Saturday, March 29, 2008

Amazing Alex

Alex is at a very trying age... The pert age (from 10 - 15 or there abouts) "is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to 'catch people out' (especially ones elders); and by the propounding of conundrums. It's nuisance value is extremely high." ~ Dorothy Sayers

It's nuisance value is extremely high... boy, that could be my life story in a sentence at the moment. Through the choice to keep Alex home next year, I have had to already build up my patience levels to 'abnormally high'. Sometimes it works... sometimes it doesn't. But already, our relationship is shifting. I am talking to him about things that I normally would not bother... when the "adult" he is sassing back to is somebody else, it is easier to not comment. When the adults he is sassing back to is ME... 'Well... buddy. Let's talk.'

For all that, he is an AMAZING kid. Very smart, the most kind and nurturing person I have ever met, and if I can keep him from the guilt issues I have, he will be really successful in life. School, unfortunately, has started to give him some of those complexes I have such a hard time with as an adult. He feels guilty when he doesn't get something done (even if it is really too much for him to do), the only time he is happy and can relax is if he has "everything" done. I often make him lists of the things he needs to do because he is a bit distract-able (I haven't met an 11 year old boy who isn't) and can't follow a task to completion without going on to something else in the middle. The school would like to say "ADD", but I would love to shout back "NORMAL BOY!"

Lately, he has been very creative. I don't know if it is because we have been having lots of discussions with and around him about staying home next year, or if he is just coming into his own creativity and finally making things that he approves of (another issue we share), but some of the things he comes up with are truly stunning.

This is a poem he made up, written with a quill he and I made, with ink he and his grandma made out of steal wool and vinegar. I think that is pretty impressive! I can't wait to see what the next year will bring. I think it will be wonderful for the most part. But after all "It's nuisance value is extremely high... "

Here's hoping.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Field Trip

Friday is our field trip day.  Today we went to the Conservitory at Wright Park about an hour from here.  It was small, but beautiful!  There were tons of plants around and some were just amazing to see!  My favorite was the All Spice plant.  The herb is taken from the dried leaves and let me tell you, it smells just like the dried herb!  It was a pretty plant too.  I will have to remember that one if I ever build my permanent green house that I have in my head. 

Here is a picture of the kids looking at a pool of Koi and Goldfish, and one catfish named "Wilber".  That is my long legged girl in the forground.  Sorry for the bad shot, but all the others included pictures of the faces of other peoples children.  I try not to post those.

The whole time we were there, it was just dumping snow outside.

The beauty outside, was of course, rivaled by the beauty inside:

It was a beautiful trip.  Add it to a play date with other homeschooling friends, pizza and a movie night, and you have a pretty darn good day.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's with the Twigs?

Lately our days have been full and the weather has been fridged cold.  We even got snow that lasted all night last night.  For our temperate climate, that is rare if not unheard of this time of year, but I was prepared for March to end like a lion as it came in like a lamb with the beautiful sit-in-the-grass days.  So we have lots of movies rented from the library, and we are finishing up our study on the Arctic and Antarctic this week.  We are moving on to Africa next week with the arrival of Meerkat Manor.  I wonder if the weather will follow suit?

Yesterday was our nature journal day, but we didn't get to do much but draw pictures of the falcon we saw on our fence last week and write a bit in our books.  So we decided that we needed some more catching up today.  We took a walk around the block (which is technically two blocks) and collected twigs from all the near-to-budding things we could see. 

Can you see it?  All the buds close to bursting if they could just get one, maybe two more days of warm weather?  The plants are feeling my pain. 

In this bunch what I know we have is Forsythia (yellow to the rt), flowering Cherry, Wheeping Cherry (in the front with the droppy pink buds), Apple, Pussy Willow, Japanese Maple, Red Maple, and two kinds that I could not identify right away which I will be thrilled to see pop out of their buds on my kitchen table.  Some of these branches are interesting... whenever we saw a different branch on the same tree we tried to get both.  Some branches have lots of flowers, and others lots of leaves.  There are branches from the same tree, from the same large branch that look completely different this time of year!  It is fasinating.  I can't wait to get my Tree Ring Discovery Kit to go with this experiment. 

As we were walking, a public school friend of Alex's saw us and came outside.  The first words out of her mouth were "What's with the twigs?". I told her that we were going to chart which branches had leaves, and which had flowers and then identify them by bringing them inside and forcing them, because they will think that it has warmed up and open.  She stood there for a second, with her mouth open, and then said "Cool".  I don't think she expected me to answer.  Or at least didn't expect me to have an answer ready.   Um, yes hon.  You are talking to a 24/7 teacher.  ;)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Today, like any other

Wednesday is our nature day.  Although today was full to the brim, so we just did a little bit of nature study (Ecojournals, and then took pictures of the beautiful snow) and mostly did fun stuff with friends.

