mirrors to watch the goings on of others and keep his movements secret.  He invented an indoor "sprinkler" system in case of fire using rain water run- off.  It was a real interesting, though pretty quick, walking tour through the house. 

The boys strike a Sherlock Holmes pose

    Once outside, after we had our lunch, we went hiking on a few of the trails through the property and ended up on the banks of the Connecticut river.  It was a beautiful day to be outdoors enjoying the sunshine and the beach looked like something out of a shipwrecked movie with lots of trees and vines overhanging the water.  The boys pretended it was a bat cave, a training area, and many other things.    It was a great day, especially knowing if I hadn't chosen to homeschool this year my boys would have started school today.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Geography and Science

        We started our morning by finding Florida on the united states map and I had my kids tell me everything they knew about Florida.  Here are some of the things they told me:  It's where Disney is and lots of other parks too,  Florida has more kinds of fish around it than any other part of the world, flamingos are now extinct in Florida, it's surrounded by ocean so it must have a lot of beaches.  They noticed it was on the gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.  We then watched an hour long documentary on Florida that took us to the Florida keys; where they showed us an underground hotel the kids thought looked really neat.  Remembering the hotel helped them also remember that there's coral reefs and that Key West is famous for scuba diving.  They learned that the Seminole Indians live in the Florida Everglades with animals like buffalo, alligators, snakes, raccoons, and birds of all different kinds.  They also remembered that the Seminole Indians would eat the alligators; the men would capture them and it was the woman's job to kill, clean and cook it so the woman did more work than the men did (my kids words--- not mine!). We saw the space station at Cape Canaveral and it showed a plane ride that simulates anti- gravity.  We learned that St. Augustine is the oldest town in Florida; parts of it were over 500 years old.  They showed us an old military hospital and the tools they would have used back then to amputate legs and arms.   The kids learned that Daytona has a huge motorcycle convention every year and that racing was born in Daytona when it was realized that the cars could drive fast on the sand.   I had them do a very quick activity sheet that taught them the state bird, flower, capital city, nickname and flag.  I'm not sure how much they'll remember from the sheet but they certainly learned quite a bit by watching the video.  As they were trying to recall facts for me if they couldn't remember the place or a key word I gave them the United States of America book opened to the Florida page and had them look it up as an added learning tool today. 
              It was pouring rain again here this morning and since I noticed the rooms upstairs were once again nice and dark we turned Ian's room into a planetarium with a projector he got for Christmas last year.  We projected various planets onto the ceiling and then there are many different buttons to choose from.  We learned random facts about the planets, the climate, size and distance from the sun of each planet, as well as how many moons and different space missions that traveled to each planet.  They told me they learned that much of the space travel happened in the 1960's and 70's.   They used a solar system book to help them remember which planet the other facts they remembered went to.  They learned that some planets like Mercury and Venus have no moons. Some planets known as the gas giants have just gasses and no land mass.  The dark spot on Neptune is a hurricane.  I must admit this lesson didn't go that well.  Perhaps it's due to the fact we were once again just sitting and listening like we did during the movie or perhaps it was staring at one planet too long while listening to a long list of facts.  I'm not sure but they were more interested in playing with the buttons and throwing stuffed animals around the room.  I left and figured if they wanted to continue playing they could but I certainly didn't feel like they were learning much.  My kids weren't motivated to learn much today as all morning long I kept hearing-- "are we done?" 
           We, once again, headed to the dentist.  This time it was Ian's turn to have his teeth cleaned.  We listened to some books on Cd in the car, though Alec chose to read a page in his book Extraordinary Endangered Animals.  He learned more about the Lesser Pandas.  Alec then played the kindle in the dentist's office and he amazed me once again!  He was using math bingo again today and once more picked the hard level; this time he was able to add the two digit number even when you had to carry over the tens.  I said "Wow! You know how to do that?" He looked at me and said "well, yeah you showed me how yesterday." I demonstrated it twice... I guess that was all the instruction he needed.  I tried to get Evan to play a new game with me while we were sitting watching Ian get his teeth cleaned.  We've often played "I spy" in the doctors waiting room and Evan loves it.  Today I tried to play a variation on that I looked around the room and said "I spy something that starts with the letter c"  I made the hard c sound and asked him if he had any guesses.  He just looked at me and said "I don't want to play that game."  My mistake was in not asking his brothers to play first then I bet he would've argued it was his turn.  I tried to turn it into a math game instead and said "I spy 4... " and he refused that one too.  I gave up at that point and figured I'd try those games another day.  Alec eventually got sick of the math bingo and pulled up word boggle for a bit before trying another kindle game I had downloaded called the 50 states and started quizzing himself on the state birds.  By the end of the ride home he was getting about 50% of them right! 
        Since I was told we didn't do any "real" science today we pulled an experiment together when we got home.  We were supposed to do a model of the solar system but I'll be brutally honest; it looks like tons of work I just didn't have the energy for today plus I was missing pieces.  So instead, I had Ian read aloud about plate tectonics in the science book and then we simulated an underwater earthquake causing a mini tsunami.  We put two small blocks into a deep pan and added water to cover them.  We held them down and rammed them into one another causing the water to rise up in a big wave.   I figured it tied in nicely with yesterday's weather lessons about hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (of which Ian was able to tell my husband, last night at dinner, where on the globe each of those took place-- I was so proud!).   We experimented with the height of the tsunami based on how fast or how far apart we started and discovered it's not so much how far the plates move but how fast that determines the size of the wave.  The faster the plates move the higher the wave.   They each took a turn playing with the blocks and running the experiment themselves. 

