Saturday, May 31, 2014

Wiffle Ball Mania: Simple Spring Days

I love that when I asked my boys where they'd like to go today that they all asked to stay home and play more Wiffle ball.  Spending simple days around the house can be so relaxing; especially when everyone is getting along!

They all headed outside and played on the swing set until I could join them outside.  Ian and I played 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.

Alec drawing his map of Skylanders
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!

Some of our favorite simple spring days include:

  • Getting outside and spending time in nature
  •  playing together
  • working on an art project
  • listening to stories
  • having a picnic
  • riding bikes
  • lying down in the grass and watching the clouds; telling stories about what we see

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, 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! 


Friday, May 30, 2014

Hello Sunshine!

Is there anything better than getting outside and enjoying the sunny weather?  We just love being outside and try so hard to enjoy the nice weather whenever it shows up.  Especially when we've had some cold and miserable spring days.

 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.

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

 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.

The completed swords

Concentrating on his work
 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.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Build, build, build! The Benefits of Block Play

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

Getting a Jump on Our Summer Reading

Today ended up being a day filled with reading!  I hadn't planned on how our day was going to go but all three boys were really motivated to read by Barnes and Noble's Summer Reading Program.

The boys 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).

After, 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.

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!

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 as well as their free books.  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. 
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. 

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Strawberry Butterscotch

It's Rocket Science

The boys were 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.

One side of the launch disk

the back side of the launch disk

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Strawberry Butterscotch