Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wiffle Ball Mania

   All three boys were up at 5:15 in the morning yesterday.  How we went from 7:30 sleep in on Tuesday to a 5:15 wake up on Friday I have no idea... but I much prefer the 7:30.  When the kids were in public school I used to wake up as early as 4:30 or 5:00 and one of things I love most about homeschooling is being able to sleep in and have nice relaxing mornings.  I was dreading the day thinking that all the boys would be so grouchy after waking up so early, but I was wrong and we had an amazing day!  The younger two boys went right to the Wii and started playing Skylanders.  Ian sat down to eat breakfast and watched a few shows on our DVR like Dual Survival and stuff like that. 
   I was amazed when I looked at the clock around 9:00 and realized that it was only 9!  I had exercised, gotten dressed, did some laundry, worked on my scrapbooking, and felt like I had really accomplished a lot.  The boys had taken a few small breaks from the Wii.  Ian played in his room for a long time building with his Legos and Evan and Alec both worked together to clean Alec's room and put away all his laundry. 
         Even though the weather forecast wasn't looking good I offered to take the boys to the zoo, or hiking, or the beach, or really anywhere.  They all said they'd rather stay home!  I couldn't believe it!  I told them they would not be playing/ watching screens all day and asked them what they were going to do.  Their answer "we want to stay home and play more Wiffle Ball."  All three of them agreed that they'd rather say home and play Wiffle Ball than go anywhere else.  I couldn't believe it.  I don't even like Wiffle ball! 
    They all headed outside and played on the swing set until I could join them outside.  Ian and I palyed Wiffle ball alone for awhile since the younger two boys were busy playing Skylanders in the woods.  They used the poster that came with the game as a map and assigned each other roles and attributes.  They joined us eventually and then we all played Wiffle Ball together, though Alec did start working on drawing his own map on the back of the poster.    No one argued over batting order, which bats to use, or anything else the whole time we played.  They all got along great and we had a huge family discussion about where/ what to do for our family vacation (I still haven't book anything even though I've been planning for months).  We had so much fun and the weather forecast was wrong-- it was a beautiful sunny day.  I even managed to go outside in a tank top and pants today.  Finally some nice warm, sunny weather! 
Alec drawing his map of Skylanders

      We went inside long enough to make lunch and decided to, once again, have a family picnic on the lawn.  I read another chapter in Harry Potter and we stopped for some discussion about the choices Harry and his friends were making.  We watched the helicopter fly overhead, listened to some bullfrogs croaking, watched an inchworm crawling, and just enjoyed being outside. 



   Once lunch was all cleaned up we headed back to our game of Wiffle Ball.  The boys weren't getting along quite so well this time around and the bugs were out in full force.  The sky clouded over and we unanimously decided to head back inside.  The boys all took turns playing Wii together-- all three of them-- without argument!!  I couldn't believe it.  I had to take a picture; that just never happens! We only have two controllers so there's often a battle about who will sit on the sidelines and then they often start yelling at one another that they're doing it wrong and I end up shutting the whole thing down.  But today they really worked together as a team.  They listened to one another, helped one another and patiently taught Ian how to play.  It was great! 


    I persuaded them to turn it off and we ran to the library and the grocery store. I just had to pick up some strawberries and cream to go with the chocolate pound cake I made this morning.  Something about chocolate strawberry shortcake....mmmmm!  While at the library Alec was thrilled to find that 3 more chapter books came in for him.  He was dismayed when he realized that the books skipped over one of the books in the series that he has not yet read.  I told him we should check to see if our library had a copy that we could just check out right now.  We went to the computer and used the on-line card catalog and I showed him how to tell if  the book was available and what the call number was (in this case the author's last name).  I then walked him over to where the fiction chapter books were and showed him how the isles are arranged alphabetically by author's last name and we found his book.  He was skipping back up to the counter and by the time he handed it to the librarian he had already read several pages. 
    The boys were thrilled to be listening to more of The House of Hades in the car and we stopped the disk often to talk about what was happening or what we thought was going to happen.  I noticed Alec would sneak peaks at his Dragonbreath book any time I stopped the disk. I'm always amazed that he can read and carry on a conversation fairly well when needed.  Annabeth and Percy are in the middle of Tartarus and the rest of the clan are completing their quest in Venice and heading to Hades to meet up with Percy and Annabeth.  We're constantly wondering how they're going to complete this quest and yet we know they will... somehow.
    We came for a quick dinner and change of clothes before heading out for the boys' karate graduation.  Ian moved up to the intermediate class with Alec and they are thrilled at the idea that they might get to spar with one another in class.  Evan earned his next belt level last night too and was told he could try out the next level of classes this coming week.  He's been in a class designed for 3-6 year olds while his brothers were in a children's beginner class; now they've graduated out of the beginner class Evan has been asking how long he had to wait to be in that beginner class with the older kids.  His instructor heard him asking the other day and told him that since he's almost 7 he could come to the children's class and try it out.  As long as he can listen and remain in good control of his body he will be able to stay in that class and move up to yellow belt.  He's been talking about getting his yellow belt ever since.  I think he was hoping that they'd just give him a yellow belt last night!  Graduations tend to run long since they have so many kids and adults graduation and they like to show off a variety of skills.  Alec had brought his new chapter book to read and ended up finishing it long before graduation was over.  Both him and Evan were getting antsy and bored until some of the junior black belts started sparring and breaking boards.  I think they're all fascinated by the idea that they could be doing that one day. 
   

