Thursday, July 31, 2014

Self- guided learners

    Ian came into my room while I was exercising yesterday morning and placed a few books on my bed.  When I asked him what was up he told me he had already started his schoolwork and had finished reading.  He read a book called Near One Cattail: Turtles, Logs and Frogs.  I was impressed!  It was only 6:30 or so and here he was getting his schoolwork done!  I had reminded the boys the previous night that they had to get their schoolwork done early since their cousins were coming to play but I figured they would still eat breakfast, play for a bit and try to procrastinate at least a little.  Ian told me he enjoyed the book but it was hard to summarize since it was a book like The House that Jack Built that just kinds of summarizes and builds on each page.   He walked downstairs with me with the intention of pulling out his math book again and I reminded him that he could work on writing using his Draw Write Now book or practice cursive or any other subjects too.  He excitedly told me he wanted to do a page in his Draw Write Now book as soon as he ate breakfast. 
     I sat down at my computer and found Evan eyeing our United States and World Map puzzles.  Ian had played with them a few days ago and left them out of the bin.  Evan was studying the pictures that were on the puzzles and which state/ country they were near.  I reminded him that if he wanted to work on those puzzles that it is all part of school so he happily dumped them out and set to work. 


    Ian must have been inspired by Evan because he hurried in and asked if we could play the Scrambled States of America game as part of his schoolwork and I said sure so he set it all up.  Evan wanted to play and asked if I would help him.  He's starting to recognize many of the states and there are several clues that he doesn't even need help with anymore.  Once he can read and spell on his own he's going to be a fierce contender for his brothers with the game.  We talked about letters & sounds, words, vowels vs consonants, and even what syllables are.  We also talked about lakes, oceans, borders, the compass rose, north, south, east, west, and proximity.  Evan spelled Mississippi for me and told me that's an easy state to spell and read since he knows it already by listening to his brothers spell it.  They had so much fun learning together. 
    Evan finished up his morning of schoolwork by completing two pages in his Star Wars Phonics book.  He asked if he could do any two pages and chose to work with the letters Q & R.  He told me that he wants to keep the book after he completes it so he can read it and read all the names of the Star Wars guys.  I can't get over how eager he is to work in these books just because they have characters in them.  The older two boys are so jealous too.  I really wish they made them for older grades too! 
     Since the boys were done with school and Alec was still in bed they started helping me clean the house.  Evan dusted while Ian vacuumed and washed the floors using the Libman Wonder Mop.  I was starting to think Alec would never wake up when he came downstairs in his pajamas reading his Secret Zoo book.  He's on the 4th one in the series and even though he only had read a chapter or two in the book previously he finished the entire book yesterday.  In fact, he finished the book by 10:30 or 11 and went on to finish up reading his Greek Mythology book and all of his Greek Mythology fact cards too.  I did have to make him put the books a time or two so he could eat breakfast, get dressed and clean up his room before our company came over but he was content to keep his nose buried in his books until lunchtime.  He's just such an avid reader!  He read another 4 picture books before bed too after we said goodnight to him and he couldn't wait until morning to come downstairs and show me. 

    By lunchtime my sister and nephews were with us and the boys all had fun playing in the water, the sand and on the swing set together.  We observed a "new" bird on our lake which we figured was a cormorant by the end of the day and also had fun watching the blue heron and the momma duck with her little ducklings.  Once the boys tired of swimming, playing chicken and holding contests in the lake they spread out some blankets and all laid down to compare, trade, and examine each other's Pokémon cards.  I was happy to hear them doing math too as they battled with Pokémon cards.  Alec was easily subtracting three and two digit numbers in his head and surprised me when he told his cousin that you could not take 130 away form 50 unless you were using negative numbers; I didn't realize he knew what negative numbers were!  They had fun and they helped each other figure out points and scores each making sure the other's math was right.  I love when they learn naturally through play; that's the best!
chicken fights

the cormorant found some food  

another picture; we were surprised that it could hold it's breath so long and swim so far so fast!

