Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Big Cats!

         So much for our planning and schedule making session yesterday morning!  Today was supposed to be all about history along with our little bit of reading and math.  Even as we set our schedule in motion yesterday I knew today would really be another science day as we were once again heading to the zoo.  The two older boys have been signed up for a junior zookeeping class at Southwick's zoo for quite some time.  Today's theme was big cats.  Late yesterday afternoon, I was thinking about our day today and in planning ahead I decided it was time we watched the documentary African Cats by Disney Nature to prepare the boys for their day today.  It was a wonderful documentary that followed both a cheetah mom and a lion pride through a year's journey.  We had, quite by accident, downloaded a kindle book called African Cats by Disney that was all about Sita the cheetah (the same as the movie but a bit more in depth about just the cheetah) a while back when headed to the doctors office one day, so they had quite a background on the movie already.  They all sat enraptured for the 90min. movie.   By the time we left the house this morning the boys were so excited they could hardly contain themselves!  I was just hoping the class would live up to their expectations and that they'd learn a lot more about the big cats. 

          We also ended up at the library yesterday afternoon.  Ian had put a request in for a few books on inter- library loan when we were there last week and two of his books came in.  He couldn't wait to start reading all about the different monster trucks.  While we were there I suggested returning our pigeon books (the ones on Cd) and checking out a few more.  We listened to two of them on the way home and I just fell in love with the one called Micawber by John Lithgow (yep the actor!).  It was a wonderfully illustrated story about a squirrel from central park who visits the art museum (complete with the names and pictures of several famous painters thrown into the story that I immediately thought of using as a good jumping off point for a nice art/ artist unit!) and becomes a painter himself.  The book used huge vocabulary words and yet they really understood the story and enjoyed it so much we listened to it twice.  The other book we listened to was called Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  Another great story about a donkey who finds a magic pebble.  It led us to talking about fables and the old adage "be careful what you wish for."  It tied in nicely with a unit Ian had been learning about in school this year.   
             We once again listened to both those books on the way to the zoo this morning along with the third book we took out called Skippy John Jones Lost in Spice. We've read it before since we bought the book at a school book fair but the books on Cd are just great.   I love that my children are listening to stories in the car while we drive but I have a bunch of other car ride games and learning ideas that I keep reading about and want to try.  One of the things I'm finding the most frustrating about homeschooling is the fact that I can't remember all the wonderful things I hear about or read about; seriously there's just so many wonderful, creative ideas for building skills.  Every book or magazine in our house has about 20 -40 sticky notes sticking out of them with games, art projects, and various teaching ideas I'm dying to try.  I also have a ton of on- line learning games and sites that I think would be great to really check out but it all gets so overwhelming at times.  I was determined today to try at least one new car ride game; even if it only lasted for five minutes.  I'm hopeful that if we try little games and ideas here and there that the most loved ones will just naturally become repeats for us.  Today's game was called true or false and I used all history questions for them (you can use anything you are studying -- artists, geography, math, etc., so I'm hoping this will become a family favorite!).  I didn't really even prepare any questions but thought of things off the top of my head.. for instance I said Slaves were allowed to get married.  True or False?  but if you decide to try it out yourself don't forget to throw in some silly ones like George Washington played in a rock band.  True or False? The giggles are priceless.  Besides you might be surprised at what they'll say!  My boys took over and started asking their own true/ false questions.  I'm glad we played the game though, I was going to start our history unit on slavery and the civil war but I think we've all decided to start at the beginning with the Pilgrims and just go from there.  I want them to have more than the superficial history overview I feel like I got through school.

            Oh and I was right!  This morning before we left I had the boys take out their math books and, not only did they not whine, Ian asked to do two extra lessons!  He's really getting the hang of multiplication and just loves how easy this book is (though he did need counters for harder problems like 6x6).  Alec had a harder time focusing today and just kept getting distracted; amazingly enough though he knew the answer to some of Ian's problems before Ian did so I guess I know what he was paying attention to instead. 

            We ended up staying at the zoo the whole day and closed it out yet again.  The class started 30 min before the zoo opened so Evan and I stayed in the car and read a ton of his little Batman books.  It was nice that we got to walk around the zoo for over an hour just the two of us and I found out Evan knows Africa and Australia on the map.  He also knows all the lemurs at the zoo are from Madagascar.   He knew quite a few animal facts too!  He remembered that red kangaroos are only really red if they are males.  He "read" the signs to see what each of the animals ate and compared them to one another.  Once we picked up the boys, who were all full of "big cats" facts, we ate lunch and saw the bird show.  Then we walked around the zoo reading signs and managed to see three new animals we'd never saw.  We also went into the bird sanctuary and fed some parakeets; yet something else we'd never done.  The boys just loved it too.  We sat through another animal encounter show and learned about armadillos, macaws, binturong, blue tonged skink and boa constrictors. We were thrilled to realize it was a different show than the last time.  They try really hard to have different animals in their talks and once the show was done we went into the Earth ltd. building and pet the skink, a tortoise, the binturong, a hissing cockroach and the boa constrictor.  It was a wonderful day at the zoo!  The boys learned so much too.  Ian learned that if you shave a male lion of his mane he will not be able to have children, that lions roars can reach REALLY far away like from the exhibit to the far side of the parking lot, that a three banded armadillo can roll up into a complete and total sphere, and that there really is real life applications to multiplication (which he tried to convince this morning was pointless) when he tried to figure out how many rides he and his three brothers could go on if we only had 18 tickets.... "6 tickets each right mom?  So that's three rides!"  Alec learned that a parakeet's beak is sharp enough to hurt if they bite you instead of their food (luckily no bloodshed was involved or he wouldn't have continued to feed them), that a binturong (also known as a bear cat) likes to swim and leaves a scent trail that smells like buttered popcorn, that not all armadillos can roll up into a complete ball, and that leopards are very fast too (just not as fast as a cheetah). 

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