Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween?

       Even without power we're gearing up for trick- or - treating tonight and finishing up all our Halloween activities.  Luckily we have a huge generator from my husband's work and our phone came back on late this morning.   We spent the early morning lounging around in my bed watching the news of all the devastation hurricane Sandy left in her wake.  My eight year old said it best when he asked me "isn't it just heartbreaking?"  It is.  I reminded my boys how lucky we are that we only lost power and, with the generator, it's only a minor convenience.  We are very lucky and very blessed.  We laid in bed a bit longer snuggling together so I grabbed our chapter book and read the next two chapters.  We only have two more left and I'm hoping to finish up today during lunch.  I often read aloud as the boys eat and then eat my lunch in a rush as they're finishing up. 
        We came downstairs, had some breakfast and got ready for our day.   The boys wanted eggs so Ian helped me cook them.  As soon as we were ready Ian asked what we going to do first so we started with math; a huge family favorite.  Alec had a subtract and color sheet of a haunted house (he loves to color and really enjoys most worksheets).  Evan had a count, cut and paste sheet with black cats.  Ian and I played monster mash multiplication.  We rolled two die, multiplied them and covered up the answer (if we had it on our board) and the first one to cover the entire board wins.  And then our day just went downhill from there... big time!  Remember how yesterday I was saying homeschooling was going great and my boys love it and we're hitting our groove?  I guess I spoke too soon, or maybe I jinxed us... 
         The boys tell everyone how much they LOVE to homeschool.  They swear they'll never return to regular school (as they call it), but on days like today I'm not so sure.  Every activity I mentioned today was met with groans, sighs, and complaints.  This happens from time to time and normally I don't let it bother me I just remind them they could be at school with their friends and they usually settle down and get to work.  But lately, I've been getting more sighs, eye rolls and complaints than usual and today I decided I'm sick of it.  I can spend HOURS on-line looking for what I hope are fun activities.  I plan our days and pull out supplies while I could be watching TV or relaxing.  I welcome and love input from them if there's something they want to learn about or an experiment/ activity they've heard about, but often they just don't have any ideas.  When I ask them what they want to do I usually get shrugs or blank stares.  Lately, I've been trying to find a few days of activities and lay them out then I ask "would you rather do this or this?"  But today they've spent almost all day in their rooms.  Not one single activity was any good apparently and I try so hard not to yell at them.  If I start to yell I just take a step back and send them all to their rooms.  It gives us all a chance to regroup and hopefully start again when they come down, since they aren't supposed to come down until they're ready to work.  I don't like to constantly threaten them with the thought of going back to public school either.  First, because I do love homeschooling and think it's mostly great for our family and secondly, I don't want them to look at public schools as a bad thing.  I love the teachers in our local school system.  They are all wonderful, loving, giving teachers that do tremendous work.  I know, I've worked along side them.  I love the individualized attention I can give my kids here that they can't get at school.  Like many in our area our school is hampered by budget constraints and is  short handed.  Plus I love knowing what they're learning about.  It bonds us in a way public schools can not.  I also love that schooling here at home allows us to set our own pace with emphasis on the learning process where we're not so focused on assessment.  I guess I just want my kids to be as excited as I am and some days they're just not.   So I know even if I'm threatening to send them back to school it's really an empty threat I don't mean (though I may mean it at the time the words are coming out of my mouth; I usually regret it immediately).   Unfortunately, today followed that pattern and it hasn't been very happy here. 
         It all started with our writing activity.   We wrote up a witches brew recipe.  This was once again painful to start.  All three boys freaked out when I mentioned writing.  They all went to their rooms to calm down (some of them a few times), but once they settled down and started writing it really was a cute and quick writing activity.  I can't say fun because I'm sure the boys would disagree with me but they were very creative!  Even Evan, who dictated his recipe to me "cut up the bat wings, heated the blood on the stove and mashed the sweat of spiders"; in other words they really got into it once we got going.  So I thought OK; they really only complained about writing, in our house that's totally normal.
    But then I wanted to read a book all about the history of Halloween called Let's Celebrate Halloween.  I called them over and immediately they started sighing and complaining.  I just stood there thinking "WHAT?!  You're going to moan about a story I'm reading to you!?"  So I sent them to their rooms and told them to take turns reading different parts of the book and not to come down until they could tell me what the story was about.  You would have thought someone was doing bodily harm to them.  The crying and screeching was unbelievable.  Perhaps they're tired, or stressed out about all that has been happening around here with the hurricane.  I just don't know but I know these aren't "my boys."  I'm trying to focus on the positive parts of our day and keep up hope that tomorrow will be better.  I'm feeling cooped up too so perhaps we're just feeling a bit stir crazy and need a change of scenery.   They came back down and were able to tell me all about the story.  They were totally happy and back to "normal" so perhaps the rest of our day will go much better. 
     We made spider balloons for arts and crafts today.  This was probably one of the upsides to our day.  I left them to do it themselves but did offer to hang them up once they were done.  I told them to blow up the balloons and bring them to me to knot then shut.   Then they were to cut 8 pieces of crepe paper and tape them to the sides for legs and glue or tape on some eyes.   Look how cute they came out:
 