Pokémon traders

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Working Outside

    I'd love to say that the boys all woke and eagerly asked me to get going with school for the second day in a row but that's just not the case.  They spent their morning watching TV and playing video games while I exercised and cleaned house.  I had to raise my voice a few times to be heard in order to get them ready for school.  Alec, in particular, had misunderstood and spent most of the time that I was waiting for him reading in his room upstairs.  I certainly wasn't going to yell at him for that but I was bummed that it was well after 10 before we were ready to get started with school today.
    It was a nice day and I decided we all needed to take advantage and go for a nice walk this morning.  We left our yard and went for a hike in the woods.  We saw birds, examined a spider web, talked about deer, scat, deer ticks and the diseases ticks carry, as well as some unusual fungi.  They hemmed and hawed about taking a walk, especially when I warned them that I wanted to do some sort of walking outside everyday but ultimately we had a good time.  It's amazing to me that we always seem to find something different on each walk we take; even if we walk in the same places often!
This bird was hopping and appeared
unable to fly

A tree had fallen over and we inspected the trunk to figure out why

scat tracks through the woods


   Once home for our walk, the boys wanted to play on the swings and Ian wanted to show me what he had been working on in the sand all morning while I was cleaning.  I gave them a bit of time to play and told them I'd set up a blanket inside the fort we had built and bring Harry Potter out to them.  We read another chapter in our book while sitting in the fort or on the rock near our fort.  The boys were thrilled when our cat come over to join us. 

   Since they were enjoying being outside so much, I offered to bring their schoolwork out to them and set up a blanket in the shade for them.  Ian wanted to read the book Big Night for Salamanders and work on a page in his math book.  He read quietly to himself and then summarized the story for me.  He chose to work on a page about rounding and adding sums of money.  He, once again, needed a quick refresher on rounding and then had his work done in no time. 

    While working outside on his math, Evan once again was doing more math than his work required.  The first page he worked on was counting by 2's.  As soon as he wrote the 2 and the 6 he told me it was counting by two's and went on to fill in the whole page (going back to fill in the 4).  He told me that 4+4 is 8, 4-4 is 0, 100- 100 is 0 and that he knew that because any number minus that same number is 0, then he told me that 100-1 would be 99.  His second page was working with counting by 5's; something he hasn't had nearly the same amount of practice with.  He figured it was counting by fives though and so once he finished writing all the numbers we then counted beyond the  page up to 100 by fives together.  He also completed another two pages in his phonics book; the letters F & G.  He was getting antsy so I sent him off to play and told him we'd read together in a little bit. 
     Alec had headed inside to try and finish up, yet another, Greek mythology book he had started reading Monday night but came outside after a bit to work on his math with us in the shade.  He chose two different pages that worked on adding two digit numbers (some with regrouping and some not).  I told him that since there were so many problems on each page that if he did two of the four columns on each page without getting any wrong that I'd let him count them as completed pages.  He did great!  He doesn't even write what he's carrying over down on the page- he just does them all in his head.  

     After lunch the boys wanted to head to the family cottage across the lake.  Evan and I sat together and quickly read What If?  It's a cute little book with only about 5 words and a very repetitive story line about two seals playing ball on the beach.  He read most of the story by himself to him needed help with one or two sight words that he had not yet been introduced to.  Once we were done reading it was decided that Alec would bike to the cottage while the other two boys swam there.  I kayaked alongside them in case they needed any help and ended up towing Evan half- way across the lake. 

