Monday, September 30, 2013

We're willingly writing!

       I couldn't believe it today when I told my boys we were going to be writing and no one complained!  Evan wrote his first and last name twice in his best, neatest, handwriting.  He knows his first name very well but it's one of the few times he's had to write his last name.  By the time he wrote it twice he knew how to spell it.  I asked him a few times throughout the day to tell me how he spells it and he got it right every time!  It's such small progress but it feels like a huge leap.  The older two boys wrote a short story (more like a paragraph) about their Lego Minifigures.  I had downloaded and printed off many writing ideas from Homegrown Learners quite a while ago and had forgotten all about them.  The boys are very big into Lego's so I thought they'd enjoy this assignment.  They each wrote a cute little story and tried very hard to make sure to use the proper spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.  They aren't perfect, but I still love the stories. 

Evan writing his name

the boys' stories

       Alec decided to try out his own science experiment today.  He wanted to put a fruit loop in water and watch what happens.  I figured he could easily predict what would happen, but he really wanted to give it a try and watch it; so I figured why not?!  It certainly doesn't hurt anything for him to watch the fruit loop dissolve and turn the water pink.  Evan was quite intrigued by the idea also so they worked on it together. 

      I had read a few chapters of Hurry Up, Houdini! to all the boys at breakfast this morning, but decided to ask them each to pick a book (any book they wanted) to read as our last bit of schoolwork this morning.  I am loving these mini sessions of learning.  We're done school in under an hour and I feel like I'm teaching something yet they still have the entire rest of the day for their unschooling pursuits.  For us, it seems like the perfect compromise.  Evan read a Lego Chima Tribes of Chima book with me that he had checked out of the library. I asked him to find the word "the" on each page and even paused a few times in our reading so he could "read" the word.  I think baby steps will work best with him in getting him to read on his own and I'm trying not to push to hard.  He wanted to "read" the names of each of the characters to me when I pointed to the words so, of course, I agreed.   Alec decided to read Baby Sea Otter and Ian read Multiplying Menace: Revenge of Rumplestiltskin.  Ian's book was actually the math story I had planned to read as part of our math work tomorrow but I certainly wasn't going to stop him from reading it.  He was able to summarize the story for me after he read it and he seemed to enjoy it. 


    We still had a bit of time before trampoline so the boys went off on their own for a bit.  Ian played in the sand.  Alec started watching Harriet the Spy and Evan decided to look at his Ninjago Character Encyclopedia book.  I mentioned to Alec that if he really enjoyed the movie he might want to check the book out of the library too.  I often enjoy comparing the books to the movies and thought he might too.
      On the way to trampoline we stopped to print out the pictures we took last week of their Lego creations for the Lego building contest so that we could mail them out tomorrow.  They had a great trampoline class and Alec was thrilled to give me his book to take home.  He's completed all the beginner exercises and was so proud of himself for moving on to another more complicated series of movements.  Ian worked most of the class trying to perfect a move he's working on and Evan mostly had fun socializing and practicing his back jumps onto a suspended mat.  Though Evan also spent a good portion of the class trying to get to 7 "swivel hips" in a row.  So far he's only managed to make it to 5 and, on one occasion, 6 of these moves.  I was so glad to see him trying so hard since he tends to be the one that gets frustrated and quits.
         Imagine my surprise and swell of pride when the coach approached me after class to tell me that Alec has great form and could go far in trampoline if he ever chose to compete.  Wow!  I could tell by watching that Alec is quite perfectionistic about his moves and keeps his body in good alignment but I don't think I had ever thought of doing anything with the boys beyond this class.  I know I have to ask Alec what he thinks, but I must admit I'm already a bit torn about how to go about it.  While Alec really enjoys and loves trampoline, Ian LOVES trampoline.  He used to ask me, as we were pulling out of the driveway after trampoline class when we would be coming back for our next class.  I'm so afraid his feeling are going to be hurt.  Ian is my hard worker who has such drive and ambition, but Alec is the one who comes along after Ian, takes one look and manages to out perform him (in reading, in math, in soccer, in most everything he does).  Ian does well, Alec does exceptionally well (for his age).  I feel like Ian, as the older boy, often feels overshadowed by Alec and I'm so afraid this will take away some of the joy he finds in these trampoline classes.   For now I'm just keeping the coaches words to myself and enjoying that moment of surprise. 
      After trampoline we were going to head to the apple orchard but all the boys asked if we could go visit my grandmother instead.  She has a new kitten and all the boys are quite smitten with it.  They spent the afternoon watching TV, eating snacks, and playing with the kitten.  They learned how to pick her up by the back of the neck like a mother cat, they learned how to get the kitten to chase and pounce on a piece of string, they learned what it's like to have a kitten around.  They watched her and couldn't keep their eyes off of her.  Ian had the kitten curl up and take a nap on his lap.  They all three discovered just how sharp a kitten's claws could be.  They all three took turns trying to come up with the perfect name for her.  It was adorable and the perfect excuse to spend extra time with my grandmother. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Field trip Friday