        We had a long talk while I was making lunches about whether or not to continue homeschooling.  With tears in their eyes they all asked me not send them back to school.  I explained to them that I don't want to.  I choose homeschooling because I thought it would be best for them and our family.  I told them most days I really enjoy homeschooling and we have a lot of fun together.  But I explained that I can't keep doing it if I'm going to get complaints about what we're doing and spend all day raising my voice to be heard above the bickering, fighting and horsing around.  They're more than welcome to come up with their own activities but we have to do SOMETHING every day.  Some math, some reading, the occasional writing, spelling, science, art, etc.  We can't just play video games, watch TV, and play with trucks and Lego's.  I know true unschooling is like that but I am a teacher at heart and if we're homeschooling we've got to do something educational everyday.  It can certainly be through games and play and not as a worksheet but it's got to be something.  It was a great heart to heart talk with all of us.  I love it when we're able to sit calmly and rationally and talk about how things are going.  What is working and what isn't.   If they're able to articulate now at 5, 6, & 8 what they want I can't wait to see how well they can communicate when they're teenagers.   The boys know they can talk freely and share how they feel and I hope that never changes.  They promise to improve their behavior and reiterated how much they love having school at home.  So tomorrow should be a much better day. 

Sandy's not slowing us down much...

      Wow!  Thanks to all of you who've been checking out my blog during the last few days.  I logged on today to find I've made 1,500 page views!  That was just amazing.  I haven't posted anything since we've been without power/ Internet since hurricane Sandy came through on Monday.  We still are without power for most things, but my wonderful husband, not only hooked us up to a generator, but also left a portable device with me that enables me to use the Internet.  It's amazing how quickly we become accustomed to technology and feel so lost without it.  I've been taking notes so that once I could blog I wouldn't forget all that we have covered in the last few days.  Part of my hurricane prep was to make sure all the games, science experiments and "school" stuff was printed off or copied from the Internet so we'd have plenty to do.  Many of my friends tried to convince me to let the boys have time off just like the local schools but really I knew without power I needed to keep them occupied more than ever and believe it or not my kids LOVE school now that we homeschool.  They're happier when we're doing things (well, most of the time anyway). 
         I did treat Monday like a "snow" day and we had no school.  I knew that we would more than likely loose power and for several days so I let the kids watch as much TV, play as many video games, and get all their "screen" time in as much as they could while allowing them to have a pajama day.  We watched the news and tracked the storm as it moved it's way north.  We learned a lot about weather and current events while learning some geography too.  We lost power shortly after lunch and within three minutes I heard those dreaded words... "I'm bored, there's nothing to do!"  I could have pulled out school work but I choose to let them try and muddle through.  When we were kids my mom didn't worry about keeping me entertained and sometimes I get so frustrated that my kids seem incapable of keeping themselves entertained for even just a little bit.  They eventually found their way to some games and we played Life (where Ian was the banker and reinforced all sorts of math/ money facts), we played scrabble (and worked on our spelling skills), we played hangman (also working on spelling skills), Dinosaur Train & Sorry Sliders (where Evan reinforced his learning of numbers & 1 to 1 correspondence).  Without meaning to we covered a lot of learning!  That's not to say it wasn't a stressful day of whining, fighting, moaning and complaining.  It unfortunately was and I sent them all to bed early that night.  I told them we'd definitely have school on Tuesday. 
         More and more I find we're moving away from "unschooling," and that's OK (though I do wish I could figure out how to change the title of my blog now!) because we are finally seeming to hit our groove.  Lately we have a schedule and it's working for us!  I still let them lead when they take the initiative but mostly they wait for me to tell them what we're going to do today.  I try to keep our learning fun and interesting for them, and for me too so I don't have to listen to a lot of complaining either.   I still have hopes that someday we'll be an unschooling family and they'll tell me what they're going to do for the day but perhaps they're too ingrained to listen to the teacher at this point or just don't have enough confidence yet.  We'll see where this journey brings us over time.  All I know is right now I see my boys thriving and our family bonding over everything.  We're happy and really who could ever hope for more than that?!
         Yesterday found us awake very early with the gearing up of our generator.  We figured we were up so why not jump into our day.  We read a few chapters in our Kitten book and another book called from Seed to Pumpkin.  We learned about how pumpkins grow and realized we hadn't checked on our pumpkin seeds in a while.  We were overjoyed to find they had huge sprouts, even the pumpkin we just threw a bit of dirt and water into was growing. 
         While we were on the topic of science we did a magic potion.  In preparing for this lesson we had previously boiled red cabbage for dinner and saved a bunch of the purple cabbage "juice."  We measured 1/4 cup of the purple juice into each glass container and then added 1 Tbsp of baking soda to one, after making predictions of what would happen.  We then added 1 Tbsp of lemon juice to the other, again after predicting what would happen.  Like magic the purple liquid changed greenish blue and bright pink.  Once we mixed the two together we were back to purple and it was fizzing!  The kids loved it.  I brought up the terms acid and base and told them they'd hear that a lot more the further into science we go.  