    The boys played with their cousins and some of their cousins' cousins for the afternoon.  They kayaked, swam, jumped, paddle boated, fished, and had a great time soaking up the sun. 

boats, boats, boats

Evan found a heart shaped rock (that we had to keep)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Math in the morning

    It was 7:15 and two of the boys were awake and asking to get started on their schoolwork for the day.  I had not planned to get started quite so early but I certainly wasn't going to tell them no!  I set aside my broom and pretty much gave up on cleaning the house for a bit when I saw them already sitting at the table with their books out in front of them raring to go. 
   I had asked Evan if he wanted me to find him some word and math games or if he wanted to work in his Star Wars workbooks and he chose his books.  He just LOVES them!  He sat right down yesterday morning and completed two pages in his phonics book and two pages in his math book!  He practiced the letter D and the letter E, counting to 10, writing his numbers up to 100 while counting by 10's and as he was working he naturally did more math.  Once he realized the droid page showed all different groupings of 10 he started saying 5 +5 is 10, 5-1 is 4, 5+5-1 equals 9 because 10-1 is 9, and so forth.  We looked through the book Flotsam together using the pictures for telling the story aloud as we went.  He then read Goodnight, Gorilla to me and only needed help with the word "dear." He declared himself done for the day and I was fine with that.  I'm finding that getting actual books from the library that he can read with little to no help is helping him see himself as a reader much more effectively than any of the Bob's books or mini readers we've been using.  He now knows he can read some "real" books and that seems to have helped his confidence so I'm no longer arguing with him that he is in fact reading when he thinks he's just guessing. 
    While Evan was working on his schoolwork, Ian was working on his schoolwork too.  He picked a page in his math workbook that dealt with adding 3 and 4 rows of numbers that had a mixture of 2, 3, 4, or even 5 digits.  He was a bit intimidated by the size of the numbers but I assured him it was just adding and carrying; same as always.  The page was divided into two sections and I told him if he took his time and got all 8 right on the top that I wouldn't make him do the bottom half.  He worked hard and diligently and was happy to get away with only doing half the page.  Ian was going to read a book too but at the last minute decided to fill out a few pages in his Army Heritage Trail activity book that he picked up on vacation in Virginia; he did a maze and learned about the motor pool and then looked for words in a word search learning all about the command post and the supplies soldiers carried with them during the World Wars.  He then went to watch some Ice Road Truckers and played with his Lego's making a covered trailer with a hinged tailgate. 

    Alec never got out of bed until almost 9 and he's not nearly as fast a mover when he first gets out of bed.  It took him a while before he even got dressed or ate breakfast, never mind getting some schoolwork done.  Once he did get going he decided to read Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters.  He didn't end up doing any other schoolwork for the day since he read the whole entire book-- all 192 pages! 
    I had planned a full day of school for us.  I feel like it's been so long since we've had a real day of school.  I keep buying supplies for Kool-Aid experiments and art projects and have even worked on putting a whole Harry Potter unit together but it is summer and I find that the boys don't want to do much more than just play lip service to schoolwork at this time of the year.  Sometimes that really bothers me, but the boys reminded me that they do other subjects all the time.  They spent a good portion of their day on Friday watching many episodes of Wild Kratts and Mythbusters so they certainly had learned lots of science.  Ian had a friend come play over the weekend and after Ian taught him how, they played the Scrambled States of America game together.  The older two boys have also been playing Stack the States on the Kindle and with all our travelling last week we've pretty much lived geography, history and science through life anyway.   We had excellent discussions about the states, the symbolism on their license plates, the views we passed and even a mini lesson on times zones since Nashville was part of a different time zone.  We managed to fill in almost all of the 50 states and all thought it was odd that the three we were missing were in the continental United states and right near each other too!

Sorry it's such an awful picture but he map was pretty wrinkled by the time we made it home!

