Monday, June 30, 2014

Artists weekend by the lake

  I was so glad to see my boys finally doing some art this weekend!

  We didn't have much planned and since it was so nice and sunny out we decided to just hang out down on our patio and swim.  I brought out some art supplies and the boys painted a little bit both days. 

On Saturday we made sweetened condensed milk paint (something Alec has been asking me to do with him for a while).  We opened a jar of condensed milk and divided it into three bowls.  We then added food coloring to each bowl until we had a color we liked. He painted a pink river dolphin playing in the river on a sunny day.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Paint

Alec's finished masterpiece

We woke Sunday and headed outside.  It was a nice, sunny, cool morning on the lake and we were anxious to spend it relaxing having some summer fun. 

After breakfast, Ian helped his dad put our sprinkler system pump into the lake and get our lawn sprinklers up and running.  Then Ian headed off on his bike to his grandmother's cabin and helped her do some painting.  Alec brought his MP3  player out and started working on memorizing every single word in Let It Go while singing along at the top of his lungs. 

We made Karo corn syrup paints.  We mixed up clear corn syrup with some of our liquid watercolor paints to make a few vibrant colors. 

I then printed off some stained glass coloring pages from The Benson Street webpage and Alec sat down to happily work on coloring in a beautiful butterfly.  Pretty soon he was joined by both brothers and all the kids had fun painting with the shiny paints. 

    After painting, Evan helped his dad clear out a spot of land near the water to put up our hammock.  He worked on learning the different gears, buttons and levers in the excavator.  They flattened out a nice shady spot and we put up our hammock. 

We had lots of extra company and played in the water, on (and under) the hammock, went for boat rides, jet ski rides, and spent a portion of the day at their grandmother's cottage jumping off the floating dock.  

I was struck by how much each of my boys have grown and developed this summer:

  • Alec can now hold his breath from one end of the pool to another without once coming up for breath.  
  • Evan can swim for much longer distances without needing a break.  
  • Ian will drive the jet ski (with an adult sitting right behind him to oversee) and is getting much better at determining when to turn, which direction to steer himself, and which speeds are safe.  He looks so grown up coming back to shore after a short drive around the lake.  
My babies are growing up!  It was another idyllic summer day filled with lots of great family memories.  The two older boys ended up finishing off their weekend with some sleepovers.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cousins, Cousins, Cousins,

My boys spent their Friday with their cousins-- lots of them! 

We started out the morning with a drive to the Rhode Island shoreline to watch my sister's two boys.  We ended up spending the whole day and the five boys had so much fun together.  We walked to a nearby park, looked at the fountains, ducks, flowers, and worms.  We went to the library (which was three whole floors!) and my boys were so excited to find out that their library has the same summer reading program theme as our library.  They looked at books, played on the furniture and then we walked back to my sister's. 

They played with Legos, watched some new shows and learned how to play Call of Duty (I know this is quite violent and probably not at all age appropriate for my boys but they loved it and I thought.... hmm... time to start learning about wars!). 

Once my sister arrived home we took all the boys to a local playground and they ran, played, jumped and got all their energy out.  We saw spiders, bugs, birds, nests, and even a bird egg shell.  They had a blast. 

Once home the boys jumped in the lake and within 10 minutes my father in law stopped by with two of my nieces and offered to take all of the kids on a boat ride and tubing.  I was wiped out and grateful for the break so I sat this ride out.  All three of my boys went tubing though and loved it!  Alec came home all proud of how long he managed to stay on the tube before deciding to get back into to the boat.  Alec and Evan aren't usually the tubing kind and prefer to be in the boat rather than in the tube, but they had fun with their cousins and all the kids willingly took turns. 

They all went for jet ski rides (the first of the season for my boys), made up a new game similar to the javelin throw in the Olympics, and just had fun playing with their cousins. 
Somehow even with our super busy day we found time to read another chapter in Harry Potter, we also read another chapter to each boy at bedtime in a book of their choosing and listened to a lot more of our Percy Jackson book on the way to and from my sisters.  The boys are going to be so excited to find that we're recording Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters on the DVR! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weekly Wrap up

    I have some favorite photos from our week that I was just dying to share on the blog:  not that they are the best photos in the world or anything but because they remind me of all the times we're learning when we're really just having fun hanging out. 

