Of Domestic and Wild Animals: Present and Prehistoric. Reflections, K Week 28

Animals have definitely been on the fore-front this week, from those that roam the outdoors today, to those that live on farms, all the way to those that lived millions of years ago!  It was a wild week! On Wednesday, … Continue reading

Counting to Kindergarten. Reflections, K Week 1

Week one of our second year homeschooling finished, which means that our first year of homeschooling is completed.  That doesn’t mean that our homeschool curriculum is completed, but that’s ok, we’ll just keep plugging at it.  Since we are only … Continue reading

Comparing Dinos. Reflections, Week 34

This week we mostly finished up our dinosaur unit here in Seed To Seedling Homeschool.  I’ve really been looking forward to this unit, and was not let down, particularly as I modified it to be a little bit more sciency than the parent guide had laid out, as well as added a few extra math activities.

Art, as usual, was not left out of this unit, and Elizabeth really enjoyed doing shadow painting by using a sponge to paint around the edges of a cut-out dino shape, and which we are going to frame and give to my dad for his birthday.  She also used the cut-outs to make a dino Easter card for my mom’s cousin who hosted Easter dinner yesterday, and with whom she’s not close but was so excited to make a card for, that she just did it.

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Completed T-Rex in the window

The Moving Beyond The Page curriculum also brought a T-Rex skeleton to put together.  This was an exercise in patience, because the pieces were made of heavy card-stock paper, and need to be glued together at the junctions and left to dry over 3 separate gluings.  Since the paper was not stiff enough to support the final structure, we hung it up in her bedroom window, where T-Rex now guards her while she sleeps.  He drives away the scary noises. 🙂

To discuss size and give Elizabeth an introductory idea of the possible sizes of dinosaurs, we did an activity with yarn, measuring her and then taping the yarn to the wall with her name and measurement.  Then we did it for her hand, a light switch, per her idea, as well as a coelophysis, compsognathus, and caudipteryx.  For this activity, we filled in a written chart with the names and measurements and discussed how it made it easier to read.  We then compared the lengths of the yarns on the wall using language such as longer and shorter (which was boring to Elizabeth, so we quickly moved on).

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Comparing Lightning McQueen with a blue, plastic car.

The curriculum also brought materials for making a hanger balance to discuss comparing weights, and we had a good time with that.  I modified this activity with two graphs, one in which we compared two different objects each time, and one in which we kept one object the same and compared it to different objects.  Elizabeth filled in the spaces with bright, Easter colors.  When we finished, I pulled out the bathroom scale and the kitchen scale so she could play with the different kinds.

Lastly, we headed to a natural history museum and got to pretend to be paleontologists, brushing off locally harvested fossils in shale with a toothbrush, and looking at rocks with fossils under a large magnifying machine.  I was able to discuss some things with Elizabeth when we first arrived at the museum, but since we had also brought Paul along, after a while I had to chase him around while my dad stayed with Elizabeth.  They had a neat glacier that the kids could walk through with ice to touch, as well as toy dinos and coloring pages.  I couldn’t get Elizabeth much interested in entering the rooms full of fossils on display as they were mostly non-dinosaur fossils, but Paul pushed a stool around and looked at each box in turn.  It was neat to see one display of different artists visions for how coelophysis may have looked, since that was one we had put yarn up on the wall for. Overall, Elizabeth most enjoyed the fossil brushing.

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Fossils in shale to check out under the magnifying machine.

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A casting of T-Rex’s skull.

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A neat display of an oceanographic dinosaur. (So is it a dinosaur or something different?)

Now, we just have a Writing Workshop, in which Elizabeth dictates something to me and I write it down, left, as well as our new “write” word, BIG, and a little reading about what a paleontologist is from a pamphlet that I took from the museum.

Elizabeth really enjoys science and learning about the world around her, she loves informational books, and will sit and pour over them for an hour while I’m down putting her brother to bed.  The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling is appealing to me with an emphasis on “living books,” yet part of me feels that a whole library room of literature is ignored in this way.  I enjoy the beautiful books that both Moving Beyond The Page and Global Village School suggest, yet wish that some more sciency books with real photographs were included.  I guess that is my part to modify – to add in those of types books so that she can see what the real images look like rather than just someone’s paintings or illustrations.