     Alec has completely immersed himself in learning all about the Greek Gods.  While on vacation in Tennessee he bought a deck of Greek Mythology trivia cards at the Athena Parthenon and has been quizzing himself reading the questions on the front and the answers on the back.  He has excitedly shared what he's learning with all of us and has proceeded to read through 3 more Greek Mythology books since coming home.  He finished Jason and the Argonauts, read Pandora, & Greek Myths; Stories of Sun, Stone, and Sea.  He brought a book with him to the grocery store on Friday and was sharing his stories with us and even sharing his knowledge with the bagger and cashier. 
    We had stopped at the library on Friday too and the boys wanted to check out The Lost Hero on Cd again to re-listen to the first Heroes of Olympus book now that we've ended the entire Percy Jackson series.  I thought it was a great idea since I was confused about two of the characters that died in the Percy Jackson series that we all thought were around in the Heroes of Olympus books.  I had originally wanted to listen to the Percy Jackson book series first anyway and think that we'll get many more references in this second series the second time around.  We brought home another huge pile of books and have read before bed each night since coming home from Tennessee.  We've also been reading a few more chapters in the Goblet of Fire and the boys can't get over how different the books and the movies are becoming. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

More history on vacation

We had a long two day drive back home from Tennessee.  Our first day we picked Maryland as our stopping point and enjoyed watching the scenery pass us by, looking for more license plates to add to our 50 states map, listening to our Percy Jackson book on CD, watching movies, playing video games and listening to music.  We ate dinner near our hotel, after the boys had swam in the pool for a bit to get out some of that pent up energy.  We had a lovely diner at the Olive Garden and I couldn't help but think about all the extra schooling we squeezed in while on vacation.

 It may seem silly but even little things like playing mad libs every night using the restaurants kids menus helps me remember that we're always learning-- even when we're just having fun on vacation. 

On the final leg of our journey we passed a park in Pennsylvania that had tanks and helicopters by the side of the road.  It had caught our attention on the way down to Tennessee too but this time we decided to stop and see what it was all about.  The boys actually wanted to just keep driving so they could get home and play with their toys but after a bit of grumbling they soon were having fun too.

The United States Army Heritage and Education Center was amazing!

There was a trail set out in the field and we could go inside bunkers, see tanks and helicopters, compare the different structures used in wars from the civil war, to the world wars, to the Vietnam war.  There was a free activity booklet that Ian picked up with mazes, word searches, and additional information about all the buildings and equipment set up around the campus.  The boys tried their hand at some agility training; trying their hand at running the balance beams, crawling under the wires, and going up and over the wall.  They readily admitted that it was hard and we told them they'd actually be going the course with all their gear on too.

We stopped to read most of the signs and usually summarized it for Evan (and even Alec who isn't as interested in war things as Ian).

Two hours later we were finally ready to head inside the building.  

The museum is pretty small but packed with information; more information then we could possibly read in one day.  When touring the museum they give you little plastic dog tags of 6 soldiers and the interactive exhibits tells you about life for your soldier during their war time.  We all got different soldiers so the boys often compared what artillery their guy had, or how their guy traveled, if their guy survived the war, etc.  Unfortunately, the shooting range was not working (much to all the boys' disappointment) but the older two boys did try their hand at landing a virtual parachute in a field.  Ian landed in the mine field but Alec made it onto the lawn.  They got to see what wearing 100 lbs. of gear would be like; and since they all needed help to lift if they realized carrying it around all day was HUGE.

Alec wanted to take home one of the free dog tags as his souvenir and we were told that was fine.  Evan chose to buy a toy gun and asked to go back out into the field and in a few of the forts to try it out.  Ian had some personalized dog tags made up and all the boys left very happy.  It's so fun when vacation and learning combine!

Inside the motor pool

Barracks from WWI and WWII era

checking out the spin on the barrel

Civil war cannon

Alec running the course

He couldn't believe how hard it was to crawl low (especially since he's so skinny!)

Ian trying to climb up and over

Alec climbing the wall

a 18th and 19th century block house

comparing the newer tanks to older tanks

Learning about the cobra

Tiger tank used during the Korean war to try and scare the enemy

checking out the revolutionary war redoubt (or fortification)

We're in Vietnam! 

underground in a German trench

American trenches; a maze of tunnels!

Inside the museum, finding out who we are

Evan stops to watch a movie

Ian trying to land his parachute on the field

Alec's turn to land

Alec hoisting up 100 lbs. of gear

Ian poses as an army man


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