Friday, December 21, 2012

There goes the plan!

Soooo, I had a bunch of stuff on my mental agenda today that we were going to finish up before Christmas.  But, we ended up cleaning our playroom instead.  My intention had been to quickly clean and then try and accomplish some schoolwork before lunch. 

So much for plans. 



I can't tell you how often this happens.  In fact it seems like our homeschooling days rarely go as planned.   One thing homeschooling has taught me is the importance of remaining flexible.   I have learned to stress less about the schoolwork and look for learning where it occurred.

It took us 3 hours of work, and all 4 sets of hands but it's done and it looks so nice.  Every year around this time we go through and sort toys, move furniture, and clean out those toys no one plays with (their definition of not playing with and mine are not the same so it's always a battle). 

We had tons of negotiations going on today and ultimately they all agreed to get rid of 4 garbage bags of toy parts, broken pieces and other assorted "junk," and two boxes of toys that could be reused by another child.  In cleaning, my boys know that we have tons of children around for the holidays and some of them are quite young, so they also brought toys with little pieces up into their rooms to keep safe until after the holidays.  They're also allowed to put one or two "special" toys in their rooms if they aren't going to be able to share them without getting upset.  Those that are left in the playroom now are fair game and will be used a lot I'm sure. 
    
We stopped to have lunch and then we headed to our local library to see the movie The Polar Express.   While waiting for the movie to start Alec read a book to Evan since I told Evan I really didn't want to check out any more books until we had returned some. 


 We made it home in record time and Ian and I started baking. 

The younger two boys contented themselves doing puzzles.  Evan was so proud he was able to put an entire jigsaw puzzle together by himself.


 Ian ended up doing quite a bit of math while baking.  I asked him how many cookies could fit on a sheet if we did 3 rows of 4.  On the next sheet he told me he could fit 5 rows of cookies so I asked how many that would be instead.  He had to measure, use fractions, and sometimes even add fractions.   All in all it ended up being a great day with a lot of self- guided learning.  My favorite kind!

Ian makes peanut butter/ holiday m & m cookies


"coal" rice krispie treats-- just follow the package instructions and add black food coloring to the melted marshmallow then shape into odd lumps and viola! edible coal. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday crafting party with other homeschoolers

 I had planned on having the boys help me bake some holiday treats this morning.  I don't have time for a full baking day this week but though if we made just one or two sweets each day we'd have a nice assortment by our party on Sunday with plenty of goodies left for Christmas Eve & Christmas day.  

We were going to a crafting party with our homeschool group.


Today we made magic cookie bars and oatmeal scotchies.   Yum!




We finished off Christmas In Camelot and then read a lovely story about polar bears called Ice Bear; In the Steps of the Polar Bear.  The illustrations were beautiful and it was a very nicely written non- fiction book.

Ian and Alec played a new multiplication game called Pile It On.  Using a deck of playing cards and a die they took turns Piling it on.  Each player rolls the die twice; the first number rolled tells them how many piles to make and the second number rolled tells them  how many cards to put in each pile.  I think this game ended up being a bit simplistic for Ian but Alec really started picking up some multiplication facts by the time the game was ending.  I finally told Ian he didn't need to make the piles if the already knew the answer to his fact.


While Ian and Alec played their game, Evan and I tried a new game.  It's a snakes and ladders sight word game.  I was able to download it here.  It's just like playing Chutes and Ladders, which he loves, but with sight words mixed in.  We each took a turn rolling the dice and then moving our pom pom to the right box, we then had to read the sight word.  The first one to the end wins!


We got ready to head to our local library for our Homeschool Holiday party.  I had already packed up all the supplies needed for this beaded Christmas tree ornament craft.  Each family was asked to bring a craft for the children to make and wrap to give as gifts.  I found these instructions and thought if I changed the needle and thread to a pipe cleaner/ chenille stem and used a small hole punch to punch the ribbon it should be fairly simple for the kids to weave the ribbons back and forth and add a pony bead to the pipe cleaners.  They came out pretty cute too.  I had an array of colors to choose from, lots of different pipe cleaners, ribbons and beads so they could be as artistic as they'd like.


There were only 4 families that showed up for our homeschool Christmas party, but we all had so much fun we didn't even care.  Alec and Ian learned how to sew!

Alec and Ian made an edible craft using a slice of bread, a cookie cutter, green cream cheese and assorted veggies. 

Yum!
Alec made a foam ornament.

Ian colored a wooden ornament




Ian and Alec with their friends, making our beaded Christmas trees


One of the mom's is teaching Alec to sew!