            We had another unplanned science experiment we carried out as well.  In the book from Seed to Pumpkin it talked about how all pumpkin stalks have "straws" that carry water to and from the leaves and it had an experiment using celery that we decided to try.  Celery stalks have "straws" too and in order to see them more clearly we took two stalks of celery (one with leaves and one without) and put them into a glass of colored red water.  We then checked them throughout the day and watched the red lines appear, the leaves turned reddish brown and we could see a red outline around all the leaves and through all the veins too.  Evan predicted that the stalk and leaves would turn reddish, Ian had predicted that the water inside the celery would turn red and Alec predicted that just the veins would turn red since they are what carry the food to the plant.  They're turning into such scientists! 
         We tried a new math game yesterday too for the older two boys.  They played a game called Pumpkin Farm that was very much like battleship, but instead of ships you placed fat and skinny pumpkins on the grid and then they took turns guessing where they each had hid their pumpkins.  The first one to find all their opponents pumpkins first wins.  While they played that Evan quickly did a dot- to -dot and then worked on matching uppercase, lowercase, and object picture candy corn puzzle pieces together.
    
              We did a writing activity called Making Monster Sentences.  They had pictures of 8 monster feet that we cut out and pasted in a little booklet.  They then had to write a descriptive sentence or two about the monster.  Evan dictated his sentences and I wrote them down.  His were very basic "This monster has hairy feet" type of sentences but I expected more of the older kids.  Ian came up with some great ones, my favorite "This critter has bare feet, and a bare head, also a bare hand, but he is wearing shorts."  Alec had fun with colors and descriptions, "This monster has laces everywhere.  Even the hair and eye lashes are laces."  I won't lie and say it was a fun writing activity.  They once again groaned, complained, cried and dragged their feet but I'm determined to continue writing until they aren't in tears all the time.  I figure it's got to get easier the more we do it, at least that 's my hope.  In the meantime I'm constantly trying to find ideas for what I hope will be "fun" writing activities.
         To finish up our day I guided them in how to draw a bat.  This site had great, simple easy to follow step by step instructions.  I let them color the bats however they wanted.  I was kind of disappointed they all chose markers since many of the details were lost in the coloring but they had fun and by that point in the day that's all I wanted anyway.  They still came out cute and the boys loved them. 
      After lunch their cousins came over and they played outside, made up games of Nerf gun tag, played Lego's and Life.  They had fun creating with Lego's and playing with trucks.  Not a bad ending to our day. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Boiling blood, pumpkin Sudoku & ghosts!

      We got a very late start today since we were out late last night enjoying some town Halloween festivities.  I try even harder now to attend events where I know the boys can see their old classmates.  It was wonderful to see so many of their friends and watch them all hug and grin and play together!  Plus, now that we don't have to be up at a certain time to get ready for school they can sleep in a bit if they feel like it and apparently they all did.  I wasn't worried though, being a Friday, I don't have a whole lot planned for today.   They started out by watching The Most Extreme; and we learned all about the 10 loudest animals on the planet. 
          We made Blood Boil for science today (OK-- so we didn't really make blood boil; but we made a red lave lamp & the kids thought that was really neat!).  You'll need a plastic bottle, some water, oil, food coloring and alka- seltzer tablets.  Fill the bottle half- full with the oil, add water until you're within an inch of the top and enough food coloring to turn it red (about 10 drops).  Break an alka- seltzer tablet into pieces small enough to fit through the hole.  You'll start to see the colored water bubble to the top through the oil.  The boys noticed that the water & oil kept separating even after we shook it to try and combine them.  We added the oil first but the water always sunk to the bottom.  So we talked about density too. 

          For math the older boys worked on a Pumpkin Square Sudoku- like game I found on- line.  They each chose a gridded board (or 2) since the board ranged from 3x3 to 6x6 (I let them pick one easy one to start and then challenged them to try a harder one.)  The board looks like a giant Bingo board and they have a set of colored pumpkins the object is to make sure each row and column only has one pumpkin of each color.  Evan did a number maze today just to try something different.   It's almost like dot- to- dot meshed with a maze.  You have to follow numbers 1 - 15 to find your way out of the maze.    He finished it pretty quickly and then asked for a dot- to- dot!  So I challenged him to do one that went from 1- 56.  He needed quite a bit of help but I didn't mind coaching him. 