Share your thoughts:  What are some fun activities you have done centered around dinosaurs?  How do you feel about “living books” vs. science & factual ones?

Putting Her Brain Into Math

It seems prominent to me lately that that not too long ago, I was complaining about doing math with pom poms and beans on worksheets, in which we made up word problems about apples falling out of the trees or bean owls flying to and from the tree on the paper, and saying that that wasn’t enough to catch the interest of a 5-year-old.  But then, within just a couple of weeks, those math activities were in the curriculum again and I gave them another try, and voilà – Elizabeth is interested — and using her brain to do them!   Before, it seemed like every time we did these kinds of activities, Elizabeth would let me just tell her the answers, but since we did the Broken Hearts addition with M&M’s, she has been putting her head into the problems and working them out.  We have done these kinds of activities now with M&M’s as well as pom poms about four times since I was complaining, and she seems to be latching on to the math finally.

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Beans (instead of pom poms) pretending to be owls flying into the tree.

I’m glad that I didn’t push her into the activities and turn her off of the math.  In the first few months of our Seed To Seedling Homeschool, while we were doing the math activities, if Elizabeth acted disinterested, we would do a little bit and then move on before she became really unsettled; but just as I do with foods that are rejected on the first try, I continued to present the math activities and eventually, she has come around – and I’m really glad.  Does this mean that my favorite math is pom pom addition with word problems about apples falling into the buckets on the ground?  No, but I am relieved that she is getting into it.  We will continue to use these kinds of math activities now, as well, I will continue to find every day uses for numbers and addition to increase comprehension and interest.

Share your thoughts: What’s an experience you have had in which your homeschooled child seemed to suddenly slide into an area that he was perhaps not mature enough for before?

Be My Valentine. Reflections, Week 29

I have lots of photos for my readers this week!  We had a fun week this week leading up to Valentine’s Day, making valentines for family and friends and doing some math with M&M’s.  Elizabeth was really excited about Valentine’s Day this year, as we had been working on the valentines and had gotten a cute little petite rose bush for Chepe which we kept secret in her bedroom until the morning of, and she was tickled pink to have the secret.  I especially liked how excited she was about the holiday, especially as she was not expecting gifts herself, but was anxious to give hers out.  This is a step in the right direction from where I felt we were at Christmas-time.

The Moving Beyond The Page curriculum has a “February Holidays” unit which centers on Valentine’s Day as well as Black History Month and President’s Day.  I think that this is one of my favorite units so far; I decided that the unit met all of my subject goals without modifications, so that was easy.  This week, I merely focused on the Valentine’s portion and tried to get the valentines made and out before the 14th.

064I also got Elizabeth interested in a bit of math by having her add some color and chocolate!  The unit had a little math game of equations written in hearts, meant to be cut out and then cut in half.  The child would then do the addition to find the solution, thereby matching up both halves of the hearts.  Elizabeth color-coded hers, and then I ripped out the M&M’s and she did a thorough job of counting out candies for each number to be added, and then counted them all together.  It doesn’t sound extremely impressive, but it’s one of the first times since we started the curriculum in which she put her brain into the addition and did each part of the equation separately as is necessary.  I was very happy with her effort.

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On Chepe’s day off, we also made a non-Valentine’s-Day-themed trip to an art museum.  The weather here in Upstate New York is bitter, bitter cold, so in thinking about fun things to do out of the house I was obligated to come up with an idea that would keep us indoors.  The day that we went birding for snowy owls, there had been abstract art for sale at the café we stopped at for lunch and Elizabeth was very interested in it, so I was thinking of doing something art-related.  Finally, I came up with a few ideas, and with Chepe’s input, we decided upon the Rockwell Museum of Art of America in Corning because it was about art and cowboys.

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Making a collage on a light-table.

The trip turned out to be a fun one.  I hadn’t been to the museum in over ten years, and they have made an effort to be kid-friendly, with a kid’s art and activity room, as well as scavenger hunt pages for each floor.  I wish now I had taken a picture of the scavenger hunt sheet, but I didn’t.  It was actually so much fun that as we left, I thought to myself that even without children I could have wanted to do it!  The scavenger hunt helped all of us (except hyper Paul) take a look at each picture or the majority of the pottery, and to look for little details to find the images on the sheet.  It was fun.