          After science Ian did another lesson in his math workbook while Alec finished reading all about the Lesser Panda and Evan looked through a few of his lizard books he brought home yesterday.  By then we were done school for today.  They watched a non- fiction movie about monster trucks and then occupied themselves for the rest of the afternoon.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Busy Day At Home

         Ian started his day with some Lego multiplication shown here while  Alec played Words With Friends and math bingo on my Kindle.  Ian also built some projects with his K'nex then they all ate breakfast and got ready for our day.  I had printed out a math drill for each boy-- Ian on his times 3's (which he was insulted because he left off on times 4's in school but I explained this was a review) and Alec on his +3's.  I timed them each one minute to see how many they could get done and told them we'd try to do this at least once a week and all I'd like is for them to keep beating their old score.  Ian laughed to realize he only answered 4! " I guess I do need to practice those!" he said.   Alec answered 10.  This was a super simple math segment today focusing on speed and accuracy of facts.  While his older brothers did their math sheets Evan asked to do another dot to dot/ maze page.  He ended up doing two- one dot to dot on numbers 1-10 and another sheet on the alphabet both with a maze on the back. 
          I was at a restaurant Saturday night with a bunch of other moms and we had a lot  of straws left on the table at the end our meal that we hadn't opened or used.  They all agreed someone should take them home and finally I jokingly said "I'll take them and I'll come up with some homeschooling project to do with them on Monday."  I was completely kidding.  Looking through the boys science book this morning I found a section on hurricanes and making vortexes... using (yep! you guessed it!)  straws!  We first read the two pages on hurricanes and learned that: 1. hurricanes form over warm water or else they don't form.  2. The water has to be at least 80 degrees or higher.  3. Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are all the same thing.  4.The vortex makes an eye in the middle of the hurricane.  The experiment was super easy.  Using a drinking glass filled with water, you take a straw and make a horizontal slit in the middle of the straw (being careful not to cut all the way through) and then blow water into the glass.  They had a lot of fun with this, and yes we got water all over the table, it also was a bit hard to see the vortex around all the bubbles but they said they saw it.  They also saw the book had a hurricane in a jar experiment on the next page so we had to do that one too!  We took a jar with a lid and filled it 2/3 full with water (Alec demanded warm water since that's what Hurricanes use), added a drop of food coloring, 1 tsp of dish soap, 1 tsp of vinegar then put the lid on tight and shook it up while spinning the jar.  As we put it back down on the table you see a mini hurricane real quick and then watch the water swirl around and around.  We ended up taking the lid off and adding a bit of glitter and trying it a few more times.  The experiment said glass jar but we only had plastic-- it seemed to work good enough but maybe the vortex would've been more pronounced in a glass jar; I'm really not sure.  I do know the boys had fun and thought back to the hurricane we had last year at this time. 