I finally convinced Evan to make a foam ornament too. 


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dino Tracks!

As much as I have TONS of work to do around here to get ready for our holiday parties I decided what we really needed was to get out of the house. We decided on a field trip to the Ecotarium. 



 They just opened up a new dinosaur exhibit and the boys were very excited to go check it out. We went right down to the bottom floor to check out the dinosaur exhibit. It was pretty neat. They had a huge photograph of the floor at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill that the kids could walk on and compare their feet to the dinosaur prints.  Alec learned that scientists believe that 2- footed dinosaurs ran more like a big bird (think of an Ostrich) than a lizard.  They learned how dinosaur tracks look underwater vs in mud and got to make a bookmark of dinosaur tracks to take home.
   
First the boys measured and compared dinosaur tracks using a chart to see how fast different dinosaurs are thought to have traveled. 
There was a small treadmill so the kids could see if they could run as fast as a dinosaur. 
Making dinosaur bookmarks
    

They learned the term "fulcrum" when trying out this moving dinosaur puzzle



Sitting on the bench causes vibrations and you hear a thunderous roar like dinosaurs are really coming!

Evan compares his hand print to a real dinosaur fossil



Once we were done with the Dinosaur exhibit the kids were happy to walk around and check out all the other exhibits again.  We finished off the bottom floor by looking at all the animals. 

Checking out the fish tank and finding all the sea stars, snails, spiny sea urchins, etc.

Using a microscope-- how scientific!
We stopped for lunch and then the boys checked out the middle floor.  Alec and Ian tried their hand at playing chess, shuffleboard, 9 Men's Morris, etc.  We checked out the train, saw the parrot, and sent lots of coins spiraling down the black hole.  We went up to the first floor and the boys bought stuffed animals (using their own Christmas money).  They then "drove" up Mt. Washington, we made mountains and talked about plate tech tonics.  They got to see what a hurricane feels like in a simulator and played around with fog.

Evan and Ian in the hurricane simulator

The boys favorite part of the day: Alec (Finally!) picked out a bald eagle, Ian choose a raccoon and Evan wanted a baby otter to go with his big otter he already has. 
By that time it was time for the animal encounter of the day.  I know the staff is getting to recognize the boys and the lady just beamed when Alec and Evan once again started asking questions before she even opened a single box. 

Evan told her he knew it was a bird since he saw that same red box she was using to transport the animal at the Birds Of Prey talk they did over the summer.  I was impressed-- I didn't remember that! 

It was a small screech owl and we re-learned a lot of information about owls, hawks and other birds of prey.  Owls have softer and fluffier wings so they can fly silently at night.  Hawks have smooth feathers with sharp edges to help them fly fast.  We learned many owl calls and sounds.  We talked about the diet of owls and they got a real close look at the face and features of the female screech owl as she came around and let them inspect the animal close up.  



After the demonstration we finished up the inside of the building and headed outdoors to see the Barn owl, vultures, pheasants, great horned owl and Socks the fox. It was cold and windy but the boys were happy to be out and running around. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. If I had thought to pack my own winter coat and mittens they would've played on the playground for quite some time. But I got cold so we walked up to the building and looked at the Red tailed hawk, the porcupine and the ferrets. 




We walked through the building and the boys got to see what it feels like to live inside a terrarium.  They also tried rock hopping to avoid stepping on the flower.  I swear no matter how many times we come we see something just a bit different.  We stopped to see the bald eagles on our way to visit the ferrets and then we headed home.  I think we saw, read, and figured out all we could for one day. 

Here's Alec showing his stuffed bald eagle the real bald eagles. 

I asked the boys on the ride home to think of a few things they learned today.  
  • The boys immediately remembered that during the bird show talk we heard that smaller birds like crows will gang up on larger birds of prey like hawks and fly at them cawing away.  It's called mobbing and we were told sometimes it's a great way to find hawks and great horned owls in our area.  We'll have to keep an ear out for mobbing and see if we can find where the noise is oriented and then look there for a bird of pray.  
  • The boys also told me they learned that dinosaurs moved more like birds than lizards.  
  • Ian, who did not attend the bird of prey show with his brothers, learned that females are larger than males when it comes to all birds of prey.  
  • Alec was watching the woman handle the bird of prey and was practicing on his stuffed bird with his glove as we drove home.  
  • He was surprised to hear that birds of prey will scavenge in the winter and not always catch their own live food.  He's been reading a lot of  books about scavengers and now he's realizing that sometimes animals can't be neatly divided into scavengers and not scavengers.  
It was a great day filled with tons of learning and I know we'll be going back again.  Hopefully, we'll get to sneak in a planetarium show next time too!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No snow? Make snow dough!