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hello Sunshine!

     We were having one of those days where all the boys bickered, fought and said nasty things to each other.  By 9am I was ready to call it a day and wondering if it was too soon for some wine or a mixed drink.  It didn't help matters any that I knew these bad moods were partly my fault.  We've had a few late nights in a row and Evan, in particular, is not one for sleeping in later the next day.  He was overtired and cranky at the heart of most arguments.  Luckily the day started getting slowly better.  The younger boys were anxiously waiting for the "Ups" man (as they refer to him) to come and drop off their new Skylanders game.  I warned then with the behavior they were all showing me no one was going allowed to play it anyway.  Next thing I knew it was quiet as could be in the house. 
     Ian decided to take advantage of the sunny weather to go outside and work on creating a whole new world on our beach.  He took out some paper, sketched out what he wanted his road to look like and started getting to work on construction.  Evan eventually wandered outside and asked if he could help.  Ian put him to work using the shovel and the dump truck (the two tools Evan really wanted to use) and they worked together very nicely for quite a while.


    Alec locked himself in his room, opened his blinds and laid in the sun reading an entire chapter book in just a few hours.  Though it was finally sunny it was still rather chilly since it was only in the upper 40's in the morning and I have to say I could feel a definite temperature difference when I walked into his room to see what he was up to.  I thought that was pretty smart and would have loved to curl up with him in the sun and warm up.  Once he finished his book, he continued to play by himself until lunch.  He hauled out stuffed animals, a mini pool table he had gotten for his birthday, some of his colored duct tape and other assorted toys.  I'm not entire sure what he was doing but he was happy so I left him to it. 
    Evan came inside and wanted to help me out in my craft room.  He wanted to push the buttons on my Cricut while I was working on some scrapbooking pages.  I was careful not to show him which buttons to punch but just to say them out loud (making him try to read and decode the different buttons).  He asked me if he should stop it at one point and actually pointed at the stop button.  I asked him how he knew that was stop and he spelled " S-T- O-P it says stop.  I just know."  I pointed out to him that he was reading and I gave him a hug and a high five.  He shrugged his shoulders like it was no big deal and told me he read the word snap the other day.  He always claims it's just a good guess and no matter what I do I can't seem to make him understand that all of these things are reading.  Maybe he's not reading great big books on his own yet but he is reading slowly and surely. 
     We all migrated outside, lured by the sunshine and nicer temperatures (and by nicer I mean it felt like fall and not winter... but still not like spring.  I miss spring!).  The boys took turns playing on the swings.  I can't believe how much they play on that swing set now that we've gotten one more swing!  I had to referee at times and talk about taking turns but for the most part they were having a lot of fun. 

   Ian asked me if he could try out the wood burning tool we got from a relative last week and so I set him up outside, talked about all the safety features, gave a quick demonstration of how it works and talked about what he wanted to make.  He decided to draw a pocketbook onto a piece of wood and trace it.  He did an awesome job and the younger two boys were fascinated watching Ian.  They wanted a turn too and while I was supremely nervous someone was going to get hurt I offered to let them try.  They both got some scrap wood and each drew a sword to try and burn.  When Ian was done I helped Evan get his started, holding my hand over his I showed him how to move it slowly, talked about where to safely keep his hands, and re- iterated that he was not to touch any of the metal parts.  He was getting frustrated and having a hard time staying on the lines.  He did end up burning himself and we ran his hand under cold water.  Luckily, I couldn't even see a mark on him.  He decided he was done for the day (Thank Goodness!) and Alec sat down to take his turn.  He was doing a really nice job but kept managing to get tangled in the cord and ultimately ended up touching his finger to the metal too.  He told me he wasn't burned or anything and didn't need to run his hand under water or anything but that he didn't want to finish his project either.  Ian offered to finish them up for both his brothers and they thought that was just perfect.  He had the concentration for it and enjoyed himself so much he's already planning his next project.



