Thursday, November 17, 2011

".........and then we're gonna dig him a nice hole!"

These are the words just uttered by my 10-year-old, preceded by the words, "I'm gonna get some more water......".  While speaking these words he hurried into the kitchen to get some water in a plastic dish.  A few minutes prior I was informed that "the worm (what worm?) is under the water now."  Good to know.  Ummmm........what worm?  And don't worms drown in water?  I'm a creature-lover and was a bit concerned for said worm's welfare.  However, my oldest assured me that he (the worm) was still moving and that worms can survive underwater, something he learned not from yours truly, but from watching Wild Kratts on TV.  Ha!

Like any other homeschooling mama, I've had my nagging concerns about the "socialization" of my children when I chose to withdraw them from a public school setting.  At the same time, I'm well aware that one of the many benefits of homeschooling is that it draws siblings closer together than they would be otherwise.  I think this is certainly becoming the case in our family.  I love seeing my guys interact and converse with one another in a relaxed, pressure-free setting.  To me, this is a much  more natural example of socialization than what often occurs in a setting where only same-age children are grouped together.  (Think bullying........pressure to "fit in".........pack mentality.)  So let the worm-habitat-building continue!  What a fantastic way to spend "recess" on a beautiful fall day!  I'm going to go photograph the worm so you can see for yourself why I love homeschooling!

Sidenote:  All this industriousness has been accompanied by the tap-tap-tapping of a youngest is busy opening walnuts he's gathered from the backyard.  A squirrel's best friend in the making indeed.

Sadly, the photographer fears that the subject matter may be (ahem) deceased.  Please be forewarned that the contents of the next two photos may not be suitable for young children.

The little purplish-pink spot in the center/left is the worm.  Or perhaps I should say was the worm.  My son told me the worm had been moving right before I came outside, so there may yet be hope.

Just keeping it real here...........documenting the muddy fingerprints all over the door from multiple trips inside for water using mud-covered hands to get in and out........

And let's not forget the mud-covered kitchen faucet.  Homeschooling may not be for those who like to keep a pristine home at all times.  My philosophy.........if you don't get a little dirty, was it really that much fun?  (Inwardly I cringe a bit when I see mud-strewn around my living space BUT I try as much as possible to keep my mouth shut.  In this case, I did throw out a couple of feeble, "Honey, don't touch anything with your mud-covered hands, okay?...........these words were mostly ignored.  :-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Slacking or supporting? You be the judge.

I sat down a bit ago to quickly check email and facebook and Google Reader and Pinterest before we started school  (we usually start around 9:30).  My plan was to start close to "on time" (which is a flexible concept in homeschooling).  As I sat here at the computer, I could overhear my two sons in my oldest son's bedroom.  They have a box from the recycling bin and from what I can tell are planning to add that box to a box my husband has told them they can have on Friday (?) to build something very cool.  About 10 minutes ago I told them as they hurried past me, seriously discussing their "plans", that we would start school in about 10 minutes.  They gave the obligatory "OK" as they rushed on to continue their scheming. Since they do not ALWAYS see eye to eye or get along, I am hesitant to break up their collaboration to start school.  Even as I type these words at this moment, they have come out and my littlest is showing me a drawing of their plans which he has sketched with red marker on white paper.  He is now asking me where we can buy springs.  I am enthralled and captivated when they work together like this.  Little guy is now out on the deck and I can hear him telling his brother, "It's good.  We can go to the hardware store and buy springs for the launcher.  It's really will be so easy."  Now he is calling to me "Hey, Mommy!  Look how tall the Nile River is getting.  The grass here is really fresh (he slides open the screen to tell me this)."  Though I feel a teeny tiny bit like a slacker for not calling them together to being "school", the larger part of me feels grateful that I can support their interactions by allowing them to unfold naturally.  I am fully aware that the  natural unfolding may soon result in disagreement which may or may not take the form of angry words and/or punches. will be time to start school.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

First Grade Reading: We love Henry and Mudge

It's been a while since I've written about our first grade reader.  I'm excited that he has finally progressed to the point that we are now able to check out library books as his guided reading material.  I will still supplement with some printed books from Reading A-Z, but I think he is very happy to finally be reading primarily out of "real" books.  My older son was extraordinary in that he could pretty much read anything from about age 4 on.  So he didn't really go through the "beginning reading" stage.  One series of beginner books that he always enjoyed, however, was the "Mr. Putter and Tabby" series by Cynthia Rylant.  We own many copies of those books.  I thought they were a BIT advanced for my first grader right now.  He will probably be ready for them in a few months.  I was excited to discover another great beginner series also by Cynthia Rylant, the "Henry and Mudge" books.  Even better was my discovery of a whole bunch of "Henry and Mudge" printables from Homeschoolshare!  Homeschoolshare doesn't have printables for EVERY book in the series (there are 28 books!), but they do have printables for many of them. 