 We woke to pouring rain.  Knowing the boys would be stuck inside and miserable, I started making "snow" dough for later in the day.  We had a few story books left to read and we planned a very light day of schooling.

Snow dough is just a white play dough I made that I added clear glitter and peppermint extract to; you could use any version of homemade play dough, I'm sure.   I used a few tablespoons of glitter and a few drops of peppermint.

 It was a huge hit and the kids couldn't wait to dig in and play!



We read  Texas Night Before Christmas


And few chapters in Christmas In Camelot


Then the boys went off to play.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Newtown Tragedy & Homeschooling

I had so many ways of starting off my blog running through my head this morning.  And after much wrestling with myself I decided I couldn't just ignore the tragic event that took place last week in Newtown Elementary school (as much as I might like to ignore it I just can't). 

I think it shook many people up around here because it was so tragic and many of my friends escorted their kids to school today with armed policemen standing guard outside. 

Perhaps it's like that across the nation.. I don't know. 

I turned my TV off, haven't watched the news and really even tried to avoid Facebook and all social media as much as possible.  I firmly believe the less known the better.  I don't want to see all the faces, names and ages... it's just too heartbreaking. 



Having been a teacher and now having kids of my own I just can't fathom what transpired.   I was asked by so many people "I bet you're really glad you homeschool"  and the short answer was Yes!

But I couldn't help but think that they had no idea that I would have answered the same way before this tragedy.
     
I was surprised to hear many people I know asking about, thinking about and talking about homeschooling.  I understand why they might be talking it about it now in lieu of all that happened but to me school shootings and keeping your kids safe is only reason to consider homeschooling.

 Can I keep my kiddos safe no matter what?   Well, no not really. 

Though it's called homeschooling I feel like we're rarely home and I don't want to change that.  A mad gunman could show up anywhere-- at the bank, the post office, the grocery store, etc.  I think, if anything, we're all realizing that perhaps our safely is never a guarantee and that makes us want to hold onto our loved ones even more. 

I know how much closer homeschooling has made us all as a family and I'm always eager to share how wonderful it is with anyone who's interested.
   
There are so people I know who say "I wish I could homeschool but I could never do that!"  Don't under estimate yourselves!! 

You've already taught your children to eat, speak, walk, get themselves dressed, brush their teeth, talk, etc... you can certainly teach them to read, write, add and subtract.  It's not always easy and simple but it is as simple as making the choice to do it and then learning together how it works best for your family. 

Perhaps you can't do exactly what I do but one thing I've learned in the short amount of time since we've started is that no two families are alike and no two families approach homeschooling the same way either.  Every family and child and learning opportunity is completely unique and there's no right or wrong way to homeschool. 

I've met families where both parents work.

I've met families where dad stays home, or mom stays home.

I've even read that single, working, parents are able to homeschool (I just haven't met any because I'm guessing they're busy working during the day while we're out and about!). 

As long as you interact with your child they're learning.  Period!
   
I was so afraid to take this leap; my oldest son asked me for 3 or 4 years so please homeschool him and I always said "Never!"  Then I started reading about it and I was hooked!  If you'd like some suggestions, I found a lot of books at my local library. 

I did a search for "homeschool" and found a few great books;  





As daunting as homeschooling was I just had to try it and I'm so glad I did.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lazy Days of Learning...

I came downstairs today and Ian was reading a book to Evan. 

Next thing I knew all three boys were playing Candyland.  While I don't think they're really learning anything "school-  like" since they all know their colors, letting them play by themselves really lets them practice their sportsmanship and cooperation.  I heard some yelling and fighting but ignored it and let them work it out themselves. 



They started playing with their stuffed animals and Alec recognized Ian's ray as an Eagle Ray and he pulled out the library book and proceeded to read all about the ray to Ian.   They they started comparing Ian's Eagle Ray to Alec's Hog nose Ray.  It was great! 

Ian read It's Christmas, David! out loud to his brothers.  I was amazed at the amount of self- guided reading and learning taking place this morning!

       
We did a bit of impromptu math in the car when they tried to dive into the box of candy canes we bought.  I asked Alec how many would be left if him and his brothers each ate one.  He subtracted to figure out there'd be 9 left.  I then asked Ian how many they could each have if they were going to eat the whole box.  He figured they'd each get 4.  I then asked them to make number sentences and then asked what if I wanted some too.  Alec quickly figured out that we'd only have 8 left if we each ate one and then he helped Ian figure out that we'd each get three instead of 4.
      