Ian's completed pocketbook (which he gave to me)


Concentrating on his work

The completed swords

  
















         













































        All the boys worked together to make lunch today.  They wanted cheeseburgers and hot dogs.  Since no one was entirely sure how to cook hot dogs I talked them through it.   Alec defrosted all the buns while Ian cooked the burgers and Evan cooked the hot dogs.  Ian set the table, Evan pulled out drinks and Alec got out all the condiments.  As they all settled down to eat with some fresh fruit and veggies we listened to another chapter in Harry Potter.   The boys interrupted me a few times to remind
    After lunch all the boys wanted to play baseball in the front lawn.  I started off by pitching to them all as they batted.  Eventually both Alec and Ian wanted to try their hand at pitching too.  We had a few complaints here and there over batting order or over who was pitching but for the most part we had a really nice game.  Evan practiced throwing the ball like a pro with his knee up in the air and everything.  He managed to get the ball where he wanted it to go several times and I thought Alec and Ian did a decent job of pitching. 


    Evan and Ian headed off with my husband to get their hair cut and then go grocery shopping while Alec and I went to karate and then spent the night pouring over the chart of Skylanders, examining the new figures and setting everything up so that they could all play Skylanders once they had a chance.  The minute Evan walked in the door they were examining the poster of Skylanders figures, reading all the names and taking note of the type of each, then they picked out which guy they wanted to play and dove right in.  Ian spent his night on the computer looking up new truck toys on a new website he managed to find that is dedicated to all sorts of toy trucks.  I wasn't aware that he even knew how to do an internet search!  We wrapped up our night with some reading.  Each of the boys spends some one on one time with my husband or myself and we'll take turns reading to them and listening to them read to us. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Build, build, build!

My boys love to build!

They build with Legos, with blocks, in video games, and even on the beach with sand and pails.

They just love to build.  I love to see them building and encourage them as much as I can.



The boys got some new Minecraft books and today they pulled out both of the Kindles and spent the morning working side by side and looking over one another's shoulders trying to find and create bigger and better things in their worlds.  The boys asked me to look up how to connect the Kindles and asked me a bunch of questions about their program that I could never hope to answer.

I'm just not at all tech- savvy.

I was able to find some instructions on Amazon and after three or four tries we got it to work and linked the kindle Minecraft worlds together!  The younger two boys then spent the rest of the morning playing together in Minecraft land.  They thought it was hilarious to be able to see one another and work together to build or destroy things.  We talked about respecting one another's buildings and working together.  Amazingly enough there wasn't any fighting. 

Alec reads out loud while the other two boys play

Alec showing Ian how make orange meeps. 

All day long, I felt like I should have had something planned for the boys to do;  a science project to try out, a fun/ messy art project to work on, a field trip, something, anything... but I didn't.

I've definitely been relying on unschooling more and more and I'm trying to look for all the little ways they learn on their own. 

It helps make me feel better and feel like I have something to show for all that we do.

I had offered to read a chapter in Harry Potter and we ended up reading a chapter and a half.  The boys are still pointing out ways in which the books and movies differ.  They're even comparing the book & movie to the video game that they have for the Wii and the DS.  When I was done reading the boys went off and played.

They played ALL DAY!

Sometimes they played together and sometimes they played by themselves but I really didn't see any of them for the majority of the day.  It's so nice to see them all getting along (it doesn't always happen so I make sure to enjoy it when they do). 

The two younger boys locked themselves in Evan's room with the kindles and chargers and played Minecraft and with Evan's Lego sets.  They were content to play together and the only times I saw them was when they were hungry and wanted to eat.

 Ian was content to play by himself most of the day and spent the morning building various garages, trucks and things with his Lego pieces.  He worked hard and eventually decided to take a break and watch a movie after lunch.  It was such a quiet afternoon it was hard to believe my kids were home with me!