My son would really like to read all the books in this series so I printed out the list shown below from Homeschoolshare.  He can mark off each book as he reads it.  We have been trying to find the first book, but neither of the libraries we visit has that one!!

Below you can see the printables we did for Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days.  There was one printable for each chapter of the book.  Filling out a quick summary on the printable after reading the chapter was great writing practice for my first grader.

To help him with organizing his writing, I just used a black marker to draw some "writing" lines inside each printed shape.  This little modification helps so much to keep his words in line.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gratitude Journals and Thanksgiving Poetry

This weekend I found a link for some GORGEOUS free printable gratitude journal cards.  I had wanted to do some type of gratitude writing with the boys this month and this fit the bill.  I printed out a set of cards for each boy and have been having them write on one card each day.  I was thrilled when on Tuesday the 8th my six-year-old asked if he could write on more than one card.  He actually wanted to write on 8 cards since it was the 8th day of November.  Of course I said YES!  The only rule I have is that they can only write each idea on one repeats.  I am looking forward to seeing what they will find to be thankful for later in the month after the usual ideas (family, toys, etc.) have been used.  HERE is where you can go to print out your own set of gratitude cards.

Of course I was very excited to see my little boy write "mom" on his first thankfulness card.  I am SO thankful to be a mommy to two awesome boys and wife to a great guy.  I am truly blessed!

Another thing we are working on this week and for the next few weeks is learning a few "Thanksgiving" poems to recite to our family at Thanksgiving dinner.  I have a REALLY old book of poetry for children (really old as in my maternal grandmother's sister who was a school teacher owned and used it and it was published in the late 1800s) and I actually remember reading and typing out my favorite poems from this book as a little girl.  I read some of the poems from the "November" section out loud to the boys and they each picked a few to learn for Thanksgiving.  We'll see how it goes.  I've never had them do any recitation for an audience before, but I love the old "one-room-schoolhouse" idea of doing so.  In the top photo you can see a glimpse of one of the poems my little guy is learning.  I typed them up in a big font and slipped them into page protectors. 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I have done quite a few Thanksgiving projects in the past and have written about them on some of my other blogs.  I thought I'd link to them here in case you are interested.

I made some really cute TURKEY HANDPRINT TRIVETS last year that I LOVE and have on display this year.  I will put these out every November forever.  They are so precious!!

We also made some really cute TURKEY CANDLE HOLDERS as favors for our family last year.  I saved one for us, but it's tissue tail got a little squished in storage.

Another favorite Thanksgiving keepsake I've made is this GIVE THANKS burlap pillow with turkey handprints.

And finally, a project I will always treasure (especially this year) is a little Gratitude Journal I did in 2008 at Thanksgiving dinner.  It was just our little family of four and my parents for dinner that year and right before heading to my parents' house I whipped up a quick ABC gratitude journal that we completed after our meal.  I will treasure it so much because it has my Dad's writing in it............this year will be our first Thanksgiving without him.  HERE is the link to that project if you're interested.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Expedition Earth: Russia

I have been lax in posting about our Expedition Earth adventures.  We are still trying to study a country a week to go along with the curriculum.  We have missed a week here and there.  I've tried to add a read-aloud story set in the country we are studying.  That hasn't always worked out for each country, but luckily we had a copy of the book Another Celebrated Dancing Bear which is a FIAR book.  We didn't actually read it five days in a row (we don't often fit in reading our FIAR books five days in a row!) and just read it once.  It is a nice story, but not incredibly engaging (in my opinion).  It did introduce some aspects of Russian culture that we later read about in some library books about Russia.  I would love to say we always do a special project to go with each country, but we honestly don't fit projects in that often.  I feel that I'm doing well if the boys complete their passports, color the flag of the country, fill out the info pages for the country, and can find it on the globe and name its capital.  Anything else is icing on the cake.  For Russia, I'd saved an idea in Pinterest that I wanted to use for an art project.  This project can be found on Art Projects for Kids.  I LOVE how our Russian cathedrals turned out.  I enjoyed sitting and doing this project with the boys and am pleased with how much time they each spent on their drawings.  In an effort to make a full disclosure, I will add that I did not think my youngest would actually complete this project as he was having a rough start to the day.........even to the point of going through two pieces of drawing paper and throwing a crayon across the room.  Yeah.  Loads of homeschool fun in THAT moment.  After a brief (ahem) bit of time spent thinking about things on a chair, he came back to the project with a focus and intensity that both surprised and impressed me.  My older son and I were done and had moved on to other things by the time my little guy got going.  He had requested a larger sheet of paper and wanted to look at the photo of St. Basil's cathedral found in a link in the directions at Art Projects for Kids.  He intently studied the photo and tried to include ALL the details in his drawing, even down to the statues in the foreground and the trees surrounding the building.  Wowza!!  You just never know............

