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.