        For art we made paper plate ghosts.   A very simple, yet fun activity.  The plate is the body of the ghost.  I had the boys glue streamers off the bottom using glue sticks.  They then drew arms out of sturdy white paper and glued them on the sides of the plate.  They wanted to use googlie eyes again (I'm going to have to buy some more real soon as we're running out!), and they used my makeup to give the ghost rosy cheeks.  We drew a mouth out of black paper and glued that on as well.  They;re quite spook- tacular!

        We read Jumanji, a chapter in our Kitten book, and a book called Scary, Scary Halloween.  We hope to watch the movie Jumanji later after lunch or perhaps for movie night tonight.  I can't wait to have them compare the book and movie though.  They're so very different. 
         For lunch we made spiders out of cut hot dogs and spaghetti.  I hated to give them hot dogs again today but they really wanted to make mummies again and I'm trying real hard to make all our lunches a bit different and fun this week.  So I enticed them with spiders.  While they're still eating some hot dogs it's mostly spaghetti and they have the added bonus of having sauce so I know they're getting some sort of vegetables in there too.  We cut hot dogs into even chunks and threaded them onto spaghetti (it's really not that hard as long as the hot dogs are completely thawed.  Then drop them into boiling water for about 6 min. or until spaghetti is done.  We heated sauce in another pan and they happily dunked their spiders in it and ate them.
      We made some oatmeal cookies and put the Hershey spice kisses on top as an added treat today. Not to mention extra kitchen science and fraction/ math practice.  I had them read the recipe and show me which measuring utensils to use.  I want them to get used to recognizing fractions, which is something they really struggle with.  The older boys learned about fractions at school last year and had a good grasp but have never really put those skills to use and have forgotten much of what they learned.  We double recipes and halve them often too so I expect them to get quite adept at fractions the more they help out in the kitchen. 
          We played the game of Life once our cookies were done.  Only my older two boys enjoy playing but Evan chimed in from time to time and spun for me.  The older two have gotten really good at handling large sums of money and adding/ subtracting to pay or make change.  I'm convinced it's from all the games we play.  We make them read and try to figure out everything themselves, only helping if they're really stuck.  It's such a great way for them to learn because they're motivated to figure it out and win!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween homeschool Day #4

       Today my boys surprised me by having breakfast right away as soon as they turned on Wild Kratts.  This is something I've been trying to get across to them since school started; I don't mind if they watch some educational TV in the morning as long as they are doing something to get ready for the day at the same time.  They learned all about the porcupine today and then headed off to get dressed.  They then took turns (OK, fought over taking turns) on a new web game my sister shared with us called grammar ninja. The boys practiced finding the nouns and verbs in sentences on the game complete with all sorts of fun ninja sounds and throwing stars.  They loved it.  There are so many great (and free!) education games that I'm always finding links for and forgetting to show the boys.  I I want to start making an effort to show them to the boys in hopes that they find a site that really clicks with them enough for them to remember and ask to play it again.
       After "screen time" we settled down at the table for some candy math.  I gave Evan two cups; one with candy corn and one with candy pumpkins.  He had to guess how many were in each cup, write down his guesses (to practice writing his numbers), guess which shape had more and then dump them out and count them.  Once he counted them he had to write down the actual number of pieces in each cup (again to practice his numbers).  I was floored when he told me 44 was a 4 and a 4!  He needed help forming a 4 but at least he knew what numbers he needed.  Alec had two cups also; one with 10 pumpkins and one with 10 candy corn.  He had to write all the possible combinations to make 10.  He easily did this without using his counters!  The only problem he had was remembering which combinations he had already used.   Ian and I played multiplication memory using pumpkin spice Hershey kisses.  I bought a bag of them yesterday and some of the neon dot stickers at Target.  On each neon dot sticker I wrote either an equation or an answer and then affixed a sticker onto each kiss.  I used almost the whole bag but only concentrated on the times 3's, 4's, 5's and 10's.  He beat me quite gleefully and happily ate some of his "winnings."  It was a fun, low pressure way to practice his times tables, especially once he realized (on his own) that if he figured out the answer to ALL the equations that were flipped over he just had to remember where he saw the answer. 



