Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beginning Our Presidents Subunit

Tonight I am gearing up for a new unit: Wisdom!  Within this unit we will be studying the American presidents for four weeks and then switching gears to study the electoral process for four more weeks.  I am hoping to give you updates as I go along.

For now I wanted to share with you an awesome resource. I have this huge presidential timeline poster from C-SPAN Classroom on my kitchen wall.  I got this poster free as well as the Electoral College Map poster this summer.  I believe you still can but they need 3-5 weeks for delivery so hurry if you want one!  Either way, check out the website it is full of teacher resources and videos.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Family Read Aloud

I love family read aloud time.  I have just begun Poor Richard by James Dougherty with my younger two children.  My 16yo dd has read this one before and her high school curriculum keeps her pretty busy so she doesn't get to hang out with us during this school time read aloud but she often shows up to listen in the evenings for bedtime read aloud which is always a non-school-related book.  Currently we are reading through the Caroline years of the Little House books.

Almost every night we sit around the living room for mom to read.  This has become such a cherished activity that my younger two want to be read to more than I have time.  To solve the problem, a couple years ago my eldest began reading to them too.  Then when one child wanted her to read but not the other she pulled a separate book out for him or her to have read especially for only that one on one time.  So on a particular shelf in my living room I have a pile of books.  This is where we keep the books we are currently reading.  And it seems to get bigger and bigger.  They will each keep their current book that they are reading on their own on this shelf or sometimes on their headboards.  And we have the book Mom is reading during school, the book mom is reading at bedtime, the book 16yo is reading to both her siblings as well as each book she is currently reading to the individual siblings and I even have one there that I am reading to dd when ds doesn't want to be read to.  LOL

This time together has built such wonderful memories.  We have bonded over stories we loved and even some we didn't like at all.  My husband has come to read for us on occasion when his time allows and this is always a special treat.  Some stories have made us look at maps and others have inspired us to try cooking something new.  My children have colored while listening and other times built with blocks.  There are no restrictions as long as they are quiet and listening but most of the time they prefer to just snuggle up beside me.

It doesn't matter how old my children get or how well they can read on their own, family read aloud time will still remain.

 

Monday, September 3, 2012

First Day of School Success

Today is Labor Day here in the U.S. but I don't take off these silly Monday holidays.  Instead today we started school. With very little prep compared to previous summers I was a bit concerned but I decided not to sweat the small stuff.  I did a little planning this weekend and figured I would fix things as they came along.  And we had a remarkably smooth day.  In fact we even finished early (not entirely because I forgot spelling).

"Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

We began our day with Bible time and KONOS activities.  My kids had a new verse to memorize, Psalm 90:12 and we discussed what we would be studying for the next two weeks, stewardship of our time and what that means.  We spent some time "numbering our days" figuring out how old each of their great grandparents were when they died, and averaged out the numbers to get a general idea of how long they might expect to live if the Lord blesses them with long life.  Then they multiplied the average times 365 to see how many days that would be and subtracted the number of days they have already lived.  I think it was an eye opener.  Finally, I have them keeping track of how they spend their hours by keeping a log.  Tomorrow they will graph this on a pie chart and start a new log.  We'll do this every day for two weeks to complete an activity we are planning for co-op.

We finish our KONOS work and read aloud a half hour before lunch so my youngers can have some outdoor time while I help my eldest if she needs me.  After lunch I work with them individually doing language arts and math.  My son is taking typing this year and my third grader is going to learn cursive but I forgot it today so I'll be adding it into the schedule tonight.

I was surprised by how early we were finished; 1:30 for my third grade dd,  2:15 for my fifth grade son and right on time at 3 for my eleventh grade dd.  So at 1:30 I decided to write out a Ben Franklin quote for the top border of our school wall.  I made it really big and scrolled and dd8yo helped me color it in.  The best part of our day was the way we finished.  At 2:15 I told the youngers they were dismissed and they could go play but my son asked if he could play Timez Attack on the computer and my daughter asked if she could paint.  Of course I answered with a resounding, "Yes!"

"Never leave for tomorrow that which you can do today." ~ Benjamin Franklin

   

Monday, August 13, 2012

And I'm Off, Like a Herd of Turtles

It's the middle of August and I'm really feeling the sadness that comes when you realize summer's almost over.  Actually this year it's more of a freaking out feeling rather than sadness.  I totally enjoyed this summer. Which also means I didn't do anything.  To quote one of my favorite Veggie Tales lines, "Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada." (If you didn't read that in Veggie voices, go back and read it again.  And then of course you can't help but hear the commentary that goes along with it as Larry forgets his line and Mr. Lunt has to feed him the line over and over again.  LOL So hilarious!)

Anyhooo... Today I'm gearing up to get back in gear.  But before I could do anything school related it seemed fitting to get back to my blog and give an update (translate, avoid the school stuff yet again.)  I don't know what's up with me.  I usually love the school planning.  I am looking forward to getting back to co-op and seeing all the kids and moms again but not the planning, book buying and the letter writing I have to do to homeschool in this state.  Truth is I've waited far too long to write that letter to the superintendent so I really have to do that today.  First thing. And I'm off...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rock Classification


I'm a little out of order in my posting.  Before we began the bird unit and before we classified plants but after we classified animals we classified rocks.  I thought about just leaving this post out since I didn't get a chance to  write it up when we were actually doing the unit and I hate to mix it in with might be a series of birds posts but I loved the pictures and I loved one of our activities and who really know if I'll get time to post about future bird activities anyway.  So here I am.


