Monday, September 17, 2012

Who's learning here?

            Today, I once again, woke up unsure what we'd be doing today.  Sometimes I wake up pretty early in the morning and can't get back to sleep feeling guilty I didn't plan anything.  Today was one of those days.  I knew we'd read another chapter or two in our Dragon book since it's due back at the library this week and we really want to know how it ends.  Right now the baby dragon has been captured!  Other than that I didn't have any definite ideas of our day.  I'm planning on returning all of our books this week so we'll be doing lots of reading.  We pick out books from the library at least once a week, sometimes twice a week.  We often renew some books while returning others and it does get hard to keep track of them all.  At any given time we have about 20 library books in our house so every now and then I return them all and we start over. 
            After reading two chapters while eating breakfast, we ended up watching a short web video on how cider is made for science. I subscribe to Clickschooling, it's a great (free!) web- based curriculum site. I get tons of ideas about all sorts of learning games, videos, and site ideas delivered right to my inbox (sometimes I think it's too many; again there are only so many hours in the day and we can't use them all even if I'd like to!). One day last week, Clickschooling recommended a link to Carlson Orchards and I figured with our trip to the orchard coming up this weekend it would be great to watch this video today.   On our last trip to the orchard, I asked the boys if they remembered watching how apple cider was made on a field trip they took during pre-school but, other than remembering that the apples were squeezed they really didn't remember.  This was a great visual demonstration.   We talked a bit more about plants and how they grow and checked on our bean seeds, apple seeds, and pineapple plant.  Alec's bean plant is the only thing growing- in fact it's almost grown out of the bag!  Evan's bean plant must have had too much water since it's moldy and Ian's beans don't seem to be doing anything.  Our pineapple plant was attracting fruit flies (which are now found in every room of our house! Ugh!) so we had to put it outside.  It doesn't appear to be growing but I'm still hopeful it will sprout roots.  We watered the apple seeds since they looked dry and moved on to something else. 

Alec's bean plant- isn't it big?
            We started our next art project; a stained-glass-on-paper painting. I found this on That Artist Woman's website and I'm finding more and more I am relying on her ideas for art. I just love the projects she comes up with and it's great to be able to see a finished project before we start. Ian wanted to try drawing a loader, Alec chose a Luna Moth (because and I quote "it's the biggest of all moths, it's the size of a cereal bowl! And it only comes out at night!"), Evan chose to draw a Star Wars character.  I warned Ian and Evan that it would be real tough to draw their subject matter but I told them I wouldn't tell them they couldn't.  It's their art and it's up to them. Sometimes I think you just have to let them try.   My only direction to them was to fill up the whole paper and try to draw nice and large since we'll be tracing over the pencil lines with colored glue.  They really struggled with the drawing part of the assignment and I regretting allowing them to choose their own subject.  Evan quit without even touching his pencil to the paper.  Ian hated his drawing when he was done and flipped the paper over to try again.  I tried explaining to them that they don't have to draw something complicated to make a nice drawing.  A leaf, flower, or even tracing their hand would have looked very nice instead they were reduced to tears and ended up so frustrated, but so was I!  Sometimes I feel like I talk until I'm blue in the face and they don't care.  I reiterated that they needed to draw something SIMPLE and again gave them suggestions.  Instead Ian came over with a drawing of an excavator and I just threw up my hands and told him to give it his best shot and to draw whatever he'd like.   I hate when "fun" art projects turn out to be no fun! But I'm betting they learned a lot even with all their frustrations. I did too; I should have assigned a butterfly or a bird.  Perhaps telling them to draw the state bird of our next state and then tie in geography would have been best.  Ian ended up deciding to draw a bird anyway on his own and Alec finished his moth.  It was a bit tricky to outline the drawings with glue but we set them aside to dry and I think they look pretty good.  We can't wait to paint them!