          After math we read a few of our Halloween books, including a few chapters from the Kitten in the Candy Corn.  We read Midnight; the Halloween Cat and The Spooky Book.  Later in the day we read a fictional book about Egypt called The Jewel Fish of Karnak.  Alec and I had already read this one night before bed, but I thought the other boys would enjoy it too.  It led us to a short discussion on Ancient Egypt and a reminder of some of things we've been learning about. 
           In honor of all the black cats we've been reading about we did a folk art cat painting today.  I found this idea on Art Projects for Kids blog (I love her ideas so much I've subscribed to her blog!).  The boys weren't too sure they'd be able to do this but with lots of coaching and modeling they were able to get some great results.  We also finished our mixed media pumpkins complete with Jack- O- Lantern faces.  Aren't they adorable?

          We checked on our Alien Monster Eggs from yesterday and  found most of the shells were gone with just the membrane remaining.  All but one of the three eggs split open but we left the one remaining egg in the vinegar to see if we can get rid of all the white and have a transparent membrane.  We felt how squishy the egg became without it's shell yet I showed how fragile the membrane was when I broke it open easily with one hand.  We then conducted a new experiment called "Magic Popcorn."  When trying to find the site I found this on the other day I tried to Google it and discovered two ways to make popcorn "float".  One way was to soak the popcorn in a water and baking soda solution and then drop it in vinegar just like our dancing gummy worms the other day, but since we just did that I wanted something different.  I went back to Pinterest, followed my pin back to this site, and we made our Magic Popcorn.  Taking two clear glass jars I put corn kernels in the bottom.  I added regular water to one of the jars and we watched nothing happen.  We then added clear soda (tonic water) to the other and watched the kernels magically start to float to the top.  The boys were pretty impressed with this and immediately guessed they floated due to all the carbonation in the drink.  We could see bubbles around all the kernels and we left the glass sitting on the table for an hour or so to see if the kernels would sink as the carbonation left the soda.  They did so our hypothesis was right! 


           We made homemade applesauce and mummy hot dogs today in the kitchen.  This wasn't considered part of our schoolwork today but just some fun holiday treats we've always wanted to make but never had time to really do together.  But, of course, they were learning.  They read the recipe, learned a bit more about real- life fractions and the same kitchen science we're continually adding to.  While lunch was cooking, Alec read There's a Fly Guy in My Soup to Evan and Ian read Job Site to Evan.  It was so nice to see them reading together without having been asked by anyone to help out.  While Evan can't yet read he loves to listen to stories and it's great practice for the older boys too to read out loud every now and then. 
            We also ended up doing a bit of extra science today, again not as part of our school work, but because Alec had checked out a book at the library called Animals in Motion and this book had many experiments in it.  Alec wanted to try a few.  He made a sugar glider using Popsicle sticks, twine, a penny and a grocery bag then he learned about surface tension by floating a sewing needle in a glass of water.  It was a wonderful self- guided science discovery that pulled in his brother with his enthusiasm. 

        

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Homeschool day #3

          We headed out this morning to meet my sister and nephews for a walk so I started out bright and early with a science experiment.  Today we made Alien Monster Eggs.  I found this idea at the kitchen pantry scientist again and just loved it.  The boys quickly (and carefully!) drew eyes onto raw eggs.  We put them in a jar and filled it with vinegar.  We made observations and predictions about what would happen and then we put the jar in the refrigerator.  They noticed right away that the eggs were covered in bubbles so they predicted that the permanent markers would rub off, or that the eggs may get bumpy.  They predicted that maybe the white shell would get darker.  They have to sit overnight and we'll see what happens tomorrow.... if all goes well the shell should breakdown and leave the egg covered with just it's membrane. 

             We brought Halloween Mad Libs and some math coloring sheets in the car.  Alec's was a simple Frankenstein subtraction page found here.  Ian's was a 2 & 3 digit addition and subtraction owl I found for free on teachers pay teachers.  I did have to re- write each of the equations since they were written horizontally and that freaked Ian out a bit.  He started crying it was too hard and he didn't know how to do it.  Once I rewrote them all vertically he was just fine with it.   Evan just wanted to do another Halloween dot to dot (no surprise there, right?).  The mad libs brought many giggles out!  I had also brought our Kitten in the Candy Corn book and a few books on CD to listen to in case we had time, but I wanted to make sure all the math and English sheets were done first.  Alec did end up reading aloud to us from the Kitten in the Candy Corn for a bit.   
            We went walking at the Edwin Way Teal Memorial Sanctuary with our family.   We were the only ones there so we had the whole place to ourselves.  We saw beaver lodges and a large white bird we though was a swan but my nephew, who has binoculars, told us it was just a really big duck.  We walked many of the trails and just enjoyed being together in nature. 

