Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ladybugs and Rainbows

We had so much fun this weekend even though our weekend was mainly spent lying around the house.  Watching them go about their weekend I could see so much Unschooling/ learning happening that I just had to document it all!

On Saturday we checked our ladybug habitat and found one ladybug and many more just on the verge of emerging.

We were thankful for the macro lens on the camera though because without it I don't think we would have been able to notice the difference; they're so tiny!  The boys and I read how to care for the ladybugs once they hatch and spent a few moments preparing some raisins for the bug to eat.  We kept an eye on our butterfly habitat too since we know they're due to emerge from their chrysalis any day now.  (Science)

the ladybug larvae 
The ladybug 

Evan offered to make lunch on Saturday for his brother by cooking up some scrambled eggs.  In cracking the eggs he called me over to show me that he managed to trap the yolk in the shell while letting all (and I quote) "the runny stuff" flow out.  I told him that some recipes actually call for separating the yolk from the whites and that many people have a hard time with that.  He told me he did it by accident but that he thought it was pretty easy.  (life skills)

Cracking eggs 
We enjoyed watching all the birds flying around our yard: (science) 

  • we saw several morning doves
  • a red-winged black bird
  • an oriole
  • either a hawk or a falcon (it was pretty high up to see the details). We knew it was a bird of prey by it's size and the shape of it's wings.  It didn't hurt that we watched three small black birds diving and circling the bird of prey chasing it away from their nests.  We know that's a behavior called mobbing.

The boys spent a good portion of their weekend watching videos about Minecraft and playing Minecraft on their Kindles.  They try to replicate what they've watched in their game play as often as possible.  Alec and Evan often take on role of teacher when Ian starts asking questions.  He does not care to watch any videos but he does want to know what they've learned and so he'll ask them how to create various things if he can't figure it out on his own.  Sometimes they are quite patient and they all usually enjoy linking Kindles and playing together. (Science/ Technology)

Ian spent his Saturday working with his grandfather.  They had to move some trucks around and I'm always skeptical about how much work Ian is actually doing.  Saturday night as my husband was working on our boat Ian was sitting nearby and I was surprised by how much he seemed to know about engines and tools.  He certainly didn't know more than my husband since he's one of those hands- on, can build anything sort of guys but Ian definitely taught me a few things!  I'm admittedly clueless when it comes to anything having to do with motors but he was playing with something I thought for sure was a part to the motor when he informed me it was a tool and then proceeded to tell me how it was used.  I guess he does do more than go out to breakfast and lunch when he's working with his grandfather. (life skills)

 Sunday morning we went out for breakfast.  It was sprinkling and we got to see a rainbow!  We watched it for quite some time hoping to find the end of it.  We watched as the ending of the rainbow kept changing location as we drove. We also talked about what makes a rainbow form and why we only see them sometimes when it's raining. (science)

We arrived at the restaurant and had a great time.  Alec used all the creamers at the table to build a tower/ pyramid.  We all took turns playing tic tac toe and hangman on our place mats.  Evan, who usually sits out the games of Hangman really got into it today and continued to play the game with Alec and I on his Kindle while driving home.  He's been working  so hard on spelling and reading lately.  He decided it was safest to play using his sight words and managed to stump us a few times.  It's hard to guess those small words when they have unusual letters!  (math/logic, reading. spelling, writing)

We ended up squeezing in some math during breakfast too when Ian asked what the tip would be.  I left him to calculate it for us reminding him to think of what 10% would be and then figure out what 15% would be.  Alec was laughing that I only won one game of tic tac toe so I asked him to figure out what fraction or percent of the games I had won.  He told me I won 1/11th while Alec had won 3/11 and that left 7/11 where no one won.  Then he told me that was enough math for one day. (math)

Friday, May 29, 2015

School's Out! A Summary of our Last Homeschooling Day of the Year

My kids were happy to go through their schoolwork today.

They even did a little extra!

I'm sure it didn't hurt that they knew today was our last day before summer vacation plus we had a fun gathering planned for our afternoon.  