Once home Ian and I played Yahtzee and worked on multiplication skills and addition skills. He added up his whole scorecard by himself!  I was impressed.


 I noticed Alec went upstairs and never came back down after we got home so I went to check on him.  He was reading in his room and then asked if he could read a bit to me.  After a while Evan joined us and Alec read aloud to us for a bit.  It was a nice lazy day of schooling here. 

I find when I let learning happen naturally our days are relaxed and filled with wonderful discoveries.  The boys retain more of what they learn because they are interested in what they are learning about and they tend to cover many school type subjects all on their own. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Baking and Crafts

We are having so much with our Christmas themed work!  

I think homeschooling around Christmas time is my favorite.  We get to include so many wonderful crafts and baking projects together as school and it really helps with our holiday spirit! 



Reading and Crafts: 

Today we read A New Improved Santa. It's an adorable book about Santa, who's feeling old and out of date so he tried to find a new look and improve his image. It was hilarious!

 I then printed out this plain man template and cut one out of manila paper for each boy to decorate and give Santa a new look; spiky hair, a goatee instead of a beard, a silly hat, etc. Whatever they wanted. I offered to pull out all my scrapbooking scrap paper, glue, markers, yarn, pom poms, whatever and I set them working.

 Ian gave Santa a Mohawk, mustache, a fire/flame tank top with matching pants, brown sandals and black studded gloves.

 Alec choose to cut out a bright yellow tank top and bedazzle it for Santa, a purple spiky hat, orange shorts, & gloves.

 Evan chose to give Santa a bald head, blue sneakers, multicolored pants, a beard, and some wings. Ian chose to make a "new ride" for his Santa; a flying carpet for his that matched.







We made adorable Christmas trees out of construction paper.


 I found this idea on Pinterest and followed the link until I found the template. Once I printed it out I cut a bunch of green trees out of green construction paper. I used a few of my hole punches and made holes in the trees. The boys then glued small pieces of tissue paper to the back and once we hung them in the windows the light shines through and it looks like the tree is all decorated. They're adorable but not easy to photograph.


Self Guided Science: 

The boys watched a few episodes of Mighty Machines they checked out from the library.

 Alec isn't interested in machines so he ended up playing quietly in the playroom with a bunch of characters and animals. He informed me that the ears on his elephant are in the shape of Africa so it's an African elephant because elephants from Asia have ears that are the shape of Asia. Apparently he learned that a long time ago watching Animal Atlas (and I'm now thinking I must find him more of those movies!).

Holiday Baking:

We also did TONS of Holiday baking for one of our family parties this weekend. First up was the boys favorite; painted sugar cookies. 


 This is a family tradition I can remember doing every year since I was a kid. These are so easy to make:

  1. Take your favorite sugar cookie recipe and roll out the dough, cut out Christmas (or fun) shapes with cookies cutters. 
  2.  Once the cookies are on the cookie sheets the kids use paint brushes (new or cleaned with soap and water!), to "paint" on their designed using colored evaporated milk. We just mix evaporated milk with food coloring. 
  3. We typically use several colors and a different brush for each shape. 
  4.  When they are done painting they can put some sprinkles on and then bake cookies according to directions. 




We made mini cupcakes that we'll decorate like trees once they're cooled off.

 We made peanut butter/ Reese's cup blossoms (our version of the Pb kiss cookies).

 The boys help read the directions, find measuring utensils, measure, pour, stir, etc.  Lots of reading comprehension, following directions, life skills and math happening in our kitchen this morning. 


Our peanut butter cup blossoms 

 Fun Science Together:            

The afternoon was long and cold.  I mixed up a batch of "fluffy stuff."  


We used two cans of shaving cream and two boxes of cornstarch, hoping to make it a bit more wet and sticky and so we would have enough for all three boys.  It is a really weird texture and they had fun playing with it.

It is very messy!!

I promise they were dressed, but since I'm lucky enough to have all boys I had them strip off their tops to try and keep them clean while playing.  We do have traces of cornstarch everywhere (including on my keyboard!) but they had loads of fun.

Alec realized while you could try and form shapes like snowballs, they quickly broke apart.   He mounded it up to make a mountain.   The kids kneaded and mixed and ultimately ended up with really fluffy "snow."

My two truck boys started plowing and piling and moving it all around.  After a bit Evan and Ian wanted to add a bit of water so we had a form of goup/ shaving cream mixture.  I'm sure science is involved there and other learning of some kind but all we cared about for today was all the fun.  And boy! Was it ever! 

"Snowball"





Nice and smooth


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