I almost forgot all about the boys Lego class, luckily I remembered just in time!  We piled into the car and headed to their class.  On the way we listened to some more of the House of Hades.  I had an hour or so to myself while they were at class and I went to the library to pick up some books that had come in for us, I went to vote on our town and local school budget (of which we talked about in great detail the previous night because the boys were upset that they couldn't vote.  We talked about why you have to be 18 and how to register to vote, the importance of voting and how it all works), and then I came home to start getting dinner ready.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Amazon had a great homeschooling book as a free Kindle download  called Learning Every Minute: Activities for Homeschoolers, Unschoolers, and Extra- Schoolers Alike.  I can't wait to read it; I'm always looking for new and exciting ideas.  Maybe it will jump start our days and get us out of this rut we seem to be in.

Don't get me wrong we're really enjoying our days but I just don't feel like we're doing much of anything (and I hate that feeling!).

I know that play is important and that my boys are learning a lot through play, but sometimes I hate the feeling I get that they're just playing.  I have a hard time seeing connections being made and new learning taking place and so I kind of forget that they are learning.  I like to have a bit of a mix between school and play so I don't start feeling that way and project to the kids that play isn't important.  We don't have to tackle a ton of subjects but I do like to have activity ideas ready for them just in case they aren't getting along so well and to keep us kind of balanced.

The boys were so excited to show off what they had been working on at their Lego class when I went back to pick them up.  They built submarines and buildings (to house the submarines).

They all asked me to take pictures of their creations and explained all the parts and pieces, how they work, what they stand for, etc.  As I sat down to write this blog I realized that even thought I hadn't taught anything and I felt like the boys weren't doing much of anything with their day they did do a lot of building!

They built a lot of things with their Lego bricks, they built in their Minecraft world, and they built new creations with the magna blocks too. 

Building with blocks of all kinds help build:

  •  problem solving and logic skills
  • develop creativity
  • develop spatial thinking
  • hand eye coordination
  • language skills (as they describe their buildings)

Evan's submarine with the top open

Ian's sub from the side

   
He then asked me to take a picture of his engine. 
   
Ian's new house; today it has a concave roof and a different shaped driveway too. 
Thinking back over our day I was able to remember that they had role played Harry Potter after dinner running through the house casting spells at one another and assigning themselves different roles.  They remember many of the spells they read about or hear in the movies and they enjoy practicing them.  Tonight they were trying to escape from Voldemort's snake ( a scene we had watched during dinner as a special treat tonight).

Even though it was not nice out the boys managed to get in some exercise too.  They  joined their father in our little weight room and worked on physical fitness.  They had Nerf wars and worked on hand/ eye coordination, tactical maneuvers, and good sportsmanship.   They ran, jumped, rolled and wrestled (as boys are likely to do). 

We finished up our night by reading some library books before bed and if you add that to all that they read in their Minecraft books, Pokémon books, and the other new books they got at the bookstore they did a lot of reading in one day.

So I guess even though they "just played" they did find ways to learn in almost all subject areas. 

Linking Up With: Pinch of Joy



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A "no plan" kind of day.

   I asked the boys if they wanted to head out for a field trip today but no one seemed all that gung ho to get up and get moving so I sat back and got ready to enjoy another relaxing & quiet day at home.  The boys all went "shopping" on Amazon and picked out a souvenir from mom and dad's weekend trip (they had asked for us to pick them up something while we were gone but other than stopping at a Wal-Mart we didn't really go into any stores that sold toys or anything so we offered them some money to go shopping with when we got home).  The two younger boys combined their money and bought Skylanders Giants starter kit.  They've been DYING for Skylanders for months now and since they had enough money they didn't even hesitate.  Ian chose a toypedo for playing in the water. 
    While taking turns on the computer the boys also played video games, watched T, built with blocks, and then all settled down to watch another episode of The Little Travelers; British Isles.  As they ended that film they decided to watch The Little Travelers: Bali too.  I was not all that sure where Bali was located other than knowing it was an island country but Ian told me he thought it was one of the islands off the coast of Australia (and he was right! It's part of Indonesia-- I'm always amazed at the extent of the geography knowledge my kids have).  Once the shows were done all the boys ran off to their rooms to read.  They really want to finish filling out their Barnes and Noble summer reading list so they can get their free books. Last year, though we finished our lists super early, we waited until the end of the summer to redeem our reading lists for books and they had hardly anything to choose from so the boys want to make sure to get them in very early this year.
Ian's house and driveway; complete with circular turn around area

