Rhythms and Resources – Natural That is! Reflections, K Week 4

Well, it’s been two weeks again since I posted, but I’m only going to count one of those weeks as an official school week.  Unfortunately, we have suffered another loss in my family, but it was preceded by 10 days … Continue reading

Nature Walks – June 2015

“So come, get ready. Don’t delay!  We’re on a nature trail today.” ~Maurice Pledger, from In The Forest As the end of June was drawing nearer, I feared that I wouldn’t really have any good pictures for our nature walks … Continue reading

Owls, Hawks, and Eagles

Thursday, our local-ish Audubon Society, of which we are members, had a falconer speak about his work, as well as about the birds that he hunts with and others that travel with him as educational ambassadors.  I thought that Elizabeth would really enjoy seeing the birds close up, and hoped that Paul would be able to enjoy it as well.

Well, it was a bit longer and slower than I had expected, so it was great that Chepe had been available to go, or I would have had to…leave Elizabeth in the lecture while I wandered around with him?  Or just wandered around with him within the room, distracting all the other attendees?  Or probably we would have just left early.  Lesson learned: from now on, for a while at least, it may be better to find a sitter for Paul for these kinds of things.  Though Paul didn’t see much owl action, Elizabeth sat front and center – and almost got pooped on!

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Majestic Red-tailed hawk

The gentleman who gave the lecture, brought a myriad or live raptors to please everyone in the crowd (well, except for the toddler): there was a saw-whet owl (the smallest), a red-tailed hawk (the most common), a bald eagle (the largest), and a peregrine falcon (the fastest).  He also brought some birds that audience members could handle, such as his own personal hunting bird, a Harris’ hawk, as well as two beautiful exotic species not covered by the migration laws (which prohibit unlicensed everyday people from handling migratory birds):  a Eurasian Hawk Eagle, and a European Eagle Owl.  I got to hold the eagle owl – it was so cool!  Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures because Chepe was out with Paul in the front yard, and though a pretty good photographer, Elizabeth didn’t think to do it.  Oh well!  He also had two audience members wear gloves at a time and baited the Harris’ hawk between them, which was neat!

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Harris’ hawk eating raw chicken after flying between audience members.

Share your thoughts:  Have you ever had a close-up experience with wildlife?

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?

 

Modifying A Boxed Curriculum With More Community Learning. Reflections, Week 27

Elizabeth has been sick most of this week, and my husband and I have been continuing with our ‘moment’ issue, but luckily that seems to be moving forward in a positive direction. I think it was pre-destined that Elizabeth would fall sick now because in my doubts about my marriage and whether to try to work it out or not, I’ve been forced to also depend upon Chepe for his help and wonder (and fear) how I could do it alone.  Also, after months, literally months, of not having both kids take a nap at the same time, I’ve been gifted four days of solitary afternoons, which I was really needing.

Because she has been sick, we haven’t fit too much school in, but Thursday Elizabeth and I did continue with our owl unit that we started last Wednesday when we went birding and looking for a Snowy Owl (see Quest for A Snowy Owl. Reflections, Week 26) by looking up owl facts at Animals Time: All About Animals For Kids, and checking out some pictures of different owl species at The Owl Pages.  Building upon her own personal experience with three different owl species – not too bad for a 5-year-old – and we mostly looked at the screech, great horned, and snowy owl pictures, but also checked out a few other kinds. In addition, we play-acted baby owls, with Elizabeth building a huge nest out of blankets and then pretending to be a newborn chick with its eyes closed for the first ten days of it’s life. She is very detailed. Check out our Nature Walks – June for some owl pictures our from our own woods.

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Shapes to travel to in many ways.

Friday, we played shape travel. I cut some big shapes out of construction paper and labeled them, asked her if they were 2- or 3-D, and then we scattered them around the living room. We came up with different ways to move between them, digging pretty deep with movements like flitting, twisting, hauling, waddling, scurrying, etc. I liked it because she didn’t nessesarily have words for some of her movements, but as she did them, I named them, so her vocabulary was augmented – and she will probably remember them too, as she can often surprise me by learning a new word once and then using it properly later.  Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to extend to Spanish though.