Here are our finished drawings.........

First is fun to take the time to sit and do this project.  I don't claim to be an artist, but the process was really enjoyable.

Next up, my oldest son's drawing.  I loved how he labeled the different details of his drawing with the name of the crayon color that he used (thus the "macaroni and cheese" steeples).

And here is my youngest son's drawing of St. Basil's.  CLICK HERE to see the photo he used as a reference.  His detail is really quite remarkable.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A new infatuation............

While my dad was in the ICU for a week, my mom and I spent a LOT of time sitting in the ICU waiting room.  Since Dad was never conscious the whole time he was in the hospital, we had a lot of time on our hands.  For the first several days, I just sat or paced or drank a lot of the free coffee.  On the evening of the fourth day, I asked my husband at about 8:30 p.m. if he had any cash on him.  He handed me a $10.  I thanked him and said I needed to run to the store real quick.  He asked what for.  I sheepishly admitted that I was going out to buy a pair of knitting needles and a skein of yarn.  He looked a bit mystified as I left on my errand.  I've been wanting to learn to knit for quite some time.  In fact, Hubs had bought me a gift certificate to a knitting shop several years ago.  I never used it and within the last 6 months the store closed.  My mom taught me the very basics of knitting when I was in elementary school, so I knew a little bit.  I packed my new ball of yarn and needles in my purse to take to the hospital the next morning.  My mom laughed as she watched me knit a few rows, rip them out, and start over again.  I did this MANY times.  It kind of bothered her that I was ripping it out so much.  (I'm a perfectionist.)  I finally listened to her advice that the knitting gets easier once you have several rows on the needles.  I kept going.  My plan was to knit a little dishcloth.  I used the basic garter stitch.  What I wasn't expecting is that my boys were VERY interested in this new craft.  They both pleaded with me to teach them!  My little boy has helped me knit a row and my oldest now has his own pair of needles and ball of yarn and has been periodically picking them up and knitting with them.  VERY COOL! 

Since the boys were so into the knitting, they were having none of the "dishcloth" plans.  The first dishcloth soon was appropriated as a blanket for my little boy's stuffed bunny.  Of course I then had to knit a blanket for my big boy's giraffe.  With the leftover bits of yarn I knit (or is it knitted?  my knitting vocabulary is still weak!) matching pillows for each animal.  The cool thing about these particular stuffies is that my boys got them in their "memory" bags for Grandpa.  A wonderful nurse named Jean (she refers to herself as "Mean Jean", but I know better!) gave me the bags for when Dad passed.  Each bag contained several resources for helping children deal with grief including two very helpful pamphlets.  They also each had a stuffed animal for the boys to keep.  I love it that they have these special reminders of Grandpa, and I also love seeing the little guys cuddled up under the "blankets" I made.

I think it's safe to say that I'm now kind of obsessed with knitting.  I love it for its portability.  I can sit and knit pretty much anywhere and don't need to drag out a lot of "gear".  I am currently knitting a scarf for my youngest son (at his request) and have a skein ready to knit one for my big boy too.  I also have a scarf for myself in the works.  I have a list of "favorites" on Ravelry too............a great website with TONS of free knitting patterns.