     I couldn't decide if I wanted to make Friday art day or field trip day so we made it both!  We started our morning painting fall leaves.  I cut leaf shapes out of white paper and set out yellow, red and orange paint.  The boys dotted paint onto the leaf shapes and then we used cling wrap to mix the colors together and make interesting patterns on the leaves.  They enjoyed the project immensely and ended up making a lot of colorful leaves.  I can't wait for them to dry so I can put them up in the windows.  I miss all the decorations we had in our windows last fall and winter when we were avidly crafting each week.  I already have some pretty fall apples planned for next week. 

Evan adds paint

Alec blends the colors together, testing to
see what will happen if he puts all the dots in
a pattern on his leaf. 

  














some of our completed leaves


















       Once we were done art I had all the boys get ready for the day while I packed lunches for our field trip.  We decided to head to the Ecotarium once again.  They have a new exhibit we haven't seen yet and in September everything is 1/2 off (admission, the train ride, the planetarium shows) so I was planning on taking the boys on the train and to a planetarium show.  We listened to the Key to the Indian on the way there and almost finished the book on the way home.  We are so invested in these characters by now and it's quite a gripping story. We can't wait to see what will happen next!  We arrived shortly after the Ecotarium opened and headed right for the pond they have at the entrance.  As we were driving in we saw a Blue Heron standing in the water with a fish or frog in it's mouth and we wanted a closer look.   Not all that surprisingly, the heron flew to the other side of the pond as we approached.  We see them all the time at home but it's still amazing to see then fly.  Their wings are enormous. 
       We continued on to the boys favorite exhibit-- the otters.  They were out playing in the water, climbing, diving, chasing one another, it was so much fun to see.  The boys enjoyed them and I swear they could have stood there all day, but it was a bit overcast and cool so I convinced them to head toward the building and see what else we could find. 
      We stopped to play at the bubble station (several times during our trip actually).  There were very few people around today so there wasn't any need to stand around and wait for turns.   We saw so much!  Everything, in fact.  The boys had a wonderful time and it was cute to see them teaching and talking to much younger kids who were around us and playing.  They were gentle and careful and kind. 

Playing with fog

playing with wind and patterns

Making a dinosaur puzzle

Making dinosaur tracks and trying to
interpret the meaning of the patterns

"being a scientist" 

Sorting shapes like scientists do

all sorted! 

This time Ian sorts magnetically

Cooking up a healthy meal using the food groups.
The burner turns red when you've done a good job. 

checking out materials under a microscope

Another type of microscope with plants, insects
and seeds to look at. 




The otters! 

Making giant bubbles

watching the turtles

The opossum

Learning the different names of the orange and brown butterflies

A mini class on magnets

making dinosaur track bookmarks

Playground fun


Great Horned Owl

More bubble fun!


They can get them so high! 

Red tailed hawk

A talk on the bearded dragon vs. a corn snake;
my boys totally took over the class and most
of the moms' commented on their knowledge! 

Feeding the plants our carbon dioxide; the boys filled the entire thing! 

Learning about a balanced lifestyle; rest,
exercise, proper nutrition, etc.  The body lights
 up when you have everything right. 

Just like scientists-- using glove boxes for work


Alec pretended that if he didn't get exactly 100ml in each beaker
that it would explode. 

They all experimented, measured, compared containers, and
talked in "real" scientific terms.  It was a huge hit! 