          We did some errands on the way home and listened to a bit of The Light In the Attic on CD.  Once home we worked on our art projects from yesterday.  The boys added some orange and yellow to the mixed media pumpkins and we set them aside to dry.  Then they added color to their glue line pumpkins and it was just amazing.  The chalk pastels really pop against the black background.  We talked about trying to use several shades of one color to give interest and depth.  They came out so wonderful! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween homeschool day #2

         The boys helped make both a double batch of pancakes and waffles.  I'm so sick of hearing that we have nothing for breakfast in our house so I suggested we make a bunch ahead of time and freeze them.  The boys readily agreed and helped measure, pour, mix, etc.  They sat down to watch an episode of "Weird Kratts Week" (it's really just Wild Kratts but with new and weird animals this week) while I baked breakfast. 
         For school today, Evan worked on another Halloween dot- to - dot while Alec and Ian played a game called 4 in a row.   I found this printable game on Pinterest and followed it to a site called teachers pay teachers.  It's free to sign up (and many of the printable lessons and games are free too) so I figured why not join?!  I downloaded this free printable game.  It looks like a large bingo game and there's an addition or subtraction problem in each box.  The two boys each picked out their own colored counters and took turns solving a problem and putting their counter on it.  The first one to get 4 in a row wins.  The first game was a draw and then each of the boys won one.

        After math we did another fun science experiment called Bag of Blood (this was also at the kitchen pantry scientist blog I mentioned yesterday).  We took a Ziploc bag and filled it with colored water.  Holding the bag over a tray (to catch any drips), we poked wooden skewers through the bag completely from one side to the other.  According to the site, as long as you avoid any areas that have air you can poke several skewers through without the bag leaking.   Apparently, there isn't enough pressure on the water inside the bag to force it out the small holes you're making (and keeping plugged).  Plus we noticed that the plastic is bendable and sticks to the skewers which almost seals the holes back up.  We were able to fit 23 wooden skewers in our baggie without it leaking all that much.  They thought this was the coolest experiment ever!  Once we had several skewers in our bag we did experiment to see what would happen if we put a skewer through the air at the top of the bag, what would happen if we opened the bag, and what happens if we skewer a few close together.  The only one that really started leaking was when we had two skewers real close together so I guess it wasn't all about air pressure!

         After math we started our new chapter book called Kitten in the Candy Corn.  We also read a few poems.  Then we brainstormed a whole, huge list of Halloween words and ideas in preparation for our writing activity.  We did Halloween acrostic poems.  I had Evan write his name and the word Halloween down the side of his paper and then we worked together while Alec and Ian went to town writing their own.  Ian seemed to have no problem doing this today and I was glad to see writing become a bit easier for him.  Alec, however, got half the letters done and then went to his room crying (again).  He came down after a while and I tried to help him a bit.  I know they hate writing and I hate to force them but I feel like they hate writing because they don't practice it often enough.  I'm trying to find less painful ways of getting them to write but I still don't think we've hit upon it just yet.
        For lunch we made English muffin mummies.  It was cute and super easy.  You can find the recipe here.  I forgot to buy olives at the store for the eyes, and honestly, my kids wouldn't eat them anyway.  Ian used cut up meatballs instead, Alec used a piece of peperoni and Evan tried putting roasted pumpkin seeds on his.


       We worked on a few art projects today.  One is called mixed media pumpkins that I found at one of my favorite art sites; that artist woman!  For today we just glued the various papers onto what will be our pumpkins.  We'll paint them tomorrow.  Once that was done, I had the boys draw a simple, large pumpkin on a blank sheet of black scrapbook paper paper.  I encouraged them to fill the paper with their pumpkin as best they could and had them draw a few lines.  We then traced over the pencil drawing with black glue (regular liquid school glue I had added some black acrylic paint to so it will dry black).  Once dry we'll color them in with chalk pastels like the ones shown here.  The same sight also shows this activity with white paper and white glue using watercolors.  I was torn as to which one to use.  I love watercolors but finally decided we'd done a few watercolor resists already and the chalk pastels would be a nice change for us.

Monday, October 22, 2012

8 days of Halloween

           I spent the week last week scouring Pinterest, some of my fav. blogs, and the Internet for Halloween activities and now have an entire 8 days worth of learning all based on Halloween!  I'm so excited because I think this will really pull the boys in and get them excited too.  We got a late start today since my oldest son had a sleepover last night and didn't get home until later, but that's OK.  We really only need a few hours a day to get everything done.  I figured we'd do a few things, stop and have lunch, and then finish up this afternoon.  Normally we try to have all our learning done by lunchtime so we can spend the afternoon outdoors and playing but we're pretty flexible around here.
          We decided to start our day with "ghostly letters."  Really it's just shaving cream spread onto a place mat and they can practice writing their letters (in cursive for the older boys) but I thought if I gave it a Halloween name they'd really love it.  Don't get me wrong, even if I didn't name it my kids would've loved it.  They love playing in shaving cream and it's something we just don't do often enough for them.  After they practiced a few letters and their names they pulled out trucks and animals and played in the shaving cream for a while. 