When we stopped at the library Wednesday night to see the animal presentation we picked up the next three books in the Secret Zoo series and Alec just hasn't been able to put his book down.  He read the whole time we walked around the grocery store to do our shopping!

  Ian was bored the other day and wanted to play with some of his trucks so we mixed up some sparkling cloud dough (8 cups flour, 1 cup baby oil, and lots of glitter) and he sat playing with his trucks for at least an hour.  His obsession is ongoing! He has finished 1/2 of his coloring book already and we're desperately trying to find some construction truck books that he has not yet read.  I typically count the making of the dough as science and he insists his coloring book is art so that's another two subjects down this week. 

  Alec found a baby grasshopper the other day and was busying studying it, catching it and watching it.  Evan was eager to help. 

Evan FINALLY got to play with the slip and slide the other day.  He told me he had forgotten how cold the water could be coming out of the hose but he still had so much fun playing. He kept observing and experimenting with what would happen if he stepped on the side of the slip and slide where the water comes out.  The force of his weight would shoot the rest of the water higher into the air and I watched him turn the hose off and on many times playing with the trajectory of the water. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Science day

      I've spent these past few mornings printing out a science curriculum for us to try out.  I have NEVER felt the need to follow a science curriculum in the past but I feel like we're starting to run out of experiments and ideas on our own.  I follow a high school mom's blog called Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and she has mentioned REAL Science Odyssey more than a few times.  In checking out the curriculum from their sight I was so happy to find a "try before you buy" section.  I was able to print off 9 lessons including 17 labs.  It took me two mornings to print it all out since I ran out of ink and had to run to the store yesterday.  The series looks really promising and I think it may be something I'll look into more closely.   We'll have to see how often we use it and play around with it for a bit and I love that the publisher realizes not every family finds every curriculum works for them.  I also loved that there were multiple "try before you buy" options so we can see which area of science the boys are most interested in.  For now I printed off the Life science without really giving it a second thought, but I like that it's all about the human body since that's what we left off learning about this spring.  I think I'll tuck these pages away for the fall when we really jump into schooling-- I have even made up a schedule and everything for us this year so we'll see how it all goes. 
    I had asked the boys to each pick at least one thing to work on for school yesterday while I packed up lunches for our visit to my grandmother.  Ian and Alec both immediately (and happily!) called out "Draw Write Now!" They pulled out their books and Alec got to work drawing his panda bear while Ian worked on drawing an icebreaker.  Alec asked us all if we thought bamboo was a tree or grass.  I was stumped but Evan guessed grass and Ian guessed tree.  Alec told us it was grass and when Ian started arguing with him they made me go look it up and, of course, Alec was right.  Bamboo is the largest grass in the world. 

    While they worked on drawing and writing Evan chose to work in his math workbook and completed two pages on geometric shapes.  I just couldn't get over how HAPPY they all were as they worked on their schoolwork!

    We read another chapter in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before heading to the store to buy printer ink.  We ended up buying a few other things too and as I was checking out Ian turned to me and said "wow, we must have spent like $90 today!"  It rang up to $89 and change!!  How's that for hands- on math?!  I was so impressed even though I was not happy to have spent so much money. 
    We spent the day at my grandmothers visiting her and playing with her kitten until it was time for the older boys to head to karate.  Karate ran a bit late but luckily we were still in time for the summer reading kickoff party at our local library.  The boys were anxious for this years kickoff since they had so much fun at last year's and the same company was coming with animals again this year.  We got to learn about new animals this time around though and the boys learned a lot about local animals.  We saw tree frogs, talked about the life cycle of a frog, toads vs. frogs, peeper frogs, and camouflage. 