Every other Wednesday, a friend of mine runs a reading group, where she reads a book (at a public library) and the kids draw pictures from that book and then share with the group at the end.  It is wonderful for Cyan to have this time with her friends.  She is happy about it every time she sees it coming on her calendar. 

Before we can go though, we need to get through some basics.  Today was Singapore Math... we have just started this program, so we are not even half way through the first set of books yet.  But with place value, I decided to make sticks with 10 beans on them up to a hundred, and then have 9 more besides so she can create any number 1 - 100.  It has worked out really well so far.  She is understanding it, and today, all by herself, she made 100 and called me over to see.  I love it when you can see they are more than ready to understand a concept.  The gentle type of learning that she is doing is the best for our family.... no one feels a whole lot of pressure.  Well, of course, except for me.

You can see where I was sitting behind her... with all my nature books right next to my chair.  LOL!  I am loving reading them while she is working.  Now I just need to resist the darned computer a bit more.  ;)

Here is what Logan does for a lot of the morning right now:

Some times the strangest things bring out the creativity in my children.  Here is what Alex did when he found a feather stuck to one of the eggs this afternoon:

I found this little "man" above my microwave when I got home.  What a funny little surprize!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Some fun resources

I have been writing my own curriculum this year.  Sometimes, it feels like I plan SO much more than we actually get anything done that I feel overwhelmed, and like I am not good at this curriculum thing at all.  But it isn't the planning I am bad at.  I am KILLER at the planning.  It is getting the things done that I planned.  lol...  So lately, I have wanted to plan (at least to a point) the rest of our weeks this year and put forth some studies for summer (which will all, in some way, be out in nature and the garden).  I have been working on a resouce list for others to help with their troubles in this area.  Sometimes, it is just helpful to know where to start.

A free planner and unit study sheet so you don't loose where you got your book on whatever and what video you watched that sent all that crazy info on who'sawhat'sa home in your child's brain.

The HomeSchool Mom

The second one is for those of us who are doing unit studies as science and social studies.  You don't have to have copies of your moms 400 editions anymore. Although it is tempting to see some of this in print.  This site even has lesson plans for unit studies (like the one we just did on Elephant Seals)

National Geographic Magazine

Jan Brett is one of my all time favorite children's book author/illustrators.  She also has a very generous heart to give all of these artistic drawings for free along with hundreds of activities and ideas for the homeschool (and not so homeschool) classroom.

Jan Brett's Activity Pages

This site has been wonderful for creating worksheets to help my daughter with math.  I provide manipulitives, which usually correlate with the other studies we have been doing (like when we were studying the NW Forests, we gathered 25 pinecones, and 25 acorns and she did her math with them for weeks), but every time I have needed a refresher for her on addition, subtraction, or even the begining fractions, this site has been wonderful.

The Math Worksheet Site

This is a website I use often enough to buy.  It was $19.95 for the year, and I paid it with glee.  Just search on something you would like to see your child research, or learn, or even build on... and they probably have some dittos, or games, or worksheets, or "Draw and Write" (I use the site for these most often, and have even made my own).  They have some stuff for free, but I have found it worth the money.

Ok, that is it for tonight.  :)  Night all!

Nature books... oh my!

Between the library and, I have gotten 6 nature books in the last two days. One, of course, was the one for our Green Hour Challenges. It is called The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock... the thing is HUGE! I can't wait to dig in. What an amazing collection. And to think that she wrote this back in 1911. So much of it (as far as I can see) is still so valid today, nearly 100 years later. This book was bought by me... I am happy to say it is mine mine mine.

Math in the Garden is another book I purchased. I am loving this one too. Tons of different ideas. So much so I am having trouble putting it down. I have designed a class for our homeschool group from this book and some of my own personal ideas. It has two parts. The first is making a nature journal, and potting a small (18X6 inch) planter with various root and above ground plants (that would go home with the children), along with planting a large planter (that I would take home with me) with lettuce seeds. The second class would be 4 to 5 wks later, and would include drawings from our garden plants, measurements of the roots, and the above ground parts of the plants, and eating out lettuce salad from the big planter. I hope it works out... at the least, my kids will be doing this and I think it will be tons of fun!

Hands-on Nature is another book I bought, although I bought the older version rather than the one I got from the library last week (it was less than half the price). This book has more crafts and ideas than I know what to do with. But some of them are just too neat not to have. How to make a perfect snowflake, and what weather conditions it takes to make certian types of precipitation is just the start of it. It is a wealth of information and I plan on putting tons of little tabs in it to projects I want to remember.