      After science I let them play for a bit while we got ready to go to the dentist.  We read two of our library books on the way to the dentist since we were returning the rest of them today after the dentist: Armadillo's Orange and Red Light, Green Light.  At the dentist they continued their education on hygiene and caring for their teeth.  Even though Evan was the only one getting his teeth cleaned all the boys learn since the two older boys sit in the exam room and watch and listen too.  They love going to the dentist and our dentist is wonderful about allowing all the boys to pick out a toy at the end.  She asked them what they had been doing for fun over the summer and Alec told her we had made a hurricane in a jar so I guess he really enjoyed that lesson!  The hygienist showed Evan what plaque & tarter look like on his teeth by having him hold up a mirror and watching what she was doing.  They were asked a lot of questions about homeschooling and they answered them remarkably well giving a pretty accurate account to our day most days.  
            After the dentist we headed to the library and picked out a bunch of new books.  Ian wanted to try and reserve some other books through inter- library loan about construction trucks but his card still wasn't working on the on- line catalog.  Normally I'd take care of that for him but I said why don't you go ask the librarian if she can help you get your account working.  She not only logged onto his account to change his password for him but offered to help him reserve the books he wanted so he was quite pleased.  She found a few movies she thought he'd like too.  I put in a few inter- library loan requests myself and then we gathered all the books we had found at our library and checked out.  On the way out of the library we noticed one family having a picnic and the boys asked if we could go home, get lunch and come back to have a picnic too.  I thought that was a bit extreme so I offered two suggestions; we could bring a picnic with us next week when we went to the library and have a picnic there or we could go home and have a picnic in our yard with our new library books.  They really wanted to do both of them and that was fine with me.  On the way home from the library we listened to Duck for President.  Right away the boys recognized the voice of the reader from the Click, Clack Moo, Cows that Type book we listened to last week.  I said it might be the same author... then as they opened it to the first page, saw the farm and heard the words farmer Brown they shouted excitedly "it's the same farm!"  I love that they were making these connections between the two books.  We got home and after some yelling on my part about the mess in the car, house, and yard (and threatening not to allow anyone to eat lunch at all never mind having a picnic) they cleaned up and each packed their own lunch to bring outside.  We listened to two more books on Cd while we ate- Bear Snores On and I Stink; which are some of the kids favorite, well- read, books.  Once I was done eating I offered to read a few more books and the kids picked Dinosaurs Love Tacos, and two chapters of our newest Magic Treehouse Book; Knights at Dawn.  We're going to be starting a unit on Medieval times and I thought these were great fiction books to go along with that time period. 

           The boys were complaining that the picnic was a bit chilly in the shade with all the wind but then asked to go swimming-- go figure right?!  I did let them though and figured we were done school for the day.  But I was wrong.  Evan noticed the packet of seeds he had planted at the beginning of the summer had a small flower bud on it and the boys asked me to look it up and see what kind it was.  I was able to find it here. It's called a plains Coreopsis.  Evan was so excited to see that he finally had a flower.  They all played in the water for a while and Evan tried very hard to dive.  This made me pretty nervous since he still can't swim all that well and was trying to dive off some pretty shallow parts of the dock.  Luckily he doesn't go in head first on his dives; they're more like glorified belly flops at this point.  He did ask me if he could take swimming lessons though to really learn how to swim.  I just might look into that.  With all the progress he's made so far this year it would be great to keep moving forward and not have to stop completely for the whole fall and winter. 

            After swimming for just a little bit Alec decided it was too cold and asked if he could play math bingo on my kindle.  Next thing I knew I heard him shouting 39!  I walked over to discover that he had chosen the hard level and was adding two digit numbers... in his head,....when they were written horizontally (which I always think is much harder than vertically)!  I was floored!  The only times he ran into trouble was when he had to regroup; and honestly he's only 6 so I wouldn't even expect him to know the ones he was doing.
             The boys all decided it was too cold to swim and so they started playing in the sand.  Ian found a few toads and Evan caught them.  We put them into one of Alec's Backyard Safari Land and Water Habitats he had gotten for Christmas and watched them hop around.  We had a nice discussion about toads and compared them to frogs.  The boys told me the colors of their skin help them cammoflague themselves in the leaves and dirt.  They also told me toads don't have webbed feet like a frog.  They noticed the eyes are different on a toad than a frog, "a frogs eyes are on top of his head and a toads eyes are more on the side." They watced the two toads become "friends."  It was a great totally impromptu science lesson that kept my younger two engaged for over 30 minutes. 