 We learned about flying squirrels and I had no idea that they were more prevalent than gray squirrels in our area but they're nocturnal so we don't see them as often.  We talked about their skin flap, their flat tails and their coloring. 
He brought his skunk "double stuff" with him.  We got see their claws and teeth up close and Alec was thrilled to FINALLY be called on to explain why their eyes are not large like a flying squirrels.  Alec was having hard time not taking over and blurting out animals facts but I saw with him and kept reminding him to give others a chance to talk too and not to interrupt.  He was just so excited! 
We saw a groundhog up close too.  They have huge teeth; much like a beaver and Evan could not resist telling about the time we saw a groundhog chasing a cheetah at the zoo.  The man explained that many animals are afraid of groundhogs because of their sharp teeth.   We learned about their burrows, how they dig them, and where they like to live. 
  He had painted turtles and snapping turtles, though the snapping turtle looked so much different from the ones we're used to seeing at our house.  He talked about the colors of turtles, why they sun themselves, what they eat, where they live, and where they like to lay their eggs. 
He had a fox with him.  Alec was really impressed to learn that the fox can climb trees! Though reddish in color it's not a red fox it's a gray fox (since the back of the fox is gray).  He explained that most people don't seem them often because they do like to spend time up in the trees and, unlike red foxes who prefer fields, gray foxes like forest type areas.  The fox ended up pooping on the table and WOW!  The smell was indescribable.  All the kids started pulling their t-shirts over their noses... 
After he cleaned up after the fox he had one final animal to show us-- a fisher.  And while it's often called a fisher cat it's actually part of the same family as skunks and ferrets.  I have to say he was kind of cute looking!  But we did get to see his nice big teeth and large paws.  They like to swim, climb, dig holes in the snow, and, unfortunately, eat house cats.  They will not hesitate to tackle an animal larger than themselves. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Read, Read, Read!

  We had a lazy day around here since all the boys stayed up late last night and had such a busy day yesterday.  They slept in until pretty late and then watched some TV while eating breakfast.  After breakfast they all wanted to re- watch Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief.  The younger boys were already quoting the movie this morning and kept saying "remember the part where.." or "My favorite part was when..."  They all agreed that the movie was NOTHING like the book; we seriously found so many parts that were different it was easier to name the few parts that were the same.  But, the boys still loved the movie and want to listen to the next book before watching the next movie. 
    I asked them all to do a bit of reading today for school.   Alec was just a few chapters away from finishing up From Texas With Love, which was due back yesterday (whoops! Add to that, the fact that we're out of renewals and I knew he'd want to finish it BEFORE heading to the library).  While he sat and read that I had Evan re-read three of his old books.  I picked a level A, B and C for him, hoping he'd remember these books/ stories with little to no difficulty.  He was reluctant to read but did a really good job with the books I had picked out.  I would have let him pick them out but he really didn't seem to care one way or the other today.  I then picked a few books off his pile to read to him and so we took turns with him reading one book, then me, then him, etc.  We read Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (AGAIN!), Penguin's Hidden Talent,& Lion Vs. Rabbit
    While waiting for me to available to read with him I had Ian work on a page in his math workbook.  I picked a page on decimal place value but told him he could pick something else if he preferred.  I did a mini lesson with him on what place value is, we reviwed all the place value names he already knows and then I showed him the decimal place values listed in his book.  We talked about the similarities and I went over each section of his workbook page with him so he would know what he had to do on his own while I worked with Evan. He did great and caught on quickly. 
    When Evan and I were done reading I read a chapter of Mission Unstoppable with Ian.  He still hates reading books with lots of words in them so we take turns reading pages in the chapters so that he still gets lots of practice but gets to take frequent brakes.  The more we read together and I get to hear him read out loud the more comfortable I get with him deciding to only read picture books.  I can't believe how much his reading has grown and developed these past few years of homeschooling!  I don't often see him reading and when I do it's typically a book I think is way beneath his level so I always wondered how/if he's working on reading skills but he had to have been.  He reads so much more fluently, goes back to re-read when things don't make sense, figures out longer, more complicated words much easier than he used to, and in general seems to have more confidence and fun with reading.  That makes me so happy! 
    While we were reading the mail truck came and we got a package in the mail.  Evan carried it in to me (with the help of Ian, who had jumped up excitedly shouting that he thought his new truck coloring book came in).  We opened the box together and I took out Ian's coloring book, Evan's new math workbook and a Draw Write Now Polar Regions book.  I told Evan that Ian and I were going to finish reading our chapter together and that he could look through his new math book but I wasn't going to make him do any pages today.  He happily listened and looked while Ian and I finished reading.
    Evan stopped to study many of the pages and I noticed all the pages on shapes and money really seemed to catch his attention.  I think I should pull out our piggy banks and let him start playing with coins next week.  He could sort, label, count, etc. and get the basics down before we dive into using his book.  He paused on one of the pages about pyramids and started pointing out the different shapes telling me which ones we had in block form and which ones we were missing.  I told him what the instructions were for the page and he sat right there and pointed out every pyramid-- I told him he had just done his first workbook page.  He looked at me in stunned silence and I pretty sure his look was saying "you mean it's that easy?" 
    Since we were done reading and math we headed to the library and picked up our box of books.  Along the way we stopped to vote on our town budget (again).  I love taking the boys along with me so they get a feel for how these things work and so that they'll see the importance of voting.  We've already talked about how we don't typically discuss our votes (though I do with my boys on certain topics so they can see how we reason things out in our family).  We also got to start our second Percy Jackson book and made it through the first few chapters on our way home. 
   Once home I quickly made lunches and we ate a late lunch.  It was gorgeous outside, but the boys insisted they wanted to eat inside and listen to me read Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban.  Ian was busy coloring in his book and finished an entire page.   I can't remember the last time I've seen Ian excited about coloring.  I love watching my kids color.  I think coloring develops important fine motor skills and works much like writing in developing control and movement.  I hope he keeps it up!  No one wanted to go outside at all today- not to swim, not to play, not for anything.  I felt a bit bad but figured we'd spent the last few days outside from morning 'til night and if they really wanted a break that was OK.