   Evan read 5 of his small books to me; they were mostly reviews of the level b and c books he's read but he sat and read 5 of them to me!  He then asked me to read him three larger/ longer books and finished all of his 8 required book in one sitting this morning!  I was going to play a sight word game with him this morning bug figured all the extra reading he was doing was more than enough.   Alec came downstairs and handed me a stack of books around lunchtime and told me he had read all of his books too.   I love how motivated my kids get by all these summer reading programs we participate in!
   They begged me to take them to Barnes and Noble today to get their free books.  Since we didn't have any plans I agreed.  I think we were there over an hour.  We walked the entire kids section; read at least two full books and talked about so many more.  I started snapping pictures of books the kids wanted to see if our library had and discovered so many more series we'll have to try.  The boys each found a book to read that I ultimately ended up buying.  They continued to read the books out the door and into the car. 

Ian's pick of the day-- he loves books about unusual facts. 

   
















      We made another quick stop at Target and bought Evan some clothes to change into since it got really hot and sunny and the poor kid was wearing long sleeves and corduroy pants. We also stocked up on lots of fresh fruit since we were all out at home.  By this time it was almost 2:00 and we were all starved!  They finally put the books aside when we stopped for lunch and we listened to some more of the House of Hades in the car on the ride home.  It was such a fun, impromptu day out with the boys.  They have made me stop our audiobook so many times to make predictions and tie in what we're listening to with other things we've read.  Occasionally they ask questions but mainly they tell me what they think is going to happen next, or who  they think is speaking.  I love it when I have to concentrate on my driving and I'm the one who stops the book to ask a question; all three of them can usually give me a pretty precise answer! 
    We were home long enough to get ready for karate and the boys read a lot more of their books, grabbed their handheld devices and  we headed out the door.  On the way to karate, we stopped to drop off a lot of books at our library.  Unfortunately, none of the ones we've ordered have come in yet but that just gives us another excuse to go back to the library another day.  The boys had a wonderful time at karate and worked on a few new skills. Their teacher asked them about community service, talked about the importance of remaining drug free, asked them to calculate how much money they've raised over the last 10 years for the D.A.R.E. program and talked to them about they can help out locally.  The boys learned some new Korean terms, worked on some new skills and practiced previously learned skills.  They played Minecraft, Temple Run, Words with Friends, and a few other quasi- educational video games.  It was just a great day; all three boys got along with one another and Alec even read most of the books from Barnes and Noble aloud to Evan.  We laughed, joked and talked.  I love spending time with my boys like this; times I know they'll look back on and remember fondly.  I love knowing that I'm fostering a love of books and helping them find books that they'll love and remember years from now. 

Joy in the journey

   My husband and I took off this weekend for an impromptu anniversary weekend away.  The planets aligned just right so that all the grandparents were available and willing to help out and watch the kids.  We decided not to plan a whole weekend but to just get in the car and drive.  This is not something we've ever done since we have had kids.  We have gotten away by ourselves a few times but never without plans; plans of where we were going, what we were doing, where we were staying, plans for the boys meals, bedtimes, activities, etc.  This time I just left everything to chance.  My mantra for the weekend (anytime I started planning ahead and getting a bit frazzled that there was NO PLAN!) was to just find the joy in the journey.  So what if it took us all day of driving on Saturday before we found a hotel and we spent the day in the car-- I'd remind myself to find joy in the journey, take a deep breath and smile.  Smile at the thought that the car was quiet, smile because my husband and I could talk without interruptions, smile since we even got to listen to comedians on Pandora and laughed like crazy together.  I loved the thought of finding joy in the journey.  I'm always so focused on the destination and the plan that I don't sit back and enjoy what's happening right now.  I realized that while it was something I really needed to practice while on vacation it's also something I should practice more with our homeschooling and family time too.   I came home determined to find joy in the everyday, in the journey of parenthood and this journey we all call life. 
    It lasted... oh.... 30 minutes.  That's how long it took before my kids were fighting and in tears.  That's how long it took for me to intervene (twice) with their behavior, and that's how long it took before I was yelling at them.  They had all been in the neighbors pool arguing and having a really difficult time of it and I decided vacation was over and it was time to get home.  Of course, no one wanted to get out of the pool and short of jumping in myself yelling and threatening were my only options.  Once home we had a difficult afternoon of it and I had to keep reminding myself that they had busy weekends too with changes to schedules and rules.  I knew they all needed a good nights rest in their own beds but since it was barely even 3:00 we had to wait it out. 
    Eventually they all started playing with the stomp rockets and my husband offered to help them get their real rocket up and running.  They had received a rocket and a few small engines from my brother in law as a Christmas gift but we had yet to get around to assembling it and setting it off.  The boys were eager to help but soon became frustrated at how complicated the instructions were (to them especially) and how difficult it was to snap pieces together.  They helped here and there but mostly they played on the swing set and watched my husband assemble it. 