        We did another art project today.  When I bought our real pumpkins last week I also purchased a few fake pumpkins at the dollar store.  I had a few ideas of how they could decorate them; wrap with white crepe paper and give them googlie eyes to make a mummy, decoupage with tissue paper for a stained glass pumpkin, paint black and give them spider legs, etc... but ultimately I just let them create with supplies we had around the house.  It was messy but fun.  They decided they wanted to paint on the pumpkins.  Ian painted a vampire (with a bloody nose- Ugh!) and Alec painted a part vampire/ part human/ part real pumpkin man.  I tried to wrap my pumpkin with crepe paper streamers to make a mummy.  I used a bit of watered- down glue to help hold it in place.  Evan just wanted a plain orange pumpkin to use as a baby to go with his large carved pumpkin so he left his blank.  They came out pretty cute. 

         We read Goodnight Goon and some Halloween poems and I had them copy one poem each into their writing notebooks.  I know they purposely picked the shortest poems and not necessarily their favorites but they were writing without complaining so I wasn't going to argue either.  Evan just wrote the title down in his log book and with all the difficulty he has writing most of the lower case letters that was just enough for him. 
         For math I gave Ian and Alec a quick worksheet called pumpkin doubles and pumpkin double plus one.  They each had to roll one die; double the number and then color in their answer (Ian had to add 1 more after he doubled).  I found some large dice at the dollar store I thought they'd get a kick out of using just to add a bit of extra "fun."   Evan wanted to do a dot- to -dot and I found some Halloween ones on- line (they had tons of them at busybeekidsprintables).
       We did a really fun science project called Frankenworms.  I found this website was full of great Halloween science activities and knew the boys would love the wiggling worms.  Basically you cut gummy worms into small strips, drop them into a cup of water with just a few tablespoons of baking soda mixed in and let them sit for 15-20 min.  Then fill up a clear glass jar with vinegar and slowly drop the worms in.  The baking soda reacts with the vinegar and the worms wiggle and move.  It was really neat to see how excited they were to watch.  While the worms were soaking I asked them what they knew about baking soda and vinegar.  They remembered we used it in our volcano and it would make bubbles and foam up a bit.  They hypothesised that the worms wouldn't really be dancing but would bubble around as the baking soda and vinegar mixed together.  We added the worms into the vinegar and watched.  We were a bit disappointed that the worms weren't moving all that much so we took them back out of the vinegar and dipped them in baking soda.  It stuck to the worms and they moved a lot more when we added them back into the vinegar; unfortunately it also made many more bubbles and it was hard to see the worms.  But it was still fun to experiment and see what would happen. 

        We made some Rice Krispie pumpkins with tootsie roll stems because we were invited to a friend's house this afternoon and I wanted to have some snacks to bring with us.  This site had tons of Halloween party foods but I thought the krispie pumpkins would be fun to make and they were!  While we were waiting for the marshmallow and butter to melt together we took a virtual tootsie roll factory tour.  It was pretty neat to see how they are made. Once the video was over it showed links to several other videos and we ended up watching a caterpillar bulldozer and an excavator one too.   I also found a recipe on Pinterest to make our own Tootsie rolls and I'm really hoping to get around to that soon.  If you'd like to try it out and let me know how it goes this is just one of the many recipes I've seen. 

          I wanted to start our new world history unit today too but until I woke during the night and had a brainstorm I was thinking it would have to wait until after Halloween.  The boys decided they wanted to learn about ancient Egypt and the Pyramids.  I finally realized I could tie it all in with mummies!  What can I say?  Sometimes I just don't think.  We didn't do all that much today though, we found Egypt on the map and read one short book on Pyramids and Mummies.   I figured that was enough of an introduction for today.   We learned all sorts of new vocabulary words like Pharaoh, preserve, sarcophagus, embalm, etc. 
          It was a great day.  After lunch the boys watched a new Wild Kratts movie and then played outside.  We plan on going to our friend's house and using their bounce house after they get out of school.  It will be great to get some fresh air and exercise as well as visit and socialize. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

All about pumpkins


Weighing our pumpkins

measuring our pumpkins
          We bought pumpkins a few days ago and my boys have been dying to carve them up.  But before they could I had a bunch of fun math and science projects I wanted to do with them.  First I made them each estimate the height (using a ruler and a flexible tape measure), weight, circumference, number of seeds inside, the number of lines on their pumpkin, etc.  I asked them to guess who's pumpkin was biggest, heaviest, fattest, had the most lines, the most seeds, etc.  I recorded all their predictions and then we dug in.