Friday, August 24, 2012

Another Animal Adventure Day

       So we were off again today, once again to the zoo.  My niece and nephew start school next week and we thought it would be a great end of summer trip with all the kids.  I had my kids do some schoolwork before we left.  Ian worked on the next two lessons in his math curriculum and Alec worked on some basic addition facts (he grumbled much less with a double sided worksheet than he did for the cards yesterday- go figure!).  Evan, once again, asked if he could please do a sheet from his blue book (it's just a preschool activity workbook like the ones you find at Target and Walmart but he enjoys them) so he worked on mazes and alphabet dot to dot again today.  While Ian and Alec read Evan played with the remote control car they made yesterday.  Alec choose to read the flightless bird packet I had given him to read on the way to the beach and he filled in the question sheets too.  He shared many of the facts he was learning about the birds all throughout his reading.   He really amazed me today; one question on the paper asked how much an Elephant bird could weigh.  I didn't think he'd be able to figure it out since it only tells you that it weighs as much as three ostriches.  The article does say that one ostrich can weight up to 300 lbs.  He looks at me after a moment or two and says "wow! that's 900 lbs!"...  seriously how did he figure that out?!  I watched him skim the article looking for the information he wanted to answer the questions.   Ian read a chapter in one of the Boxcar Children's Series books.  He really enjoys them and I'm always happy to see him reading chapter books.  I had them each work on some cursive practice too.  I figured we'd be covering a lot of science and geography at the zoo reading about animals and where they live. Even with all the trips we take to the zoo they do learn one or two new facts each time. 
A favorite of the boys since the Prairie Dogs yip and dance every time

          On the way Alec played math bingo on my kindle and he not only tried the addition game he also tried a division game.  He did pretty good too!  He got most of the "divided by 2 & 5" ones.  He then played a game of word boggle.  While he was playing that Ian and I played a round of travel scavenger hunt.  Honestly, I'm just not sure what Evan was doing, I think he played with a new dry- erase activity book on trucks I had found in the bookcase this morning.  We got to the zoo and once again my kids learned so much (I know because I quizzed them on the way home while playing another round of travel scavenger hunt).   Ian learned that "baby kangaroos and wallaby's are both the size of a jellybean when they are born."  Evan learned that "mommy lions are called Lionesses."  Alec learned that "capybara's have webbed feet."  They also learned that binturongs can grow to be 6 feet.  I was surprised to find that they knew the rhino's horn was "made of keratin like hair and fingernails."   By the end of the day they not only knew where Madagascar was but they were able to start pointing out Africa and South America too (Esp. Brazil; Alec has a thing for Brazil ever since he saw the movie Rio).  They taught me that baby porcupines are called porcupets, they told me that one of the noises we heard during the day was the sound of the lion (both of which they learned during junior zookeeper classes).  They had so much fun wowing their cousins with all sorts of animal facts. They got to see a boa constrictor actually killing/ eating a bunny; a sight that both enraptured and horrified my children.  We got to pet a chinchilla, a bearded dragon, and a leopard gecko as well as the "usual" ball python and blue- tonged skink.  They had a great time! 
In all the zoo trips this is the first time we've seen the tortoises head!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Independence is best.

      While we were finally planning on not having a day trip today I am hosting a party at my house tonight for a ladies night out, which I find I need more than ever now that I'm home with the kids all the time.  However, having been out all week I haven't had much time to clean or prepare any foods so I was already trying to figure out how to have an actual day of learning and still get everything done on my list.  I'm still trying to figure that out.  We headed out bright and early to the supermarket, Evan asked if he could please do two worksheets today so I once again pulled out a dot- to- dot/ maze sheet for him to work on in the car (he asked if he could do another one once we were home; of course I said yes!).  Alec and Ian choose to read.  Alec continued reading the Jungle Book while Ian choose a Curious George book to read.  I was a bit disappointed it was what I would consider below grade level for him but it was a new book we hadn't yet read and he wanted to read it, so I let him. 
      On the way home they once again spotted a few new licence plates-- we were lucky enough in the last few days to add Alaska, Missouri, Minnesota.  They were comparing how many they'd found and how many they had left to find.  They each have around 19/20 left (it's funny that they each have different ones crossed off though!).  While they still might not know much about each state or even where to find it on the map they are quickly learning that the pictures on the plates usually mean something to that corresponding state and they are getting quite familiar with all the names of the 50 states.  We've even had to talk about the difference between a state and U.S territory. 
      Once home as I was putting the groceries away I asked the boys to work on some math. Ian used his book and worked on lesson 8; it was a review of adding 3 digit numbers.  Since Alec needs more practice with his addition facts I handed him a deck of cards that I had removed the A, 1, 2, 3, and face cards from.  I asked him to flip two cards over; read them out loud in a number sentence and tell me the sum.  I explained that talking out loud helps him to learn even better because he gets to see it, think it, speak it and hear it.  He grumbled a bit but he was done in minutes.  I'm sure if I wasn't busy and had offered to play addition war with him he would've loved it. 
       Once math was over Alec and Evan played candy land and Ian played with the K'nex again.  I mentioned to Ian that he hadn't finished his remote control science project from the other night.  The robot had turned out to be too hard for him and I pointed out that the book had 10 projects and they were in fact ordered from least to most difficult (Ian had of course picked out the 10th project).  I encouraged him to try again and maybe put the car together instead.  Next thing I knew Alec was helping out too and they had a remote control car racing around my living room!  I certainly could've helped them and read the step by step instructions to them making sure they were following them but I was so glad and so proud that they were able to do this independently!