           We did something different for math today.  Over the weekend we were told about Shel Silverstein math.  Sounds pretty crazy right?!  Well, this site has a few worksheets made up to go along with some of Shel Silverstein's poems (you can print out the poems, worksheets and answer sheets-- there's three poems but once given the idea I'm sure I'll come up with more on my own!).  We used the poem Band- Aids today.  My kids are familiar with this poem and it's a family favorite so I thought it was a good one to start with.  I love that this assignment combines math, reading and poetry in one and it was something neat and fun since the poem "is just hilarious!"
           I was also hoping to get the boys to work on their Alphabet books we started last week but wasn't sure if I was up for the whining of "writing... I hate writing!"  I had checked out a some alphabet books from the library as inspiration so we spent a bit of time reading those today.  I was excited since many of them were about the United States and I figured that covered our government/ history lesson for today too.  We read A is for America; an American Alphabet, D is for Democracy; a Citizen's Alphabet, & M is for Majestic; a National Parks Alphabet.  I set the older boys to working on their books and gave them a few options.  They could work on the words for each page or the pictures or some of both.  They can draw the pictures, use Internet searches to print out pictures or use the camera to take pictures. I told them this is a rough draft start to the story so if they find another item they'd like to use for one of the letters other than what they wrote down they can change it.  They are the authors and they're in charge.  It doesn't have to be neat or perfectly spelled or punctuated but I wanted them started.  Ian wrote the words to two of his pages and Alec wrote the words and drew the picture on his Antelope page.  It was a very short but sweet 10 min. writing activity without any complaining.
         We finished "school" by lunchtime and watched a show on DVR called The Great Barrier Reef.  It was really neat.  We learned so much.   There were many unusual animals and animal behaviors shown.  We also learned the history of the area.  I had no idea the great barrier reef was so young and that it had once been above water.  After the movie we headed out to do some errands and to stop at the library to drop off some of our books.  On the way we listened to some books on CD; I, Crocodile (again!), Waiting for Wings, and This Land is Your Land.  We dropped off the alphabet books we read this morning too.  I was thrilled to find that they are part of a huge series of alphabet books that cover just about every state in our nation.  While they are a bit basic they have beautiful illustrations and I'm thinking they'll be quick reads filled with lots of facts so they'll be wonderful for geography lessons!  We've already requested S is for Sunshine; a Florida Alphabet, L is for Last Frontier; an Alaskan Alphabet (even though we've learned about Florida and Alaska already I thought the kids would still enjoy them), and N is for Nutmeg; A Connecticut Alphabet.  Now that I've discovered this whole series of books I'm thinking making our alphabet books might be a year long project we'll pull out once in a while to work on rather than a month long project like I had originally hoped.  I think it will tie everything together rather nicely.   We listened to Rikki Tikki Tavi on the way home and I was trying to brainstorm some "fun" Connecticut activities.  I found great book and art ideas for Alaska and Florida by looking up things like the Northern Lights, Arctic, Polar Bears, Iditarod and Dog sled, Everglades, Manatees, etc... but I couldn't come up with ideas for Connecticut. We typically watch a movie when we're learning about a new state and I didn't get one this time... then I realized;  we can learn about Connecticut these next few weeks by going outside and seeing Connecticut!  That's a perk to living in New England.  The states are small, close together, and easily traveled.  
       I'm always amazed at all the new stuff I learn each day as I continue to homeschool my children.  They continually ask me questions I don't know the answers to.  I typically look up these questions on Google (I'm constantly saying I don't know how people taught before google!).  Things like "what do Swans eat?"  "What kind of seed (flower, tree, animal, etc) is this?"  Yesterday we learned all about the Woolly Bear Caterpillar once I had found one on the road and the boys starting asking questions.  I was amazed to learn that while it is born in the fall it completely freezes during the winter; blood, organs, etc, and then in the spring it will thaw out and turn into a moth.  I never knew that!  Or that this sea snail found in the Great Barrier Reef can swallow a large fish whole before stunning it w/ poison.  So many friends and acquaintances have said they never felt smart enough to homeschool their children and, while I was a teacher by profession, I never worried about that but I'm learning that the more I teach the less I know!  I learn so much by homeschooling my children and I think it just goes to show how much is out there to learn about.  Every school, every child, every curriculum has gaps in learning; they have to because no one person can learn everything about everything.  It's a huge, great big world out there and I think as long as my kids know where and how to find the answers to their questions (and that it's important to ask the questions) they'll be just fine. 

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