From the library I got Organic Crafts. It is a younger child's book, but has great ideas. In them include how to make a true 'family tree' where each leaf rubbing represents a person in your family and recipes for things like Natural Paste, and Cornstarch Paint. Those will come in handy. I scanned some of the sheets so I can have them handy as we enter into the gardening season.

Another one from the library: Easy Garden Projects for all Seasons by Barbra Pleasant. I got this book becuase I loved the other one by her (Easy Garden Projects to Make, Build, and Grow). I haven't been able to crack it open much yet. I am still over with the Math in the Garden book and reading the next one on my list.

A Pocket Full of Pinecones. What a neat book. Written by Karen Andreola (the same woman who wrote the Charlotte Mason Companion) she talks about nature study, and wrote a story about "Carol" who decides to add a nature study day to their homeschool experiences. It is delightful. And I am only about 1/4 of the way into it.

Since Wednesday is our nature journaling day, I will be ready tomorrow with about a million ideas and excitement that I am sure will infect my comatose children... hey, I can dream right?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Deep Sea Exploration

Slowly, oh ever so slowly, Cyan and I are leaving the Arctic.  Being an unschooler at heart, when I had planned to go on to other habitats of the world, and she protested because she hadn't studied whales, or seals, or walrus, well of course I said that we would stay in the Arctic. 

Things like this video that was sent to me via an homeschool group email are just the sort of thing that I need to pull her away from the Arctic and on to other interesting areas of the world. 

TED - Underwater Astonishments

The ocean looks like fun.  Esp considering the Arctic is ending with the underwater critters.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Something fun to do with all those eggs...

Egg Planters

Eggshell Planters

Long ago, Bulgarian, Yugoslavian and Greek farmers would bury painted eggs in their fields at Eastertime to make their grapevines grow. The paint probably didn't help anything, but the calcium in the eggshells probably helped enrich the soil. That's one reason why eggshells make good containers for little plants. A second reason is that an eggshell is a good size to start out tiny seedlings. The third reason is that a dozen eggshell planters sitting in an egg carton fit nicely in a small place, like a windowsill.

To make eggshell planters, you don't need whole eggshells. You can use the halves of eggshells that were cracked for cooking or baking. Just be sure the eggshells are clean. Rinse the shell parts in very hot water or pour boiling water over them. Then, turn the shell parts upside down to drain. To dye the shells, you can use them still wet. If you want to paint faces on your shells, let them dry first. Put the faces on the eggs so that the plants will look like hair sprouting out the tops.

When your eggs are decorated, put the eggs back into their carton so they'll stand upright. Put a cotton ball in the bottom of each shell to collect water so the soil won't get too soggy. Spoon potting soil on top of the cotton. Then, add grass seeds to make a green-haired pal or add herb seeds to make a kitchen garden with a nice smell. Gently water the eggshell planters and put the cartonful of planters near sunlight. (See the seed package to find out exactly how much water and light your plants need.) If your plants grow really well and get too big for the eggshells, you can put them into bigger pots of soil - eggshell planters and all. Just crack the shells in a few places so the plants' roots can reach the new soil.

~ Resourced from Kids and Family

Friday, March 21, 2008

Famous Quote

"Mom, God and Mother Nature must be friends."~ Cyan

Easter Dates

I love this type of information. (Info paraphrased from an informative email)

- Do you realize how early Easter is this year and why? It's March 23! As you may know, Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after Ostara, or the Spring Equinox (which is March 20 this year). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around in date on our Roman based calendar.

The link above is the moon calendar for this month. You can see that the Spring Equinox was yesterday (March 20th this year), and the full moon is tomorrow (or tonight, depending on timezone). Making Easter the next day (this Sunday).

Other info on the subject:

- Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare. Here's the interesting info. This year (2008) is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see for the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!

- The latest date that Easter can fall is April 25th.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Homeschooler in training...

Logan loves to color. I think he got that from watching Cyan and Alex do it for hours each day. Well, today, I let him color at the big table and not in his highchair. He is hooked, and THRILLED to be working right next to the big kids.

Sweet Baby... he will be 14 mos old in three days. He is getting so big.

We sew on Thursdays

Here is Cyan with her 4th sewing lesson from last week. She is loving it. This week we are still working on paper, but I told her that if she got her regular school work done 'the easy way' we would make her kitty toy today. She has been waiting to make Taio a cat toy for weeks... it is big incentive. Plus, I just don't feel like doing a whole lot of eyeballs falling out reading work. Sewing sounds like more fun!