Making summary boards of all we learned
One last stop at the otters

Bald Eagles

Giant bubbles


And even more giant bubbles. 

     On the way home we needed to stop at the library again.  We had gotten a few e-mails last night as soon as we got home that many of the books we had requested had come in.  I was going to wait until Monday to pick them up but Alec had already read almost half of the books he had checked out yesterday and I wanted to make sure he'd have enough to last him through the weekend. 
The book Alec already needs to return.  He recommends them ALL! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Me on the Map

  Thursday is geography and history day.  I really wasn't sure what I wanted to teach them today.  They are very interested in geography and I wanted to teach them about different countries but I'm waiting for some books to come in from the library.  I could have just pulled out the Scrambled States of America game or had them play Stack the States on my Kindle but I wanted a project for us to work on.  I went to Pinterest and did a generic "geography" search and found this idea.  I love the idea of showing the boys that their room and our corner of the world is just one tiny speck in the grand scheme of things.  We started with the world map and worked our way backward through North America, The United States, New England, etc. and we'll end up with their road, house and room.  I  have been wanting do to this project for a while but knew the boys would complain because it's a lot of  work-- there are 10 pages to complete.  They started complaining before they even knew what the project was!  They saw piles of paper and they whined.  I ignored them but did feel a twinge of guilt that I was teaching them something they weren't interested in learning. 
     I found printable maps for almost everything at Eduplace.  I only wish I had been able to scale the maps down a bit.  I don't like that the United States ended up being larger than the world, but I think they still get the idea.  I was impressed with Ian though, when we sat down and he started coloring the world map he told me he was coloring the oceans near the poles a dark blue since the water was colder there and he'd use a light blue when he got near the middle since the water gets warmer there.  I asked them if they knew what that line in the middle was called and Alec yelled "the equator!"  I had them point out the United States on the world map, we talked about the other countries that we share North America with, I had them find New England on the United States map and asked them to point out our state countless time.  We talked about how even the states are divided into different regions called Counties.  I told them the name of ours and had them find it on the map.  I then had them find our town and showed them how small it is in relation to our state, how small our state is in relation to our country, etc.  It was great and they all did an amazing job!  Evan decided to do things his own way and instead of starting from biggest to smallest he went from smallest to biggest.  He drew the blue walls and his two beds in his room, he drew our green house and blue door for our house and he drew a very big, very gray road for our street.  It was cute. 
Ian shading his oceans for temperature

What the finished product will look like--
it's just missing the picture of "my room"

Drawing our house


Hard at work

Evan finished the first 1/2 of his packet

Alec and Ian worked on the 2nd half of their packets

     
















































         We finished up schoolwork by mid morning and I packed up our lunches and bikes to head to a homeschool group play date at the lake.  We hadn't seen our group in almost a month so we were all anxious to meet up with everybody.   Along the way we stopped at the library again.  Many of our requested books had come in and Alec was all out of library books.  He picked out the largest stack of books last time we went to the library (to the point where I was ready to tell him he needed to put some back) and has since read them ALL!  We walked out with another huge stack this time... thinking perhaps we need multiple library book bags to carry them all home.  We went in to get some books for Alec and both Evan and Ian walked out with quite a stack too.   We listened to a bit more of the Key to the Indian and the boys were making predictions. 
Alec's pile of books 

Ian's pile of books 
    We stayed at the park for 3 hours and the boys ran, jumped, yelled, rode bikes and scooters and basically just had fun playing with lots of other kids their own age.  Ian and his friend were panning in the water, the kids made up many of their own games and spent a gloriously fun day in the sun and fresh air.  We saw all sorts of water fowl, a sailboat, "fished" for muscles and Alec found many new rocks to add to his collection.   I always enjoy these get- togethers too.  There are lots of other moms around and it's great for us to swap stories, swap ideas and help one another out.  We have parents just starting out with toddlers and babies that know they want to homeschool when the time comes and we have parents that have been homeschooling for years and years.  One mom in our group has 6 kids-- 1 in college, 2 in high school and two younger so there isn't anything we're going through that she hasn't encountered yet.  We all have our own method of homeschooling but it's always great to listen to the way someone else approaches their day and their lessons.  Over the past year these ladies have become my friends as my kids have made friends with their kids.  We also have the added bonus of continually meeting new people.