To start our short unit I took the kids walking through the woods to find rocks to bring home.  We couldn't bring the really big ones home so we took pictures of those.  On day two of rock collecting we came across a trail header with a sign that said to take out everything you brought in and nothing else except pictures.  Hmmm.  Not even rocks?  That never occurred to me.  I know you can't take plants out of the parks or pick certain flowers, but rocks?


I'm glad I brought my camera and notebook!  Here's what you can do when you need to collect specimens to sort but you're not allowed.  Take a picture of the interesting rock.  In your journal, note the number of the picture on you camera.  Even on my little point and click, I can tell which picture I'm on when I press the little button that shows me all the pictures I took.  (Yeah, I'm clearly not a professional photographer.  Don't even own a cool camera like all the cool bloggers have.  But I'm okay with that.  I know my limitations and I accept them.)


So once you've noted the picture number in your journal, add in all the details you can about the rock.  Note cleavage, glossiness, sparkles, speckles, layering, even hardness can be tested to some extent in the field if you have a few tools with you.  Stripes and color are important too even if you have a picture because sometimes, if you're a fancy photographer like me, you get home and look at the picture and what you thought was a white rock now looks kind of grayish.  


I try to identify them right there if I can.  I usually carry a pocket guide with me.  My favorite pocket guides are the Golden Guides that have been around forever, most of them written by Herbert S. Zim as the Rock and Mineral one is.  Pocket guides are not exhaustive though so sometimes you can't quite place a rock.  (More often than not for me since I am SO very bad at sciency things!)  But this is why it is so important to have good notes.  If you can identify your rock while you are out and about, it's still great to have good notes for future collecting.


My son spent much of hiking time trying to find trees to climb.


This is my daughter next to the roots of a tree that had fallen over last year.  My son found this one particularly easy to climb since it was laying down for him.



I'll share a simple activity we did on day one to start dividing up the rocks for identification.  Breaking them into groups based on whether they were igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic I labeled paper plates for each category.  A magnifying glass or even a hand held microscope and some identification books are all handy for this activity. 


Then just start sorting the rocks.  To make it easier to understand I chose the first few rocks and had my kids identify them.  This way I could pick the obvious ones so they could really see the differences between the three types of rock.  

That was my favorite activity.  It was totally simple but worked well for beginning rock collectors.  Including ME! :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bird Diagramming

Yesterday we switched back to our final three weeks on Attentiveness with our focus on birds and John James Audubon.

Choosing the Right Diagram
After finding a few different diagrams of birds on the internet I couldn't decide which I liked best.  I liked the color in this one from the The Robinson Library, and it was nice and simple.  But it looked maybe too simple. This one from the Birds of Yosemite National Park website seemed more detailed but I thought perhaps confusing for the kids.  Finally, this one from Mr. Joanides' Wiki Pages (scroll 2/3 of the way down) looked pretty good but well, you know how it is.  I just couldn't decide. The diagram with the wing spread out intrigued me and even the one at the top of Mr. Joanides' Wiki page showing the skeleton of the bird is pretty cool.  There are tons of bird diagrams on the internet, all fabulous but somehow you have to narrow it down to what your needs are or you your kids will be overwhelmed.  Right.

So I made the deciding process into an activity for my 9yo and 7yo.  I asked them to look and compare the three different diagrams and tell me what they liked or disliked about each one and also explain how they are different.  Finally I asked them to decide which they thought would be the best one to use for learning the parts of a bird and tell me why.  They were very observant. (Awesome!  Goal #1 met already and we haven't even learned anything about the birds yet!)  While the one with color added to it was more attractive to my daughter, my son pointed out that the others had more parts diagrammed.  The one with the parts labeled right on the bird they both thought was too confusing and "messy" but it labeled the coverts on the wings specifically whereas the colorful one did not and the third only pointed out the wing bars.  Final decision?  We're using all three.

Cut and Paste Diagramming


Today I took the diagramming one step further than my usual "label-the-parts" method.  I printed out a simple black and white outline drawing of a robin twice for each of my kids.  On the first one I made labeling lines pointing to the different parts of the bird so they could label the parts as usual.  The labeling didn't take very long and I let them use the diagrams they had chosen to find the right parts.  In advance I colored and cut out the second bird's parts following the bird puzzle idea I got from The Adventures of Bear.   When it came time to glue the puzzled out bird parts onto the black and white robin, I would call out a part and they would have to find it among their puzzle pieces and glue it onto the diagram they just finished labeling.  It went well and doubled the retention possibilities of simply labeling.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is a 20 inch by 230 foot-long embroidered cloth depicting the events of the Norman Invasion of 1066 including those events leading up to the invasion starting in 1064.  The Museum of Reading has an excellent website with scene by scene photos of the tapestry and descriptions of what is happening in each scene.  Although there seem to be several theories as to who commissioned the work, the two most popular sources are Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror's half brother or William's wife Queen Matilda and her ladies-in-waiting.

This will probably be my last post about the Middle Ages for a while.  My eldest daughter has finished this section of HOW II and has moved on to China but I wanted to share a little about this particular project before moving on.  And although some of my students groaned a bit when we began the project, they all worked to complete them and I think they are the better for it.  The assignment in the HOW book was to make an embroidery copy of one section of the tapestry.  Since none of the kids in my class wanted to learn to embroider and frankly we didn't have the time to devote to learning this handicraft, we opted for a simpler route of copywork.  Each student was to choose one section of the tapestry and make a full-scale drawing using the grid method.  Color was added as closely as possible with colored pencils. We couldn't get exact color matches but I allowed some leeway as long as they stayed within the color scheme.