Reading and Language Arts: 
Evan read the last three stories in his Dick and Jane book and then completed a page in his Star Wars Reading book.

Ian and I read the next chapter in Catching Fire while Alec read another chapter in his Warriors book and spent the afternoon reading the second Amulet book.

Ian and I talked about it and decided that if he skipped ahead 8 or 10 pages and completed the review test in the back of his measurement book we'd pick back up with book 4 and let book 3 be officially finished.  But I forgot just how much the word "test" freaks him out and was dismayed, but not all that surprised, when he froze up and forgot how to do pretty much the whole thing.  I reminded him not to panic.  It wasn't a real test; I wasn't scoring it, there weren't any grades, no one was going to know how he did except for me and that if he forgot how to do something he should just flip back through the book and remind himself.  He was marginally better after that but still not performing as I knew he could.  I hate that I just can't help him overcome this anxiety he has when it comes to being evaluated.  I know that's why he hates reading out loud so much too.  He's so fearful of being judged.

 Alec worked on two pages in his math book practicing the eight times tables and using multiplication facts with division.  He did great, of course.

All three boys were begging to play the math game I had found for Evan's schooling today.  I found this free dice game called Double Down where the kids practice near double facts by rolling dice.  Since even knows most all of his doubles up to 10 we used 9 sided dice to play.  The boys had a blast and Evan was quite quick to add up the rolls of the dice.  He was exceptionally happy that he won.

 All the boys enjoyed it so much we put the game idea back into our math folder to play again another day.
Alec offered to keep score 

The final score card- Evan was a pro at rolling
near doubles! 
Group Reading: 
We settled on the couch to read one more chapter in The Phantom Tollbooth.  When we were done we piled into the car and listened to our book on CD while driving to a nearby lake.  We were meeting up with a few homeschooling families for a fun day of playing.

Socialization/ Physical Education/ JUST PLAIN FUN!: 

It was a fabulous day!

The sun was shining and the sky was so blue.

We had tons of families turn up and met quite a few new ones again.  It's always amazing to realize just how many new families we continue to meet; many of whom just started homeschooling a few weeks ago!  There is such a huge growing population of homeschoolers.

The kids had a great time swimming, digging in the sand, playing Marco Polo, having water fights, trying to catch a water snake (OK that may have just been Ian!), and meeting new people:

  • I saw Evan hit it off with a new boy who was much closer in age to Ian.  They were playing together with Evan catching rides on his back and getting dunked underwater.  
  • I saw Ian carrying around some little kid and helping him swim out to the buoys.  
  • We watched as once again the kids formed groups, played games, disbanded, regrouped and played new games.  
  • Many of the kids who are a bit afraid of the water were dunking their faces in by the end of the day encouraged by those that could swim well.  
  • They all shared toys and snacks and ideas about games they could play, books they could read, Minecraft stuff, and the usual things kids talk about.  
It's great watching all the mixed ages interact and hearing their conversations.  We were a bit sad to leave but I know I had my fill of sun by the time we packed up to head home.
Playing Marco Polo

Alec and Evan are trying to convince one of their friends to go
get wet all the way so they can start to play 

Talking, laughing and snacking 

Keeping the sun off his head 

Looking for the water snake that was
swimming around 

Swimming, playing and splashing 

Taking a break 

Digging together 

Water fight! 
Real Life Science:
Evan found a large sun turtle laying eggs in our yard while he was coming inside to get some of his toy swords to play a game.  He was so excited; "Mom, it's a real big one and it kept looking at me.  I think it's Paint (the sun turtle him and his brother found years ago) and I think he remembered me!" It was so cute.

Self- Guided Art: 
Alec and Ian went to draw and color.  Ian came home and told me he drew the scene from Catching Fire where Haymitch was killing the girl.  So he drew a picture of a girl holding her bleeding eye with an ax on her head and a boy near her with his arm out like he had just thrown it and my first though was "thank goodness he's not in public school."  Not knowing the context of that picture would stir up quite a hornet's nest of inappropriate content I'm sure.  Yet, here I was thrilled that he's enjoying the book so much he's inspired to draw it out.