Logan desperatly wanted to help... he was SO upset he could not touch the sewing machine. So he settled for this instead:

Apparently, a huge bag of lace from a friend is fun too.

The book we have used for these lessons is My First Machine Sewing Book by Winky Cherry. It is a great reference, but not necessary. Before we got the book, I was having her sew, with no thread, through simple mazes that I printed out on line. Basically this is what they teach. They do have some information I did not about what parts of the machine are called. But the machine they use is very old, and with mine being a pro machine, they don't always even have the same parts. Luckily, the book costs less than $20 and it is a great way to get a curriculum pattern down for teaching to sew.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

One of THOSE homeschool moments...

...where you wish you were invisible.

We are high maintence library patrons.

Ok, so Cyan and I are checking out our 22 items from the library (these are the items that were on hold), and Cyan went to look at the new DVD's. As she is walking back to me to show me her finds, she spins the DVD rack (pretty much as fast as she can). Low and behold, DVD's shoot in about a 10 ft radius around the DVD rack as my daughter stands there, completely speachless.

Oh yes... the library ladies loved me today. Some laughed, and said it was alright... others were not so much. We helped pick them up and left VERY soon after. I am guessing the lady that was sorting as we left is STILL sorting, an hour later.

A big lesson in centripetal force was learned today

Nature Study Wednesdays

A huge part of our homeschool is nature study.  It has become most of the science section for Cyan's school year.  We work on our Ecojournals each week, which are like a journal for nothing but our observations in nature.  Cyan has put pictures, dictated entries (while I write), we have mapped the yard, and have created some refuge for birds, bugs, and critters inside our yard.  We have put our observations in a three ring notebook by season.  Meaning that spring 2008 will go with spring 2007, and not just after Winter.  They will continue to go in order according to season because I want to be able to see the entire picture of the seasonal changes.  My oldest (Alex, 6th grade) has already started to notice a few differences in this year and last year that we hadn't observed before.  This will be an interesting project to continue for years to come, whether I am homeschooling or not.

The Green Hour Challenge is an amazing idea.  Harmony Art Mom has put together a challenge each week for children to get out side and observe nature.  We have just started this project, and have really enjoyed looking at the others.  We will be doing this each Wednesday with our Ecojournals.  For the most part, it is very similar to what we are doing already, but it is fun to get different guidence every now and again.

Other resources on nature study:

Fun with Nature and More Fun with Nature put out by NortonPress Books is great for bringing along on nature walks.  It has wonderful pictures and information on all sorts of things.  These two volumes have been in my car off and on for the last 7 months.  We bring them to the tide pools we travel to, even sometimes to the zoo.  They cover everything from Shells, to Leaves and Seeds, to Feathers, to Scat (poo) and all with wonderful pictures and explinations.

Child's Play in Nature by Leslie Hamilton.  This book has wonderful ideas for begining to get to know the world around you.  Everything from Acorn people (using the acorn caps as hats, and acorns as heads) to flashlight walks in the dark, it has great step by step instructions for each craft or activity.  It is a must for the youngest nature walkers.

The Little Hands Nature Book by Nancy Fusco Castaldo.  Another one for the youngest nature explorers of us (ages 2 - 6).  It has games listed for the little explorers to do, like find the bear in the woods (a stuffed bear, of course) and how to take care of a wolly bear caterpillar.  Lots of fun.

Easy to Create Wildlife Habitats by Emily Stetson.  This book expands on observation and help for backyard wildlife.  It also has many ideas for things that older kids can do, like help yourself nesting supplies for birds, how to cast a deer footprint, and how to create a worm bin. 

One Small Square series, by Donald M Silver is a wonderful way to get to know habitats that are not your own.  They lay all of the peices of the habitat out in a form that is so easy to understand, that even complex ideas like arctic animals changing into their white coats for the winter is easy to grasp and fun to learn.  I have learned a ton from this series.  This is where most of our unit studies on animals start.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday is baking day

Every Tuesday is baking day at the Rose Garden.  Today we made buttermilk biscuits in the shape of shamrocks to go along with my Irish Beef Stew.  Alex helped more than Cyan did, but they both enjoyed trying to figure out the recipe (the recipe had an addendum to make buttermilk biscuits from a regular baking powder biscuit recipe). 

I will have pictures of our baking efforts eventually. 