         After lunch the boys watched an episode of Dirty Jobs (on DVR); Mike Rowe was in Australia with the Aborigines.  They watched them catch and eat turtle eggs, sting rays, sharks, and learned a bit about the culture of the indigenous Australian people.  We then watched America's Got Talent (on DVR) and I was amazed to discover that my boys knew mariachi music came from Mexico.   They analyzed the magic tricks and came up with some pretty clever ideas for how they might have been accomplished.  Once they were done watching TV we headed out for some more errands.  I had found a travel scavenger hunt for kids card pack on our shelf in the playroom and I encouraged them to play while we drove around town.  It was really cute.  The cards asked for kids to find anything from a red car to a license plate with the letter "z" or even smells and sounds.   It was fun and maybe a little educational too.  It sure required them to really look and focus. 
         Once home they all pitched in and helped me clean the entire downstairs.  They all wiped, washed, vacuumed, and scrubbed.  We had little to no complaining either.  We finished up and they, of course, wanted to play Wii.  I reminded them that we were going to try and grow our own pineapple plant.  We needed to read up on how to do that so I googled it and found this awesome tutorial.  I went into the kitchen and had Ian and Alec take turns reading the instructions to me; I just wasn't quite understanding at first because I thought we'd actually plant part of the fruit but once I got brave enough to cut a bit of the leafy stem I found the brown dots they were talking about in step three.  We then placed it in a cabinet to dry out during the course of the week since it said away from sunlight and we have a pretty sunny house.  I really hope this experiment works!  I'd love to have a pineapple plant-- a little piece of the tropics right here at home. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Learning on the go.