If you are interested in knitting but are afraid to try...........I say, "GO FOR IT!"  I knew a little bit, but everything else I know (which isn't much yet) I learned by watching knitting videos on You Tube.  I had put off learning to knit because I thought I needed a live person to teach me, but I have truly found everything I need to know online.  I do have one question though for any of you who are still reading this non-homeschool-related post and who are also knitters.............what's the deal with "knit 2 together"?  I am trying to make myself a scarf with that stitch as part of the pattern.  I know how to do it, but I am finding that it is SO hard to get my needles through two stitches at once...........the stitches are so tight!!  I realize this is a tension problem, but I don't know how to fix it other than trying to avoid patterns with "K2tog" a sidenote I am ridiculously impressed with myself that I know what K2tog means now.  Knitting patterns used to look like a bunch of gibberish to me.  And the more complex ones still do!!  Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.  In the meantime, I'll search for a real live person to ask!!  Following are some photos of what I've done so far..........

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A great resource for reading instruction

I wanted to pass along a great resource I came across recently.  It's so important for beginning readers to be appropriately matched to "just right" text.  What I mean is that for optimal growth in reading, children should be able to successfully read 90-95% of the words in any given reading passage.  If they struggle over more than 10% of the words, the text is too hard for them.  If they read more than 95% with no errors, the text may be too easy for them.  It's fine for them to read easier texts for fun, but for reading instruction and growth, they need to have some words that they must "solve" in order to become better readers.  This is one reason that I like to use Reading A-Z leveled books because I can be sure that I'm matching my first grader to appropriate text.  Now, however, my little guy is starting to read more fluently and I'm starting to explore using library books for his reading books.  The website I'm sharing is awesome because it lists published books by level.  I printed out the levels that represent the range my son is reading at and I have it in my purse so when we are at the library I have some specific titles to look for.  HERE is the link to the website.  At the top you will see a little table which tells the "letter" level and the corresponding grade level.  If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section.  Hope you find this link useful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

First Grade Reading: Jellyfish Study

 I wanted to share some more about my first grader's reading program.  A few weeks ago I printed off the book Gaggle, Herd and Murder from Reading A-Z for him to read.  He really likes to learn about animals and I knew he would enjoy this book about the names for various groups of animals.  After he read it a few times, I had him choose one of the animals from the book to research.  He chose jellyfish.  In the photo above you can see the printed book and the cover of the lapbook we made about jellyfish.  In the photo below you can see a photo of the page from Gaggle, Herd and Murder that was about jellyfish.

The rest of the photos are of some of the various lapbook components.  All the lapbook pieces are from Homeschoolshare.  We checked out some books about jellyfish from the library and used that information to fill in the mini-books.  This project took us about a week to complete with my little guy writing on 2-3 mini-books each day.  This was a great way to incorporate reading, writing, and science all into one activity.  I think more lapbooks are in our future for sure.  He was proud to show his finished book off to his grandmas.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One of the best things about homeschooling............

...............watching my oldest son reading fiction for pleasure.  YAY!!  I snapped a few quick and sneaky photos of him during his daily 30 minutes of independent reading.  Once he was sitting outside on the deck on a beautiful day (something he couldn't do in public school) and the other time he was all cuddled up under a quilt on my bed (also something he couldn't do in public school).  Reading while cuddled up in bed........a man after my own heart!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh, my soul.............

I don't know how many people are actually reading this blog, but I know there are a few!  So I'm sure a few of you have noticed that I haven't posted in a while.  On October 14th, my father was admitted to the ICU for severe pneumonia.  He died on October 21st.  His funeral was Monday.  Our pastor blessed us with a beautiful service which honored the gentle, humble, self-less Christian man that my father was.  We also had a perfect day on Monday to lay him to rest.  Needless to say, the past week has been very tumultuous.  I was at the hospital with my mom every day, Hubs was trying to hold down the fort (thankfully he was on fall break) at home, and our schedule was entirely disrupted.  I am finding that grief comes in bursts.  I will be totally fine, then something silly like a slight change in plans will bring a rush of tears.  Part of the grieving process, I guess.  I am also VERY tired all the time which is unlike me.

My wise cousin (who also homeschooled for many years) told me yesterday after the  funeral luncheon that I should just take it easy and take the rest of the week off from school with the boys.  I had planned to start up again in full force today.  In some ways it is good for me to get back into a routine.  When she sensed that I needed to start getting on with things, my cousin suggested that I ease into it and perhaps consider taking a nature walk today instead of diving right back into our academic routine.  This turned out to be a perfect suggestion.