Looking back over our day I was so excited to realize that this is what our days will be like now for several weeks.  Playing in the water and the sand, hanging out with friends, relaxing and perhaps drawing if we feel like it.  Or as I like to call it; Unschooling Our Summer!

Linking Up With:


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stop and Smell the Flowers: Homeschooling on the Road

Today we did a bit of schooling on the road.

We had an early morning dentist appointment and I had made up a popping pile of math reviews for each of the boys (I often save packing material from boxes we get in and write math facts on the popper for a fun review activity).  It was fun but it took longer than I thought and we didn't have enough time to get through our regular work before we needed to leave.

We often school while on the road.  We've found a few things makes this work so much more smoothly!:
  1. Each child has a car ride bag filled with educational books, toys, a binder with worksheets and a pencil case.  They each have a small pencil sharpener and some markers (washable and dry erase).  We often put some fun sheets in plastic cases for dry erase fun.
  2. Each child had a lap desk or clipboard for the car.
  3. Audiobooks! They're a great way for us to listen to "read alouds" when mom is busy driving. 
  4. Brainquest question and answer cards (or other car trivia games) 

Today was a bit different though:

The boys enjoyed shouting out their math facts and popping all of the air packets (I had a ton of them left over from various shipments) before we left.  It was super simple to set up.  I took all of the air filled packing sacks that I had stored up and used a sharpie to write math facts on them.  The older boys had multiplication facts written on them and Evan's had addition facts of doubles and near doubles.

Alec's pile of math fact poppers 

Popping away! 

Evan had addition facts of doubles and near doubles to work with;
he had more fun playing with the interesting shape of the poppers 

Once they were all done popping their facts they pulled out some additional math work.  Evan played a few addition games on ABCya while Ian completed two pages in his workbook on volume.  Alec finished one page on subtracting three digit numbers and then brought his book in the car to finish up his second page on the 8 times tables.

They all brought reading books into the car in the hopes that we'd have time to get it all done before heading back home.  Evan read one of his Dick and Jane stories out loud to Alec as we drove.  He then started to read the second story but we had arrived at the dentist before he was done.  He didn't want to bring his book in to read and ended up reading the rest of the story to himself when we got back in the car.  I wasn't sure how to evaluate his reading since he was reading in his head but after asking a few questions it was obvious that he had in fact finished reading the story and that he understood what he had read.

Ian read a funny Grumpy Cat book at the dentist's office today.  Once he realized that this one lady's pictures of her cat made millions of dollars he decided he wanted to find some funny looking pet to own when he was older in the hopes that he could do the same.  I couldn't argue with that logic!

 After the dentist we stopped at my grandmother's to visit her.  Alec went to curl up in a chair and read the next chapter in the Gameknight book.  Evan was upset that Alec did not read out loud and that put Evan a chapter behind Alec in the series.  Evan and I ended up reading that chapter together once we were back home.

Socialization/ Family Time: 
It was 86 at my grandmother's house by early afternoon and the boys started begging me to leave so that they could go home and go swimming.  We had visited for a few hours and since we stopped rather last minute there wasn't a whole lot for them to do there and they were all bored as well as hot.

Art/ Science: 
Before we left my grandmother gave Alec some scissors to cut a few flowers to bring home.  He put together a lovely bouquet.  Alec made sure to get all the different colors he could around the yard and to only snip a few of each type so that great gram would still have plenty to enjoy herself.  He held them the whole way home and helped me arrange them in the vase once we arrived home.

Summer Fun/ Physical Education:
The boys changed into bathing suits and swam in the lake for a bit.  Evan was swimming out really far using his boogie board to help him rest when he needed to.  Ian paddled around the dock area for a bit but using the unclaimed paddle boat that floated up on shore.  He's been trying to master the steering of the whole thing and practices whenever he can.