    We then measured, weighed, counted and saw how close we were to our estimates (but we still didn't cut anything yet so we still didn't know how many seeds).  I asked them how many pumpkins would it take to equal their own weight and weighed the boys as well.  Then we moved along to science.  I asked them if they thought the pumpkins would sink or float.  I wrote down their prediction and was surprised with what they came up with.  Evan and Alec both thought the skinnier pumpkins would float but the big fat pumpkins would sink because the bigger and fatter pumpkins would be too heavy to float.  Ian figured the big, fat pumpkins would float because the weight would be more spread out like in a boat.  We then put them in the water to see them all float!  
Recording our findings


            It was then time to start cutting.  They had to be pretty patient since I was alone and they couldn't cut into them by themselves.   I got a circle cut out of each of them and had them scrape out the guts as best they could.  They used latex gloves and Ian and Alec did a great job.  Evan hated the smell and quit on the spot as soon as the top was off his pumpkin. Once we had them pretty well gutted we started pulling out pumpkin seeds.  I asked them what the best way would be to count them quickly (hoping for suggestions of by 2, 5, 10 etc).   They did say by 10's but Alec actually counted by 2's (and since he had over 300 seeds that was great practice for him!) He counted out loud and I made a few corrections but mostly he did it.  Ian counted by 1's but he claimed it took less time than grouping and then counting.  He had over 400!  After we counted, I had them each pick a few seeds to try and plant.  They put them in a cup with some soil and lined them up on the windowsill.  We'll keep an eye on them over the next few weeks.   We also took one pumpkin that we didn't clean any of the guts out of (mine) and put potting soil and a bit of water inside to see what would happen.  I found this idea on this teacher's site she used a small pumpkin with some soil and water and grew a pumpkin plant coming right out of the pumpkin shell.  I'm not sure how well it will work in a great big pumpkin but that's why it's an experiment.  We'll keep an eye on that one over the next few weeks too.  I asked them which seeds they think will start growing first the ones in the cup or the ones in the pumpkin and most of them figured the ones in pumpkin because they'll have more room to grow and nutrients to feed it.  We'll just have to wait and see.   

growing a pumpkin
scraping and cleaning the pumpkin
planting seeds

           With math and science over we moved onto carving and decorating our pumpkins.  I also roasted pumpkin seeds for our snack.  The boys wanted to carve their own pumpkins so I had them draw the faces, gave a short tutorial on how to carve pumpkins and sat back. They did a great job with just a little bit of help from me here and there. I read a few Halloween books to them and pulled all our decorations out of storage and started decorating the house a bit.  The two older boys finished their coloring contest pages and we got ready for lunch.  I'm hoping to get them to do at least one of the fall or Halloween art projects I have planned but we'll see if they're up for it or not.  It's been a very busy morning. 

Alec's pumpkin, complete with hair!

Ian and Evan's pumpkins

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Corn maze

       We headed out this morning for a homeschool field trip to Buttonwood Farms.  We had been there a few times for their Sunflower For Wishes days but had never been in the fall before.  I am members of many on- line homeschooling groups and heard of this field trip through one of them.  For just $5.50 for each child we got to go on a few hayrides, watch them feed the cows, and take a turn through the corn maze.  They also had a hay bale mountain for the kids to play on, a huge corn pit filled with toys and trucks to play in, a couple of games, pigs and chickens.  It sounded like a fun, fall day outdoors and also a wonderful opportunity to meet other homeschoolers in our area so I quickly signed us up.    I'm so glad I did too!  It was a wonderful, warm day and we met several families who were all so wonderful.  It was fantastic, fun, and tiring.  The kids all got along so well and played so nicely together.   Alec fell asleep on the drive home, which to me is always the sign of a great day.  The kids made many new friends and had a great time leading me through the maze.  Best of all they had two trails to choose from; one that's a marked trail so you can't really get "lost" and one unmarked for those with a great sense of direction.  After getting lost in a maze and turned around repeatedly last year I was happy to hear of the marked trail (though Alec chose to join in with another family and try the unmarked trail).  There was also a letter hunt in the guided maze but the boys went through so fast we didn't find any; we were the first ones back at the entrance though! I'm sure I could come up with all kinds of learning activities related to this outing but our main focus today was just having fun with new friends and enjoying the beautiful day.  Evan had such a good time he asked if he could have his birthday party there next year!  We listened to 4 books on CD on the drive up and back and had a very nice, relaxing day.  Here's a ton of pictures.  If you've never been I highly recommend it!
Ariel map of the maze


The view from the bridge party way though the maze

Evan loved that the marker signs were blue and always pointed them out to us

"I'm king of the world!" or the hay mountain anyway


The corn crib

The little pigs
Water/ Duck races set up for the kiddos too!

The first wagon ride; Alec sits with his new friend

The large wagon ride for all

Farmer Wayne feeds the cows corn from the corn maze

Who doesn't love a day that ends with ice cream?!