    After lunch and snack the boys begged to sit down and watch the third Harry Potter movie since we're more than half way done the book.  They've watched it before (more than once too, as far as I know) but I figured if they all wanted to watch it again it wouldn't hurt.  I've been working on putting together a whole Harry Potter school unit to work on with the boys but I'm just not ready to implement it yet.  They had to wait a bit to start the movie though since Alec was busy reading once again.  He had a whole new stack of picture books from the library all about animals.  We had noticed a bunch of beautiful books at the Audubon center last week and I had requested most of them through our library once we got home.  Look at that smile-- He just loves his books! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rewarding hard work

   My boys love amusement parks and so we participate in Six Flag's Read to Succeed program.  This was our second year completing the required hours of reading and in doing so the boys (and me as their teacher) all earn free passes for a day to Six Flags.  Today was the first day to redeem and since the weather forecast was looking so favorable we decided to go.  My husband took the day off and we had a wonderful family fun day at the park.  There weren't that many people there and we had little to no lines for any of the rides, we ate tons of junk food, and met a few characters.  We re-rode favorite rides from last year and checked out a few new ones.  They quickly realized that this second trip was not quite as awe inspiring as the first and their enthusiasm started petering out after lunch.  We watched a magic show (where my husband got called onto stage), went on two last rides, picked out some souvenirs and headed home to watch Percy Jackson and The Lightening Thief (since we finished our book on CD today). 
   When my youngest asked if today was supposed to be a school day I said yes and asked what they had learned today.  They quickly replied "nothing!"  I reminded them that they had learned that hard work has it's rewards.   I reminded them that all of the rides were also science in motion; we lived newton's laws, trajectory, equal and opposite forces, friction, etc.  My boys answered that they already learned all that stuff so I just shrugged and threw up my hands.  I'm sure if I really wanted to think about it I could find SOMETHING that they learned today but hey,  a fun family day was all I was after anyway! 
These two love Catworman's Whip; we rode it
three times in a row. 

Alec does not like flume rides so he wore my sweatshirt
in hopes of staying dry (it didn't work!)

We ALL got soaked! 

Snack time

After 4 snack stands we finally found Cookies
and Cream Dippin' Dots!

Ian met Scooby and Scrappy

The younger boys went driving

They got lots of practice

They thought daddy was a riot on stage

Alec drank his melted snow cone; like a Hummingbird!

Evan now has a Robin cape to go with his Batman cape