Linking Up With: A Pinch of Joy,

Practical Mom  Mommy A to Z Manic Mondays Blog Hop

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Summer Homeschooling: Mixing Schoolwork and Summer Fun

We did a quick run through of our school work this morning and then packed up some lunches and swimming gear and headed to a nearby lake.  We were meeting up with 3 or 4 other homeschooling families and looking forward to a nice relaxing day.

While we were doing our schoolwork we saw a bald eagle circling the lake and swooping down toward our house.  It's such an amazing sight and today it really made me sit back and realize just how blessed we are. I really wouldn't change a thing.

Starting School; We try to get it all done first thing in the morning during the summer.

Ian wanted to get a jump on his schoolwork and decided to go read the next chapter in Catching Fire on his own while I finished up some chores and things around the house.  He called me in to finish reading the chapter once he had made it more than half-way through.  He gave me a great summary of what had happened and caught me up to where he left off.  He had asked for me to clarify the meaning of a few words for him off and on as he was reading and even found a typo/mistake in the chapter.   He was quite proud of the fact that he caught the mistake.

Alec read another chapter in his Warriors book and Evan read aloud another two stories in his Dick and Jane book.  

He wasn't into it today and his reading was rather stilted and robotic.  However, later in the day as we were at the park he was reading all the signs posted around.  He also told me "I think I'm really starting to "get" this whole reading thing, mom."  I'm glad he's feeling more confident and no longer fighting the fact that he is reading.  I think his confidence will help him gain skills much faster.  I sure see a greater interest in understanding the words around him.

Ian completed two more pages on cubic volume today and we looked ahead to tomorrow's lesson.

Alec worked with re-naming improper fractions and reviewing subtraction of 4 digit numbers with decimals.  They both had no difficulty at all completing their work and asked about finishing up the books in time for our break next week.

 Evan had a worksheet working with adding up the two sides of Dominoes; he picked 7 Dominoes out of the container, counted up the dots on each side and then added up the totals.  It was a quick, fun way to review addition.

Self- Guided Science: 
We were finished school a bit early and Evan asked if I could help him make a Benzene molecule C6H6 using our molecule kit.  He honestly didn't know which molecule it was but liked the way it looked on the cover of the box.  We talked about carbon and hydrogen.  We talked about single, double, and triple bonds.  We talked about compact models and soon had Alec joining in asking questions.  It made me realize I need to review a bit of chemistry myself if they're going to keep asking so many questions!


Double bonded molecules!
Reading Comprehension:
 We listened to our book on CD, The Serpent's Shadow, while we were driving to the lake and back home and managed to finish the first CD.

Social skills and Physical Education:
It was a bit chilly, cloudy, and windy when we arrived at the lake but the sun soon came out and all the boys had a wonderful afternoon playing in the water.  They played Marco Polo, a made up Minecraft game, tag & many, many more.  They were in and out of the water all day.  Making up games and re-working the rules when what they were playing wasn't working out right.

Linking Up With:

Strawberry Butterscotch

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Preparing for Summer Break In Our Homeschool

 After thinking long and hard and talking it over with just about anyone who was willing to listen we've decided this week will be our last week of school.  Apparently I'm not that decisive!

The boys are beyond thrilled but they're already planning to head back to school in July.

Seriously, I'm fine with taking a nice long break and am looking forward to having a few months off but they're already planning on more lessons after a few weeks off!

Hopefully, we'll be busy enough that we won't feel the need to dive right back into school in the middle of summer but I know we've tried to take the whole summer off before and failed.  They might not admit it but they obviously enjoy school or else why would they tell me they're bored and ask me to start planning things again?!

I already went through and counted up the remaining pages in the older two boys math books and have come to terms with the fact that we wont have everything all done and tied up nice and neat when we break.  It's killing me to drop everything for a break when we're leaving things feeling unfinished but it's also not fair to the kids to expect them to finish up all the work when we started on these books mid-way through our year.

I also didn't want to push them to do even more on our last week of school just to make up the difference either.  I figure it might actually be a good thing to spend a few weeks reviewing their old work and finishing up their old workbooks when we dive back into school after our break.

So this year to prepare for our break we're just doing what we do everyday and taking a break when the time comes.