  


















    When it was finally ready to launch we headed over to a big field and the boys counted down ended with "blastoff!"  Unfortunately, the first two or three times nothing happened.  My husband is a very resourceful guy though and soon had the rocket zooming.  The boys were in awe of how high it went, how fast if took off and we were all thrilled that the parachute worked!

pushing the button; nothing happens

It finally zoomed off!


Can you see the red speck in the sky?


Here it is just a bit closer; parachute engaged. 


   Unfortunately, when the rocket came back down it landed in the two highest branches of some of the tallest trees.  My husband was going to climb up the tree and try to get the rocket down but since dead branches kept falling off and I had visions of becoming a widow on my 13th wedding anniversary I nagged him like crazy to get back down.  They all tried throwing rocks at the branch/ rocket to try and shake it loose and talked about ways to prevent this from happening next time.  I promised the boys I'd buy another rocket and we found a few for only $8-$12 on Amazon.  The boys talked about what makes a rocket work, how it takes off, why it falls back to Earth, etc.  They inspected the launch pad and looked at the soot and burn marks left on both sides of the disk.  It was such a fun end to our day. 
see the red and orange waaay up in the tree? 

One side of the launch disk

the back side of the launch disk

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mostly Unschooling-- week 1

   I toyed with the idea of stopping my blog most of this week.  It's starting to feel like an obligation and I'm noticing myself tuning into things the boys are doing (or worse yet planning things) just to write about it on the blog.  I find I take pictures with the idea of "for the blog" in my mind.  I listen to or participate in conversations with my kids and think "I'll have to remember this for the blog."  I've even found myself telling them I can't play with them right now, or listen to then right now, because I'm working on my blog.  I don't like that.  Yet, I really didn't like NOT blogging all week either.  I was left thinking "what did we do this week?"  Since we didn't have any real days of school and lessons I'm left to think we didn't do anything this week but I know that's not true either. 
   I went back and re-read Monday's post just to see what we did that day.  In looking at the picture of Alec eating his ice cream while his nose was buried in his book made me realize that I've seen him like that A LOT this week.  This is not all that unusual for Alec since he likes to read but he's read over three chapter book this week and I have watched him reading while sitting in the sand in the sun twice this week, reading while eating breakfast, reading while walking around the house, while brushing his teeth, while shopping at Target and the grocery store; He's been reading up a storm!  He is in the midst of two different book series-- as well as reading Dragonbreath, he's also been reading the Genius Files by Dan Gutman.  The other boys have been reading too, just not as much as Alec.  Ian and I finished Frindle and he read one of his Weird School books this week as well as a book called Skyscraper.  He called me into his room and was showing me how long the pages were and all the big words that were on them in the book Skyscraper.  He has worked hard to read the whole book to himself and by himself.  He even showed me on one of the back pages a world map outlining where all the supplies to build the skyscraper came from and we talked a bit about the different countries and their exports.   Evan and I have been reading one of his small mini books each day and he's been listening to a few of the Weird School books at night.  He's also started pointing out a lot of environmental print and trying to decode different signs and things.  We haven't done anything with sight words since Monday and he's started asking me if we could.  All three of the boys have been begging me to read Harry Potter at lunch (and even a few dinners when my husband was not around) this week.  We're more than half- way through the book and Alec, in particular, is trying very hard to learn all the spells.  The boys were yelling and cheering as we headed to the library last night to pick up The House of Hades and they made us listen to it in the car on the way to and from the grocery store. I had no idea we were so immersed in literature.  I had been feeling like we hardly read at all this week but it looks like I was wrong! 