So today I took the boys on a hike at a state park about 25 minutes south of where we live.  We have hiked here frequently, but not recently because the park was inaccessible most of the summer due to flooding in our area.  My oldest son has really been asking to go, so I took them today as a surprise.  It was a totally beautiful day and it was so good for my soul to be outdoors.  I took many hikes with my dad when I was a little girl, so the day brought many fond memories of those times together.  I felt close to him and it was like a balm for my soul.  I took several photos to remember our outing.  I'll share a few of those with you now..........I should be back to homeschool blogging soon.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dreamgirl, whoopie pies, and why homeschooling rocks!!

I just had to hop on here quickly and post about what's been on my mind recently.  I have a TON of things that I should be doing right now, but I never claimed to prioritize well.  ahem........

First of all, the boys and I had "life skills day" on Thursday and quickly whipped up a batch of homemade whoopie pies for Daddy right after he left for work.  Then we rushed up to surprise him with them at work.  His work is about a 25 minute drive from our home.  I brought matches and candles and we sang "Happy Birthday" to him and had him blow out the candles.  I know he was both surprised and touched.  And we would never have been able to pull this off if the boys were in school.

During the time we were at Daddy's office (he's a college professor), my boys were visiting with Daddy's colleagues.  At one point my six-year-old grabbed me, planted a kiss right on my lips and announced to everyone that I am his "dreamgirl".  Words to warm a momma's heart.  I know there will come a day when I'm no longer his "dreamgirl" and that role will be filled by someone who is a.) closer to his age and b.) not his MOM!  And of course that should happen because it would just be weird for him to exhibit the same behavior and say those words as a sixteen-year-old!!!  Still...........I am realizing more and more that homeschooling is allowing me to keep a close connection to my precious boys, one that would surely be challenged and perhaps even strained if they attended school all day.  Inevitably, the influence of their peers would take greater precedence than the influence of their parents.  And I definitely want to continue to nurture our relationship as long as possible.  It's great to be a homeschooler...............especially if you're also a "dreamgirl."  :-)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Story of the World: Chapter 2

This week we finished Chapter 2 of SOTW.  In this chapter we learned about the Egyptians and the Nile River.  We learned why the Nile was so important to the Egyptians and how it flooded predictably at the same time each year which allowed the farmers to plan ahead and plant in the fertile soil once the floodwaters receded.  We also learned about the battle between the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt and how the "White King" of Upper Egypt, King Narmer, finally defeated the "Red King" of lower Egypt.  From that point on, the kind of Egypt's crown was red and white, representing the combined Upper and Lower kingdoms. 

The boys completed the map activity from the SOTW Activity Guide.  They traced the Nile in blue and also colored the Red and Mediterranean Seas blue.  Then they colored a green border along the Nile which represents the fertile silt deposited by the flood waters.  The remaining land was colored tan or yellow to show the desert.  These maps were then glued into their history notebooks as shown below.  I thought they did a great job!!

On our second day of history, we learned about the myth of Osiris and his brother, Set.  A perfect example of an UNLOVING brotherly relationship!!  Set tricked Osiris into getting into a coffin, closed the lid and threw him into the Nile River to drown.  Osiris' widow, Isis, was so bereaved that she cried a river of tears.  The Nile also mourned the loss of Osiris and ran dry, causing a drought.  Isis wrapped Osiris' body in cloth, making the first mummy, but then Osiris came back to life.  The river was so overjoyed with Osiris' return that it filled up and overflowed it's banks.  And that is why the Nile river floods every year............according to Egyptian mythology.  After reading about this, we made our own model of the Nile river using the directions in the Activity Guide.  We flooded the river and set it outside on our deck.  Hopefully grass will grow along its' banks soon.  My little guy wondered a few hours later why it hadn't grown yet!!  He also said we should throw "that guy" (Osiris) into the river like in the story.  (We have an Egyptian TOOB of figures that has Osiris in it.)  I was just glad to know he had listened to the story since he is pretty fidgety during our read alouds!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

First Grade Reading: Camping Week

I explained my system of planning reading for my first grader in THIS POST.  I thought I'd try to do a post each week sharing another week of our learning together in reading/language arts in case it helps someone else.  Last week our main guided reading text was Our Camping Trip printed from Reading A-Z.  In addition to reading that book, we did some of the worksheets from Reading A-Z which focused on long /i/ words and contractions, both of which were skills taken from the text.  The worksheets are shown in the photos below.  Note that I added the yellow highlighting on the right worksheet.  Although he is very capable of doing so, I didn't think my son was paying close attention to keeping his letters between the lines, so I highlighted the space and told him to make his letters sit in the "yellow".  This is a great way to help children visualize on papers with lots of lines. 