Wrapping Up Lessons: 

The older boys had their last karate class today (they want to take the whole summer off from that as well; I'm torn seeing the progress they're making but they assure me a break is just what they need) and so we settled right down to work early this morning.  They wanted to finish up the bulk of their schoolwork before leaving the house and I think our days work best when we do that too.  Ian worked on two pages in his measurement book about finding the total surface area of a 3-D object.  Alec worked on multiplying 4 digit by 1 digit numbers and using multiplication facts for division.  Evan worked on adding two digit numbers with regrouping.  They all did really well and were able to the bulk of their work on their own.

We had gotten a few new school things in over the weekend and rather than saving them all for the fall I put out the chemistry molecule set and the boys each took turns playing with it.   We talked a bit about how elements combine to make new elements; that water is made up of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule.  Evan immediately quipped "H2O no- no" which was the name of a video clip on America's Funniest Home Videos.  Then excited exclaimed that he understood why it was named that since the baby was playing with water in the video.  Rather than read the instructions and build the various elements shown in the pictures they had fun building their own things and playing around with the different pieces.

The boys molecule models 

Snapping them together

Having fun while learning 
Evan and I read Swim, Fish! together and then he settled down to complete a page in his Star Wars reading book.  Alec read a few chapters in Warriors and by the end of the day Ian and I had read two more chapters in Catching Fire.  We read one chapter in the morning and then he asked me during lunch if I'd be willing to read a second chapter with him after lunch; as if I'd say no!

We started reading The Phantom Tollbooth during lunch too and I told the boys we'd continue with read alouds whenever we were home since that is something we all enjoy too much to stop just because it's summer.

Language Arts: 
The boys all took turns filling in some Star Wars Mad Libs in the car on the way to karate and we laughed over the silly stories.  They still confuse the meaning of verb, noun, adjective, and adverb but they're getting much better at it.  They also pay close attention when it's not even "their turn" to fill in the lines and are always suggesting words they think might make the story funnier.  For the older boys it's good practice with spelling and reading too as well as English.

Wrapping Up Our Unit Study:
 We made some fun Star Wars themed snacks today too.  We're trying to finish up our Star Wars unit and I had a few more "recipe" ideas that I had promised the boys they could try.

We made Yoda Soda-- Sprite and Lime Sherbet float drinks.

We also made Wookie cookies-- we took Little Debbie Star Crunch cookies and used a bit of frosting to "glue" on eyes for an instant Wookie.

Silly, unhealthy and totally fun.  We only had green frosting (leftover from the last time we made frosting) and Alec was joking that he was turning into Yoda.  After helping make the Wookies his hands were a bit green.

Ian snapped a photo of our Wookie cookies; we'll have to work a bit
on lighting and composition.  
After lunch & snack the boys set timers (or their alarms) and gave themselves an hour to play with or watch screens.  The younger boys wanted to watch YouTube videos and Ian wanted to re-watch Disney's Planes movie.  When the timers went off they were off and playing-- without any grumbling or complaining.

Physical Activity and Socialization: 
They played outside on the swings, played with Legos and their imaginations, rode bikes, etc.  They all spent a good portion of the afternoon visiting some of our retired neighbors and playing Uno and card games.  It was great to not have to nag anyone to go outside & take a break from video games or sitting on the couch.  They already warned one another that they could not just spent the whole summer off from school playing video games and watching movies.

Linking Up With:
This Is How We Roll Thursday Party

Monday, May 25, 2015

Unschooling Observations

In thinking deeply about taking some real time off from schooling with the boys, it's funny how I have literally stumbled upon blog after blog about helping prevent summer slide, learning through play, letting them lead, not making EVERYTHING educational, & the importance of breaks.

 I've had people post links to YouTube videos about letting kids be idea makers.  I've also, finally, received my requested copy of Free to Learn through our library and spent all weekend reading about unschooling, learning through play, and children's intrinsic desires to learn.

Now these are all just simple posts, videos, and a book written by moms, dads, and educators alike about topics I KNOW but it's funny how these reminders seemed to appear before me just at a time I needed to see them.