Book List

Books, wow I love books. Some of them take my breath away with their ideas and ingenuity. Here is a list of books I use for homeschooling on a daily basis:

A Well Trained Mind By Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

First Language Lessons For A Well Trained Mind By Jessie Wise

Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks

Sunflower Houses and Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy

All Year Round by Ann Druitt

Fun with Nature and More Fun with Nature by various writers, brought to you by North Word Press

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Unit Studies

Cyan and I have been doing animal unit studies all year. I will list all that we have studied and eventually I will have a post for each one that can be looked up for others who want to study these wonderful animals.

Life Cycles:

Nocturnal Animals:

Animals of the Northwest Forest:
Great Horned Owl
Golden and Bald Eagles

Arctic and Antarctic Animals:
Polar Bear

These are all so far, but we have learned a great deal. (Even me... who would have guessed that homeschooling teaches the teacher as much as it does the kids?)

Life is budding everywhere... beware lots of pictures.

One of the wonderful things of homeschooling, is that you have the time to research things, much more indepth than you would if you had 35 kids to follow. With only the three (and technically only two because Logan is just along for the ride at this point) I don't just have time to talk to them about owl babies. I have the time to take them to Nisqually Valley Refuge and watch the fledgling Great Horned owls, sitting in the trees,
watched closely by their mama, jumping from branch to branch, stretching their wings. All from only a few hundred feet away. (This is one of those moments when I REALLY want a better camera.) Here was some of what we read as prep for this trip.
After we had watched the owls for a while, (it took that long for some of us to see them. Camoflage is an amazing thing.) we walked around the refuge and saw the rest of what the wetland forest world has to offer during this time of rebirth.

You could see the life budding everywhere. From the bracken ferns on the trunks of all the trees,

to the musrat, building her nesting home, to the ducks;

A mating pair of Malards.

Some other kind of duck. I think it is a variety of wood duck.

After a while, we wandered on from the wooded wetland area to the more open wetlands. There is a look out, about 500 yards away from where the owls are, looking over the whole wetlands. We saw thousands of geese, a handful of ducks, and a beautiful red tailed hawk. He was SO close to me, soaring under the platform I was on, but I missed him with my camera until he was farther away. It was one of those breathtaking moments, where you are almost not sorry you missed it on camera, because there is no way film would catch how stunning it was to be standing right next to a soaring raptor. It was amazing!

Yet another wonderful homeschooling moment. No matter what days off my husband is given, we are always ready to go on an outing with him. We can always "do school" on the days when he is not home. That makes our weeks flow by so much nicer than when we had one set of days, and he had another. We have a lot more family together time.

Poor Cyan. Soon after we left the hawk, got a lesson in 'why we stay on the path'. She stumbled off the pathway, and landed with her left hand in stinging nettles. This tragedy (becuase they REALLY hurt for a while) along with the fact that it was the coldest day we had had in weeks, sent us home a bit ahead of schedule.

We were on the way back to the car, dh, Cyan, and Logan up ahead, and Alex and I laging behind. And out of the corner of my eye I saw this:

A Great Blue Heron, about 25 ft away from the path. She (I honestly don't know the gender, but...) was watching us pass. Barely moving, just watching intently, ready to move if we got too close, but obviously used to humans in close quarters. If not trusting, and still very wild.

And oh so beautiful!

Cyan's review for March

Daily work/Life skills... Daily calendar work includes writing the date two different ways ("Tuesday, March 18, 2008" and "3-18-2008") which she puts on most of her daily assignments.

Math... We have been working with money and place value lately. Carrying 10s has been a bit of an issue, but we are starting again, working with popcorn, glue and popcicle sticks, and so far it seems to be sinking in. As far as money goes, we have every thing down (including addition and subtraction of money) up to a dollar. The switch to over 100 is getting her every time. We are working on that.

Science.... We are still primarily doing nature studies and small nature experiments. We are writing weekly in her eco-journal and having at least once every two week outings to see all the life that is budding in our area right now. Last week we went to see two baby great horned owls at the Nisqually Refuge. We have been writing numerous small stories about arctic animals, and watching videos on them constantly in our free time. She is rather enthralled.

Social Studies... She is in a homeschool group are on at least one outing a week. Yesterday we had a St Patricks day party with cornbeef and cabbage and all the gold and green trimmings and crafts.

Fine Arts... Cyan draws all day long. Ever single assignment has a drawing aspect, even if I didn't know it. ;)

Friday, March 14, 2008

The first step always feels like the biggest...

Pulling my kids out of school was the first step. And it has taken a year, many debates, and much foot dragging for me to get both of them liberated from the public school system. Alex still has to finish out this year, but I figure, we can start documenting this now. The ideas will creep up, and run away from me in the next months, and I wouldn't want any of them to go away for good... so here it is. The first post of a new adventure in homeschooling in the Rose Garden.