As a writing activity, I had him brainstorm a list of things he would take on a camping trip and I made up a quick little paper for him in Word using clip-art and a table for organizing his list.

I also checked out the book Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping and read it to him one of the days.  Then we talked about the story elements and he dictated them to me as I filled them in on a story map we had printed from Reading A-Z.

I am finding that I really like planning his reading this way.  It's easy to find other literature and poems that correspond to the topics in the guided reading books and I feel this makes his reading experience more integrated and rich.  Can't wait to share what we're up to with his reading this week.........but you'll have to wait until NEXT week to find out!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Sept. 26-30

I'm linking up to Kris' Weekly Wrap-Up.  I like the idea of summarizing our week here on the blog, but I haven't been able to pull it off very often. Our weeks feel very full and busy.  I am now teaching 9 piano lessons a week and three Kindermusik classes.  It is a great way to make extra money from home, but it does take up a lot of my "spare" (haha) time.  I realize that I am not taking many photos of our day to day learning that is not "project" related.  I guess that's okay.  I'm including quite a few photos in my other posts throughout the week.

SC (the 4th grader) has just finished reading The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden.  What a great story!!  I can't tell you how many times he's asked me today if I think Chester the cricket will ever come back to New York to visit Tucker, Harry and the Bellini family.  I love it that he's asking this, because it shows me that he really connected with the characters in this story.  One of my biggest goals for him in reading this year was to get him to love reading fiction.  I think we're getting there.  I think it's a sure sign of a great book when the reader is left yearning to learn what happens next.  SC is going to finish up a final project with this book and I'll be writing a post this weekend (hopefully) to detail our learning with this book.  This week SC has also started doing some lessons in Easy Grammar.  He does Handwriting Without Tears cursive twice a week as well.  He is enjoying our history and science curricula so I'm glad we've made a switch there.  In math, he's busy working with fractions and we are both loving the Right-Start materials and lessons.  He and I will also go on a field trip tomorrow that's only for 4th graders and up.  I'm looking forward to that special time with him.

LG (the 1st grader) has been following our new format for reading (I wrote about it HERE).  He read a leveled reader about camping and we pulled out some skill work with that book including work with contractions.  I read the book Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping to him and together we completed a story map.  He's also worked on his sight words each day and does Handwriting Without Tears twice a week.  He finished his Lego Mini-Figures book, so we'll start a new on-going writing project next week.  In math LG has been working on reading and representing 4-digit numbers.  LG has not been very into the new science curriculum and it's intended for 2nd through 5th grade, so he is a bit young for it.  I purchased the Real Science Odyssey Life curriculum which is more for his age group and I may start doing that with him on his own a couple of times a week and just have him sit in on the Chemistry labs, but not complete the lab sheets.

As I posted earlier this week, we did the first chapter of The Story of the World this week.  We learned about nomads and did some cave paintings.  See THIS POST for the details.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Real Science Odyssey: Chemistry

I wrote a few posts back about purchasing the RSO Chemistry ebook from Pandia Press for our science curriculum.  Their ebooks are currently on sale through the end of September.  I ended up buying the Level One Life Science curriculum too.  I just love how their curriculum is set up and I am loving the ebook format.  I can easily print off only what we need and multiple copies of the lab pages for both boys.  For now we are doing science twice per week.  I teach it on Wednesday mornings and my husband (the one with the PhD in science and who is a college science professor) teaches on Thursday mornings.  While he is better qualified to answer questions than I am, I'm really excited that I get to teach part of this great curriculum to the boys.

On Wednesday we did a fun lab to discover how small atoms are.  First I read the "for my notebook" pages to the boys.  These are pages that explain the concepts in kid-friendly, attention-grabbing language.  We learned that a 2 mm dash like this "__" contains 40 million atoms.  Isn't that amazing?  For the lab, we smelled some uninflated rubber balloons and examined them closely with a magnifying glass to be sure there were no holes.  Then (with the boys in the other room), I put a small amount of water in one, some cinnamon in one, some almond extract in one, and some lemon extract in another.  I then inflated the balloons and numbered them.  They boys smelled the balloons to try and guess what each contained.  The gist of the lesson is that atoms are so small that the "scent" atoms from the cinnamon and extracts were able to "squeeze" between the atoms of the balloon so we could smell them. Pretty amazing when you think about it.  I just love how hands-on and fun the labs are.  Hubs gets to do one on Thursday morning which explores how atoms move.  I'll try to remember to get photos.  Here's one photo of the balloon lab that I managed to take.