 I needed these reminders and am looking forward to taking a good month or more off from school (starting in June).

This doesn't mean we won't be doing art or we won't be exploring science and nature.  It doesn't mean we won't be taking any field trips or socializing.

It doesn't mean we won't be reading either; it just means I'm not going plan.

 We'll take each day as it comes; in other words we'll be getting back to our summer unschooling roots!  I'll be back to following the kids leads and suggesting activities when they come to me asking for ideas.

Here are some of things I'm sure our summer will include:

  •  I'm sure we'll be baking up some yummy snacks for when we have friends over visiting (math and reading).  
  • I'm sure we'll be going to the beach and exploring ocean life, the science of waves, and testing out the effects of sunscreen. 
  • We're planning on making homemade ice cream, hosting an egg drop, bringing paints outside and painting what we see in nature.  
  • We're planning to have silly string fights, blow bubbles, play with shaving cream in the sprinklers and all that other fun summer stuff. 
  • But I plan to sit back, let the kids lead, and observe all the way in which they are learning.

 We got a great head start to this over the weekend.

 Just a few things I remember picking up on:

  • when we went on a hike in the woods and observed life and nature all around us-- snakes, fish, plants, and old settlement walls.  
  • We saw a heron, a red headed woodpecker, some robins, and other assorted small birds.  
  • Sitting on our beach we saw a bald eagle scoop down and pluck a fish out of the pond. 
  •  Ian was out fishing over the weekend and spotted an otter in the lake. 
  •  Evan noticed the film on the egg shells as he broke them open to make breakfast.  
  • Alec offered to help his aunt plant flowers for her porch.  
  • We saw that our caterpillars went into their chrysalises and we moved them to their new home in our butterfly habitat.  
  • The boys spent some time observing the ladybug larvae too and seeing how much they grew.  All great real- life science lessons.

Evan thought he could see the remnants of a beaver dam in this river 

The boys took a chance to head off on their own into
"the wilderness."  We could hear them but
we couldn't see them and I'm sure they found
a few ways to have adventures on their own.  

a beautiful pond we stopped near

Evan was checking out the fish in the pond 

The snake that slithered across our path (and yep, I have a little yelp!)

Life Skills They've Been Learning:

  •  Ian has been practicing driving his grandfather's fishing boat (with a responsible adult nearby) and has gotten quite good at navigating around the lake.  He's learning the rules of the lake as well as the layout of our lake.  He's learned how to use the trolling motor and steer himself around with it while casting and fishing.  He's getting better at identifying the fish he's catching too.  
  • All three boys have been boating and tubing and swimming.  They're all very good swimmers and they keep building on those skills and learning new tricks.

   Other subjects are often covered too.

Reading and Spelling:

  • Evan has been reading all sorts of signs and environmental print.  
  • He was trying to spell words for his Minecraft game and for his Kindle too. 
  •  Ian read a book in his room Saturday night-- a whole book!  It was a short book but I was surprised to walk in and see him reading all the same.  He really enjoyed the Lego book Amazing Battles.  
  • Alec has been working at reading his Warriors book at night or in the morning when he first wakes up.  
Math/ Logic:

  • The boys have been taking turns playing the Xbox and they've been setting a timer and practicing reading clocks/telling time.  
  • They've made breakfast lunch and dinner at various times over the weekend so on top of self help/ life skills they've also had to apply math and reading as needed when measuring or following directions.  Evan added 7 +7 to figure out that he needed to cook 14 chicken nuggets by telling me that if  6+6 = 12 then 7 + 7 must be 14.  
  • Alec helped me work on a complicated jigsaw puzzle and put in quite a few pieces helping develop some problem solving skills.  
History/ Geography:

  • We've been discussing possible family vacation plans and in doing so have talked about geography and history.  

In watching & observing & letting them lead, I have observed them naturally applying math, reading, science, home economics, and geography--- and that's just been for the last two days!

Linking Up With:

Live Life Well Link-Up / Encouragement for the Journey / Linkup / Blogging / Bloggers