          Today we headed to the shoreline once again.  This time we went to the beach for a homeschool hike and picnic.  We met up with four other homeschooling families from various parts of the state to hike around the area and explore nature.  We don't often get to meet up with this group of hikers since they often hike quite far away from our home, but today they were heading to a favorite beach of ours and both myself and the boys couldn't wait to meet up these wonderful families.  I knew we were going to have to spend most of our morning packing and preparing for hiking, a picnic and another beach day.  As I packed lunches, boogie boards, sand toys, and our beach bags I was trying to think of someway to cover today's math, reading and geography lessons.  I decided to try a few worksheets that I could have them bring in the car-- that's what the car ride bags were originally designed for anyway.  I wasn't sure how my boys would feel about that though since I've shied away from most anything resembling a worksheet.  I knew they groaned whenever they saw them last year at school and had been trying very hard to focus on hands- on "fun" learning.  But amazingly enough they were just fine with the three worksheets I gave them. 
      Ian had a double sided math worksheet that reviewed fractions, adding two digit numbers with regrouping and telling time.  I also had him read a short non- fiction story about Pythons vs. Boa constrictors (he loves snakes!).  The story came with an accompanying set of comprehension questions.  For his geography lesson today I found a map of Connecticut with 10 questions pertaining to the capital city, the neighboring states, important rivers, oceans, and other bodies of water.   It took him the whole ride to the beach and most of the ride home in order to finish these up but he did really well working on his own.  I was amazed to see how stressed out he was getting on the ride home that he didn't understand some of the questions.  I flat out told him that's why we haven't done much with worksheets.  I don't like to see him getting so uptight about learning.  I explained to him that he can't "fail" homeschooling.  If he doesn't know the answer to a question or doesn't understand it he just needs to ask and we'll go over it together.  That seemed to help.
         Alec had a  math sheet that went through the number of days each month; complete with poem and knuckle count shown here. The backside asked for him to color coins to make up certain amounts, count change, and comparing greater than/ less than piles of tens and ones blocks.  He also had the same map of Connecticut page w/ the same questions and a similar reading page but his was on flightless birds instead of snakes (due to interest).  Thinking he might need more information on Connecticut I gave him a book on the 50 states to use.  He ended up reading the book most of the way to the beach.  He mainly focused on the state birds and insects but also noticed things like Kansas had the most tornadoes ("I don't ever want to live THERE!").  Long story short; Alec only ended up doing his math sheet since he spent the rest of the ride reading either the 50 states book or starting to read his new Jungle Book chapter book we found this morning in the dollar section of Target.  I figured he'd more than covered his reading and geography for the day.   I wasn't going to ask Evan to do anything today since I couldn't work with him but he asked if he could do some math so I found a sheet in one of his activity books that had a 1- 10 dot to dot and another maze on the back.  He was so excited and had them done in the first 15min of our ride. 
      Once at the beach we met up with our fellow hikers (and a few new families too) and off we went.  The kids were trying to scale rocks and boulders, they found caves and cracks in the rock walls, investigated a lean- to, saw many different shaped and colored mushrooms, learned the "leaves of three let it be" mantra when looking at a poison ivy pant, and saw a rat snake.  The beach also has trains that cross frequently nearby and all the kids were excited every time it passed. 

          We hiked for about an hour or so and then headed back to our cars and head out to the beach.  There the kids played in the water, swam a bit, let themselves float in and out on the waves, and dig in the sand.  They inspected the sand and learned where the different color variations came from.  They built a huge fortress wall with all the kids participating and then a few of the boys made up a game-- Ninja Jump.  You had to jump over the wall using your best ninja moves and land in the water.  They had a blast and my kids didn't want to leave to come home. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Finding time to learn.

Today we headed out to see some friends of ours that live on the shoreline.  I knew we wouldn't have much time at home in the morning to get our school work done so I focused on those things that couldn't be learned on the go.

I find that so often on this homeschooling journey that our busy life gets in the way of homeschooling.

Now I know I can cut back on activities and "fun" in order to find more time to sit with the boys and do schoolwork, but I find that if I just tweak our schedule we can usually find a way to do both! That makes for a much more fun and enriched life.

The two older boys did their math lessons.  Now that we're getting into the lessons they are getting much harder.  It's amazing what the flip of one page did for Alec's lessons.  He learned so many new things today (many of which would be review for a typical second grader), I'm not sure if he'll be able to retain it all so I'm thinking we'll supplement his lessons at this point with lessons on place value and writing numbers over 100.  The book is also reviewing all addition facts and Alec really only knows up to +3's.  He can figure out the rest but it's not as rapid a recall as I'd like so we'll focus on those through some games.

While the older two boys were working on math I got Evan to agree to do one worksheet; front and back!  The front side was a maze and the back side was an A-Z dot to dot.  He needed a bit of help but not much.  I was just happy to have him agree to try for once instead of saying "no I don't want to" and walking away.

The older two boys moved on to some cursive practice and then we got ready to leave. 

We listened to all three books on Cd we got at the library yesterday as we drove.  We started with Ian's book since we hadn't listened to it yet.  I asked them to predict what they thought the title meant.  I also asked them where they thought the book took place and what nationality was being represented.  By the end of the first page Ian and Alec shouted it's Mexico!  In between each Cd, Alec and Ian took turns reading chapters from our Magic Tree House Tonight on the Titanic book we had started last week and by the time we reached our destination we had finished that book too.  We did pause and review what we had read and made new predictions for most of the chapters as we went along.

The boys also spotted new licence plates along the way; we added Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Washington, DC to our growing list of states we've spotted.  They're getting to be such professionals at spotting out of state plates.