    Evan does a lot of math in the morning as he's playing and planning his day.  He spent one morning making cubes and rectangular prisms out of all our magna blocks.  I told him the names of each shape as he created them and we talked about the difference between the two shapes.  He asked me how to spell the word 6 when he realized he used 6 blocks.  He also came up to me one morning and told me that since we do school 5 days and it was day 2 he only had 3 days left of school this week.  Simple addition, subtraction, number sense kind of things that he makes personal to him shows me that he applies math to everyday life even when I'm not aware of it.  Ian has been working in his math workbook since he's a few pages behind Alec, but has taken a break from the book now and then while doing math in real life.   He had a coin jar he got from one of his great grand parents and wanted to know how much money was inside.  He asked me to bring him to the bank so he could use the coin machine to count it up and exchange it for dollars but I told him to count it first and make sure it was worth going.  He added up all the change, added it to the existing money he had, and then sat down to plan out what he wanted to spend it on. 

    While at the bank and the store all three boys talked a lot about money.  They compared costs of different things they wanted to buy.  They added up costs (and in Ian's case even tried to figure out how much he had left to spend).   They noticed that Lego sets are a lot more money than Magna Blocks and having sets of both they know they are fairy similar; funny how when it's their own money they think it's silly to pay more for Lego.  Alec also spent a lot of time at the store reading; he found labels on many of the stuffed animals that told the stuffed animals name and had a small poem about each one.  He wanted to read them all!  One of the animals was unfamiliar to me and so Alec went on to tell me all about the animal in great scientific detail;  "the shy and elusive small, forest dwelling tarsier."  (Yep, he really speaks like that!) 
    I've caught the boys doing other subjects this week too; some writing as Alec was making up a list of all the Pokémon he had and all the ones he'd still like to get.  Geography as they talk about places we've been, places they'd like to go and all the places Alec has been reading about in his genius Files books.   They've been catching fish and inspecting them, feeling them, watching them and observing them.  They've taught me a bit about a few different fish; especially the one that I thought had died since it was floating upside down.  They showed me that if you shake the bucket or touch the fish his fins, flippers and gills start moving again.  They think the fish plays dead so that he can trick them into being released back into the wild.  We caught a tadpole too and observed it for a while.  The kids feed the fish in the bucket, change the water to keep it a comfortable temperature and eventually release the fish back into the lake by night fall. 

Ian does so well catching fish and things with
 his net!

  



















        They've ridden bikes and scooters, swam in the lake,  played on the swing set and the playground, and met up with all their homeschooling friends (at what turned out to be an indoor playgroup) yesterday.  They've built elaborate contraptions with all sorts of blocks.  Ian used the magnetic blocks to build a house, a green house, a two story house, a three story house, a car, a double decker car and a motorhome.  Evan also worked on making a car as well as an axe and some brass knuckles (though I have no idea where he learned about them).  Ian build a garage for some of his small trucks out of K'nex blocks and worked on building another truck, excavator and trailer out of his Legos.  In other words-- they've been playing like kids do and learning as they go along. 
Flying away!
Ian's motor home; complete with awning. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Our spring and summer transition

