Friday, October 17, 2014

Microscopes and More

   The boys weren't allowed to play any screens this morning.  I had warned them before bed that I wanted them to take a break.  They're still being pretty mean and nasty to one another and I often find that happens when they're spending too much time playing assorted video games.  We also noticed last night that both Alec and Evan had what we call "video game eyes."  Their eyes get red rimmed, dark circled, puffy and tired looking even when they don't really seem to be tired.  I warned them we were going to start cutting back again and that I was looking for my sweet, playful boys to return.  Amazingly they didn't complain much at all.  Of course I couldn't stop them from talking about video games all morning; they spent a good portion of the morning talking about Minecraft, planning what they're going to do next when they can build again, and teaching Ian some of the finer points they learned yesterday from their friends.  I love how creative Minecraft is and I don't mind my kids playing but sometimes I just want to shout "ENOUGH!" so I don't have to hear about it anymore.  I just chose to walk away instead. 
   After getting myself all ready for the day, I came back down to find all three boys eating breakfast and they were raring to go with school.  The minute Ian finished eating he took his math minute test.  Seriously, he had not even cleaned up his plate yet and he was asking to be timed since he had flew through his flashcards already.  He passed his 9's with 10 seconds to spare and was grinning quite broadly.  Something tells me I need to start saving up a bit of money for our lunch out; they each have just 4 fact families left to be quizzed on!

   We got a new microscope in yesterday that I had ordered from Amazon. It's normally a $160 microscope and it was one sale for $80 and had free shipping-- here's the link in case you're interested.  I've been thinking about buying a microscope for us for a few years so I decided this deal was just too good to pass up.  It was going to be a family Christmas gift but I just couldn't wait to bring it out and show the boys this whole new world we were opening them up to.  I was setting it up this morning as they were finishing up breakfast and we spent a good 30 minutes looking at all the slides I had ordered to go along with it-- I guess they couldn't wait either!  Ian, in particular, was very interested.  In no time at all he was switching slides and looking at every single slide in 4x magnification, 10x and then 40x and comparing what he was seeing.  He had me look each time and Alec and Evan looked in every now and then too.  We talked about cells, cell walls, chloroplast, muscles, and more.  We talked about safely handling the microscope, treating glass slides with care and taking turns without pushing or shoving so no one would accidentally knock over the microscope.  I told the boys that this was going to be science today and we'd mix in a bit of work on their science fair projects.  I realized this morning that we have a little less than three weeks left and so we need to get moving.  They really enjoyed looking at things through the microscope and I often heard "cool" or "neat" or "oh wow!"  I can't wait to go exploring and bring things home to put on our own slides. 
Looking at a bee's mouth

Alec worked on putting his board together today

      They migrated upstairs to get dressed and ready for the day and the next thing I knew I heard the sounds of playing.  Ian was in his room sifting through Lego pieces and building something while Alec and Evan were laughing and acting out some battle type scene together.  They were hiding from the bad guys and working together to save each other.  It was such a sweet sound I decided to leave them all be and just see how our day unfolded.  I had a lot of things planned that I wanted to get done but I didn't feel a huge pressing need to get them done right away. 
    Evan eventually came down and asked to work on his verbal math and Alec went up to his room to read some more of his Otter books.  Evan worked on subtracting numbers from 6 today in his head and did great-- once I got him to focus.  Once Alec was done reading we started working on his board together and he made a small mistake with his writing so I added white out to our list of science fair supplies.  We got to talking and decided to pile in the car and head to the library and the store and get a few other errands done while we were out. 
   The whole time we were gone I was thinking I had made a mistake.  We still had reading and math to do and we were gone for almost 3 hours by the time we finished up.  We had a great morning driving around and we picked up a ton of books and movies at the library so I can't say it was a total waste but I felt those assignments hanging over my head and a real time crunch to get them done.   We also got to listen to quite a bit more of our book on CD.  I can't say we listened to it the whole time though, we had picked up a new chapter book for Alec called Spirit Animals and he asked if we could listen to music or something while he read in his book for a bit.  To Alec a bit means about half the book!  But the other boys didn't mind and it was nice to see Alec getting lost in another book series.  I noticed the boys were more engaged in looking around while I was driving too and we saw a bald eagle (we think!), a few horses, lots of birds flying through the sky migrating south, tons of equipment of all kinds and lots of colorful trees. 
   We got home from the store and we all ate a late lunch.  I read a portion of the next chapter in Harry Potter and then Ian asked if he could do his verbal math assignment with me so he could be done school and go play outside. After we finished his math for the day,  I reminded him he needed to read too and then he was free to go.  He decided to read one of the books we picked up for his science fair project called What Is Density? So he got a little extra science in his day too. 
   While I had been working with Ian on his verbal math Alec had gone upstairs to practice his flash cards and he attempted to pass his 6's today for his math minute.  He's struggling with the 6 facts and only got 9 or the 16 answers in that minute.  He asked me if I knew of any tricks to make the 6's easier and I confessed that 6, 7, & 8 have always been the worst facts for me too since I have a harder time finding patterns in those. I assured him practice and repetition were the best way to learn them.   We then attempted to do verbal math together but his concentration was just shot; he must have noticed this as well since he asked if he could just do a page in his math book instead.  He picked a page on reviewing division facts and then went back to working on his science board.  We had picked up some sticky letters while we were out and he worked on finding the letters for his title.  He needed a bit of help since the whole huge container we bought didn't have all the letters he needed and we eventually got creative with some scissors and made up a few of our own letters by piecing some of the unused letters together. 
   Evan and I sat down to work together in his reading lesson book and learned three new letters/sounds today-- i, n, and f.  He did a great job sounding out and reading all the words in the three pages we completed and then we read a Little Critter Phonics book.  He did pretty good for his first time through and he was happy to go play when he was done.  He had spent some time on the computer this morning playing a few different games on Starfall too for some extra phonics/ spelling/ reading practice.  I can't help but notice that he's certainly making improvements but I have also noticed that time of day, interest, and sheer determination make all the difference.  When asked to read earlier in the day he didn't remember a single letter, sound or word and then when I reluctantly sat down with him at the end of the day he flew through the pages like they were nothing.  He still has difficulty distinguishing the different vowel sounds but he's getting better by remembering the picture cues the book gives him.  I guess I just never realized what slow going it was when teaching kids to read; it's only been a few years since I did a lot of this with the other two but I guess I just forgot!
     It was almost 4 by the time we got everything finished and cleaned up but at least we completed a whole entire day of school.  And best of all?  We made it through a whole, entire day without one single person collapsing in tears, slamming a door, or yelling!  It really was a great day even if I did feel like we were all disorganized and all over the place.  The boys were eager for me to start our taco dinner so they could play Kindles and Minecraft until our family movie of Casper.  So imagine my surprise when I started cooking at 5 and no one began playing screens.  Alec was engrossed in his book and both Evan and Ian were busy playing outside.  They were digging in Ian's "quarry", raking up leaves and pine needles and playing with their cousins.  It was a beautiful day out and I couldn't blame them for soaking it all in. 

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