As a lover of horses and the spirituality of the American Indians, some of my favorite art that we saw was 3-D:

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Lastly, I have some funny photos of our last activity to finish up the owl unit from last week: peanut butter cookies.  Elizabeth had a good time decorating them (and eating the decorations).

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If you have been following Seed To Seedling, you might have noticed that we have not taken a single vacation week since we began in July.  I contemplated it – I had contemplated taking a week off every 6th week – but once we got into the flow, school seemed so non-invasive and fun and easy that I just never did.  As well, Elizabeth asks almost daily to do school, and we occasionally do school activities on the weekends if she/we are not out and about with family.  But the weeks around holidays in which I feel like I have deadlines, like with making the valentines, kind of stress me out, and I have decided that we will take a break this next week.  I have some housekeeping things that need to get done while Paul is napping, and though school doesn’t have to be done while he is asleep, it is a lot easier.  I think a little break will do me some good, though I have my doubts about Elizabeth.  I am anticipating that it will make her sour to start back up, or to do my organized activities again.  We shall see, I guess.

Well, I hope you all have a nice February break if you are taking one.

Share your thoughts: What special projects did you do leading up to Valentine’s Day?  What kind of school break schedule do you plan?

 

Beginning Reading, Art and Math. Reflections, Week 28

Nearly 30 weeks of homeschool so far!  It doesn’t seem possible!  I was feeling a little blah about it around the holidays, like it was just another thing I had to fit in, but lately, it has not felt that way at all.  Elizabeth asks to do school most days, spends hours coloring and tracing letters in workbooks on her own, and is beginning to write and sound out words.  It is very exciting for me to watch her as she begins to read.  It’s like she is standing on the brink of a big pool which is learning and life, dipping her toes into the warm inviting water, but unsure yet how to swim.  Luckily, she has me!  I love watching her and helping her with this.  If she asks, I never refuse to tell her what something says or how to spell it out; even if we are in the middle of dinner there is always time for reading.  I am here to help her into that big pool of reading and I am loving it!

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Shape art

Arts and crafts have really taken a fore-front in our school lately.  Elizabeth loves painting and coloring.  I don’t often see her drawing with a pen or pencil, but what she seems unable to make come out with finer tipped writing utensils appears with the forgiveness of the messiness of paint and paintbrush.  Much of what she does is just filling in pre-drawn pictures or shapes that float around on the page, but all of these activities help build her hand-writing muscles and improve her visual-motor coordination.  Art was very important to me when I was younger and I love it as a way to express one’s self as well as a coping method, so I can only encourage her interest and creativity.  Interestingly, she has recently started using coloring as her cool-down activity when she is upset.  She spent about a year not knowing how to soothe herself after she discontinued sucking her fingers; coloring doesn’t totally replace the self-soothing that she did before, but it is the closest thing she has gotten.

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Colorful tree with bean owls

I love to support her love of art, color, and crafts.  So school has lots of focus in these activities.  But I have been feeling that her interest in math isn’t at the same level as what is outlined in the curriculum.  This is fine, all kids move at their own pace and will have preferences, but she does need to learn how to do simple addition and subtraction too.  I have found that the math activities in the curriculum guide just aren’t very interesting.  Many of them involve using pom poms on cut-outs and making up word problems with them.  How many times can apple pom poms fall out of a tree or bean owls fly away?  It’s just not really interesting nor applied.  I’ve been trying to think of ways to make math a little more interesting and real-life.  I accept that it’s not necessary for her to be counting by 10’s yet (though she kind of can), nor by 2’s or 5’s or doing addition up to 10, or even subtracting, she’s only in pre-k.  And it’s also ok for her to have her preferences, as well as to advance in one area over some other.  At times, different subjects will be more prominent in her learning than others, and math may come around again.  There have been times in which certain books have really sparked her interest in numbers, shapes, counting, and even simple addition, Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Book Ever would be one of those.  But I guess just acknowledging these thoughts has let me draw more math out of daily life, which makes it non-threatening, easier, and applicable.  Rather than do pom pom math, I’m trying to add a little math into our other school activities, giving both more meaning.

Share your thoughts:  How do you add math into your everyday learning?  What are some of your children’s favorite art activities?  How excited were you when your children began reading?