   I haven't planned a lesson of any kind since my boys passed their multiplication minute tests last week; partly because we've had some sickness in the house and partly because I'm feeling the spring/ summer need to just GET OUT and play.  Over the course of the weekend we re-planted the boys beans plants (they're so big they have flowers on them now!), went fishing, visited with family, attended a birthday party, and so much more.  We rode bikes, watched my husband fix and replace the bike tires, and mowed the lawn (Evan "helped" my husband). They played with their cousins, went for rides on the four wheeler, ranger and even their uncle's boat (which Ian helped him put in the water).  Alec helped me make a birthday card for his friend and all the boys helped their grandmother try and catch her cat that was hiding under the porch.  All these everyday, mundane tasks are opportunities for learning that we all tend to take for granted.  They're tasks we know how to do and know how to do well, some are even tasks that my boys are quite proficient in as well but they are still learning opportunities whether they're repetitive or not.  Thinking back over our last four or five days I'm remembering quite fondly my desire to unschool.  In hopes of getting more of our spontaneous learning back,  I told the boys this morning that we're probably going to fall back into our spring and summer routine of me not planning much of anything at all.  I still want them to work in their math books most weeks and I'd like to continue working with Evan on reading and sight words every day but I'm not going to be planning much of anything else.  We're putting our human body study on hold and we're going to focus on nature, fresh air and sunshine (on those days the sun decides to make an appearance).  The boys did remind me that in spring and summer we tend to do more messy science and art outside and they're quite anxious to start that up again too and they want me to keep reading a chapter or two of our Harry Potter series at lunch most days.  I promised I'd try but I really want to be careful not to over plan.  This is our favorite time of year to relax, observe, and just enjoy life and I know how easy it can be to think "oh we'll just do math, and sight words, and reading... oh and science... and I can't forget art"... and then the next thing you know our day is done.  I want to get out, go places, get in a few more field trips before schools let out too.  This is our field trip time and I don't feel like we've been going anywhere lately.   
   Left to their own devices today the younger two boys watched a good part of the Disney Nature film Oceans before deciding to turn off the TV and get ready for the day.  They got dressed, brushed teeth, made their beds and put away laundry!!  On their own!  Who are these kids?  They pulled out toys and had stuffed animals and blankets lining the whole hallway.  They had a whole elaborate play thing going on and I was happy to work on my scrapbooking with few interruptions. 
   Ian washed up all of the Lego pieces he had found outside in our toy box last week and then worked on cleaning up his room.  He stripped the sheets off, washed them, and remade his bed with new sheets (asking for a bit of help on the re-making part).  Then he sat down to build a new Lego garage. 
    The younger boys wanted to go out and play and convinced Ian to join them.  All three boys ran outside and played for at least an hour together.  I came out of my craft room to find that the hallway and their rooms had been all cleaned up before they headed out!  I was in awe! 
   When I went outside they told me they had ridden their bikes and scooters, gone running (and showed me where to), and had been taking turns swinging.  We decided to order one more swing (and if it fits our swing set I'll probably order a third) so that more than one person can swing at a time.  It was a bit chilly out today though and quite windy at our house so we didn't last long outside.
    The boys wanted to head to the library before lunch and so we all piled into the car.  We've finished the Mark of Athena and we're waiting for The House of Hades to come in from inter library loan so we listened to some music as Ian kept asking (or I guess I should say predicting) if we were travelling west, north, south or east.  He was right every time!  He told me that he knows Massachusetts is north, London is east, Alaska and California are west, and Australia is south east.  But as we traveled around town he had a pretty good sense of direction and knew which direction we were headed as we turned down different roads.  I have no idea where he gets that from; if my car didn't tell me which direction I was travelling I wouldn't really have known, not on any of the small side roads in town anyway. 
     Once home the boys all got their lunches together and we sat down to read another chapter in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Once lunch was done I asked the boys to do something for school.  Ian picked a page in his math book about triangles; we learned about right, isosceles, equilateral, and scalene triangles.  I handed him a ruler, went through the first 6 problems with him and then left him to his own to finish the page.  While he was working on that Alec was busy trying to finish the new chapter book he had started this morning-- Dragonbreath; Revenge of the Horned Bunnies.   Once he finished he told me a very de-tailed retelling of the story.  He then told me that it was book 6 in the series and he'd like to read the other books that came before it so we went on-line and requested books 1 & 2. 


   Evan and I worked together in the living room reading sight words.  I had, once again, written them all out on large pieces of bubble wrap and as he read them he could pop them.  He did a great job with most of the words and was quite inventive on thinking up new ways to try and pop them.  He tried hitting them with his hands (flat, fisted and chopping motion), he tried using his knees, laying on them, using his elbows, ripping them open, and so on and so on.  He compared sounds of each method and tried to figure out why so many ways wouldn't work.  Either the bubble wrap would move in the wind created by his motion or else the pressure was equally applied and would not pop through but he kept trying and finding new ways to experiment with bubble wrap. 

Sight word pop

 
















       Ian was jealous that Evan always gets the fun assignments so I had offered to write up math facts or fractions for him to put in order of least to greatest and then I'd let him pop them all.  He was all for it until he decided he wanted to save his bubble wrap.  When it warms back up he'd like to try and make himself a float out of them and see if they will hold him up in the lake.  I thought that sounded like a great science project so I agreed to keep them until the weather warms up again. 
    The boys and I headed out for a quick scooter and bike ride this afternoon, once again reviewing the rules of the road.  Evan, in particular, does not understand the dangers of riding his scooter down the middle of the road and is more focused on his feet and his balance than on where he is riding so I have to constantly remind him to stay on the side of the road.  We reviewed what it means to look both ways; not glance both ways, and we talked about which side of the road we ride on and why.  The older boys seem a bit more aware of the road and cars and do much better with staying safe.  They remained outside playing on  the playground until late in the afternoon.