On a different note, I have been feeling introverted lately, which makes me want to just sit and think and daydream. I’ve also been moving ahead with planning modifications for the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum.  My absolute favorite change that I’ve been making is the addition of the element of service learning and active citizenship, which I’m realizing is where I need to start with  my planning in each unit.  What I’ve been doing so far is sitting down with a piece of paper and pen and asking myself how the books of the curriculum “speak to me.”  I jot down my first thoughts.  For example, Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag made me think of numbers, patterns and cats.  I then peruse the parent guide of the MBTP curriculum to see what activities are all ready organized that fit into what speaks to me, and activities that have materials in the consumables box because I want to use them.  Then, I work out a plan for 5-7 days of activities.  For Millions of Cats I planned activities that used the cat cut-outs from the consumables box, drawing kitty-like patterns on them, then organizing them into patterns.  I tried to get Elizabeth to do some simple addition with them too, but she wasn’t interested.  We also counted them a number of times with different groups and relationships.

In the last step of my unit planning, I go through the week’s worth of activities and determine if all the key subjects are hit, such as LA, Math, Art, etc.  When I get to service learning and active citizenship, I have been finding that it almost always takes me into a whole new place that touches on real-life activities that include trips and math that is real.  Let’s continue with the Millions of Cats example.  When I wondered what I could use for service learning and active citizenship, I wondered how could I make real-live cats meaningful to Elizabeth when we don’t have a cat?  Of course – go to the Humane Society.  A trip to the Humane Society would give her a visual of real cat coat patterns, population numbers and why cats are being housed there, learning about pet care, learning about the service the Humane Society provides the cats and community, what a worker or volunteer does there, and show she can help too.  I could tell her all of these things while sitting in the living room, but it would be much more memorable to her if we did it while petting cats in person at the actual Humane Society.  (Of course, we did not actually pet the cats because they had ringworm.  See Doubts About Our Decision to Homeschool. Reflections, Week 25.)

I’m starting to think that when I sit down with my notebook and think about how a book speaks to me, I ought to make my initial list, then consider service learning and active citizenship to see where that takes me before I make out my weekly plan.  It’s exciting because for the dinosaur unit it is taking us to a museum and exploring questions like, “What does a paleontologist do?  Who can be a paleontologist?  Why is paleontology important?  Are there any negative impacts made from dino digs?”  These questions, though I’m not looking for in depth answers, or even that she will have the answers, will allow her to begin to look deeper than just the facts and start to pursue her own questions and answers, especially as many times the answers are open-ended.  I hope as well that these kinds of questions will lead us to volunteer work for our homeschool when both of the children are older, I really enjoy volunteering!

Share your thoughts: How do you incorporate service learning and active citizenship into your homeschool?  Do you do any kind of fun and interesting volunteer work with your children?

Nature Walks – June

“So come, get ready. Don’t delay! We’re on a nature trail today.”

-Maurice Pledger

A friend of mine who homeschooled her kids told me that after their daily lessons, she’d take the kids on nature walks, and I love that idea. It wouldn’t be a stretch for us to make it a habit, as we do all ready loosely do something of the sorts. Here are some fun things we have seen lately on the property.

 

Decorative caterpillarWe found this interesting caterpillar on a wild raspberry bush. I had originally guessed that the white things were the eggs of a parasitic wasp, but upon uploading the picture and seeing it on the computer, I can see that they are just part of the caterpillar’s fancy suit. Maybe they are meant to fool a parasitic wasp into thinking this caterpillar has all ready been parasitized? Or maybe they help it blend into a leaf that has caterpillar eggs all over it?

Next, we heard a buzzing coming from the door of the garage, and discovered this fly caught in a spider’s web. Elizabeth was enthralled, and we watched for quite a while as the fly struggled and the spider threw one line of silk after another over the insect. When we returned later, the fly was wrapped up. The following day, there were no signs of leftovers at all.

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Another day when I was reading stories to Elizabeth before her nap, she heard a bird call out her window and went to look out. She then called me over to see two “nest” right out side. Well they weren’t nests, they were two Northern Screech Owls eyeing the birds at our feeders! They were very relaxed, even when they noticed us in the window, I mean how could we be large predators way up in that tree that they hadn’t noticed before?

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This is how they looked a little bit later when I went outside to get a better look and some pictures. This time, I did seem like a predator, so they assumed the stiff, upright position that makes them look deceivingly like a piece of broken branch. I love how they squint their eyes!

Do you take your kids on nature walks? What are some interesting things you have seen together?