Alec also read to us from his Animal Kingdom book and we learned that Capybara's are great swimmers, they will hide from predators in the river and hold their breath for 5 minutes.   We learned that black footed ferrets eat prairie dogs but are dying since farmers are killing the prairie dogs in order to save their grass.   Even with all that he knows about animal facts he always manages to learn one or two new facts here and there.
Once we arrived at our friend's house the boys rode bikes.  Alec learned how to ride a two wheeler last summer at their house but rarely rides at home and usually needs a push to get him started but today he just took off on his own and rode up and down the driveway.  They had water gun fights and just played.  It was a fun final summer day with our friends who are starting school on Monday. 

On the ride home we once again listened to the books on Cd and then we played another alphabet game.  This time we went through the alphabet and had to think of foods we eat that start with each letter.  I let Evan have first guess of every letter since he's the youngest and even at that he needed many hints to  participate.

Once home Ian went to help with yard work and raking.  As Alec put it "Ian has a connection to the sand." I was amazed at how astute his observation really was.  Ian does have a connection with the sand.  He loves to dig, build, rake , and truck dirt all around.  It's definitely in his blood.
After dinner while I read a book to Evan before bed I asked Ian to find something having to do with science to do for today.  We ended up choosing a make your own remote control machines kit like the one found here!  I told him to read the directions and try to figure them out on his own.  So we'll see how that goes.  It looks very complicated and I'm sure it will take him a while and a bit of help to get it done but I'm proud of him for trying it on his own.  Amazingly enough Alec pitched right in to help him out and so far they're working together quite well.

It's amazing to me all the ways that we can find time to learn even when we feel like we're taking the day off to spend with friends and play!

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Monday, August 20, 2012

What schedule? When a Homeschooling Schedule Isn't Working

Wasn't it just last week that I wrote proclaiming we'd decided on a schedule for homeschooling?   Well, it seems to be forgotten already!  I'm not sure why it is but I seem unable to keep a homeschooling going.

I hear from many of my friends that they could never home school because they aren't organized. 

That is one fear I never had. 

I am so organized it isn't even funny. 

I used to alphabetize my Cd's, movie and book cases that's how organized I usually am. 

However, the older my kids get and the more independent they try to be the more I find I have to change my standards so our Cd's, books, and movies are no longer alphabetized, our toys bins are no longer labeled (with pictures & words) as to what is found inside. 

It allows my children to take out and put away movies, music, toys, and books without worrying about being perfect.

I am starting to see that homeschooling is going to be the same way. 

A structure just doesn't allow them to take the reigns like I want them to anyway.  So, I've once again given up on our idea of having a schedule.

Instead I am focusing instead on what we accomplish each day.   I am finding that we are covering more than what I had planned to do with our schedule! 
Ian woke up and before he even came out of his room this morning he had read for 17 minutes.  I was folding clothes, and when he came in to tell me that, I asked him what he read and to tell me some details about his reading.  We finished discussing his book while he helped me fold the rest of the clothes.  He then took his basket & put all of his clothes away.

 My boys are getting to be wonderfully helpful already!

 Today we all worked together to dust, sweep, vacuum and wash the floors upstairs. 
After breakfast we read Gold! Gold From the American River.  I was delighted that that the boys enjoyed this non- fiction book on the California gold rush so much!

To finish up our London study we read our library book called A walk In London; it's a great story book about a girl who is taking a walk in London, England but on each page there are little little fact bubbles about each monument, painting, building, etc.  We really enjoyed it. 

We listened to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Click, Clack, Moo; Cows That Type in the car. 

Ian didn't listen though, he was much more interested in reading his book Machines as Big as Monsters (he read the entire thing cover to cover on the ride home; and there was a good paragraph on each page so I was impressed!).  

I downloaded some learning games onto my kindle yesterday and the boys spent a bit of time today exploring boggle, the 50 states, and math bingo as well as playing a few words in Words With Friends. 

We also tried a new board game I had gotten called Count Down & Spell Up!  I liked that the game not only can be used for math and spelling but it also has different instructions on the math side for older and younger players so we could all play the game together.  We played both a game of Count Down and a game of Spell up.  We didn't really like Spell UP but Count Down was a huge success! 
POOF Count Down and Spell Up

Ian and Evan also spent a large portion of the day sorting all the k'nex pieces and building new creations with the blocks.  All in all it was another fun day where we managed to at least hit upon all the typical learning subjects.

I am finding that no schedule just works better for us and allows our day to flow better.  We keep busy and learn about those things that interest us on any particular day and so for now we're just going to give up on having anything planned.