One more thing before I forget.............I keep pretty close tabs on the stats for this blog.  If you like what you're reading here and don't want to have to remember to keep checking, please consider signing up for an email subscription.  You can do so using the link in the right sidebar.  It's FREE and that way you'll get updates via email each time I post.  Just a tip for those of you who don't use Google Reader to keep track of your blog reading.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Story of the World: Chapter 1

This week we spent two days reading Chapter 1 of SOTW.  We learned about nomads and what they ate (lizards, yuck!) and the boys completed a lapbook component with pictures of the various foods of nomads.  I forgot to take a picture of it though! 

On our second history day, we journeyed into a deep, dark cave (my husband's "mancave" in the of the only rooms in our house without windows) armed only with our torch (a small flashlight).  We quickly built a fire (lit a candle) for warmth and for cooking.

Once in the cave we decided to do some cave paintings to let future generations know more about us.  Below are the ones we did.  I had to take these with the light on to show them, but we drew them by candlelight (and a little flashlight).  This was a fun experience that I hope the boys will remember.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Great Graphic Organizers

On Monday of this week I stumbled across a great website with lots of free printable graphic organizers.  I am finding that I like using these a lot with my oldest son as we work on reading comprehension.  When I found this website, I was doing a Google search to find a printable story map with the major literary elements. In addition to finding the story map I wanted, I found a wealth of other resources.  I'll share a few of my favorites now, but I encourage you to visit the site to see what other goodies you can use.  HERE IS THE LINK to the website itself.

Here are a few of the things I printed immediately.  My excitement over this find greatly increase my son's writing workload on Monday, but (bless his heart!) he didn't complain a bit!!

Since the boys and I had gone to the play "Ferdinand the Bull" last week at a local children's theater, I had him fill out this "Play Response" form.  I was planning to have him write about it anyway, but having this great form to write on was better than the blank notebook paper I was planning to have him use.  (NOTE:  All the forms shown here were completed by my fourth grader, not my first grader!)

I thought he did a great job on this.  He really took it seriously and I love the illustration he added in lieu of an actual photo from the play. 

The play was VERY different from the book and I'm sure I could find a great compare/contrast organizer on the website, but for now I'm really happy with how well he summarized the main details of the play.  I also liked that there is a place to circle his "rating" of the play at the bottom.  We are going on a field trip this Friday and I've already downloaded and printed a Field Trip Response form for him to complete next Monday.

I also found this Reading Log form that I like a whole lot.  As you may remember, in addition to reading a piece of literature together (where we work on vocabulary, comprehension, literary elements, etc.), I'm having my fourth grader read an additional book (his choice) for 30 minutes each day just for fun.  I'm not quizzing him on it or having him write about it or anything like that.  The focus is just on reading for readings' sake.  I'm so proud of him for reading three lengthy chapter books so far this year (and he's almost done with the fourth!).  I have been having him just keep a log of the titles of the books, which I'll continue to do so we can keep track of what he's read.  However, after finding this form, I've decided that from this point on I'll have him complete the form when he finishes each "just for fun" book.  It's a quick form to complete and it allows him to categorize the book by genre, rate it, and write a brief summary.  Below is his form for Because of Winn-Dixie, which he just finished last week.

The next photos show some bookmark printables that I found and loved!  I haven't used these yet, but they are just what I needed although I didn't realize it until I saw them!  When we were still doing A World of Adventure, my son and I had talked about the different types of conflict in literature.  Even though we've put AWOA aside for now, I still wanted to continue to help him analyze conflict in future texts that we read.  So.....I'm loving these bookmarks.  I made several copies of the page you see below.  My plan is to cut them out and have them available so he can easily grab them to mark places in the story where he has identified a particular type of conflict.  When finished with a book, the bookmarks used can be stapled together in a group as documentation of our learning and thinking about that particular book.

In our AWOA curriculum, we also talked about the development of plot.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to find a set of "plot" bookmarks.  Again, I've printed up a bunch of these and I'll let him use these to mark where he finds the various stages of plot development in a story.  I'm sure that initially he'll need a lot of assistance from me in how to use these tools, but I am hoping that over time he'll be able to use them himself. 

These examples are only a few of the treasure trove of resources available at Cheryl Sigmon's website.  Be sure to visit and check it out!!