Sunday, June 29, 2008

And another year begins......

The start of our year is going beautifully! Cyan said the sweetest thing to me today. She said that she likes doing homeschool so much better that school now because I make it much more fun. :) This is the face of a happy mama.

Alex is a bit more difficult, but he is used to being told what to do, and then the teacher accepting whatever he did with the assignment he was given. I don't do that. What a harsh reality for him. I actually expect him to 'show his work', 'explain his thinking', and learn how to summarize. I also expect him to be quiet when I am working with Cyan or Logan. And that is going amazingly well from his end. Cyan on the other hand, will need a bit of help in that dept. But all in all, we are doing great for the start of the year.

Currently, Alex is working on 'order of operations' for his algebraic program that he is starting in August. I found this wonderful site that really has been helpful with it! Amby's Math Resource It was fun for me to play through to see if I still had what it took to do 8th grade math. I do. Teeheehee... it was quite the little rush.

Cyan is working on the same stuff she stopped on in May. The next Explode the Code, Singapore Math, and a few early readers which when she tries, she can really read. We are working on digraphs, and compound words in phonics, and she is loving that... Starfall has been great as a reward for her after she is done with her book work. Who knew a educational website could be such motivation?

I have adjusted our weeks to work with Don's already. I don't know how that is going to work out, but I do think it will be incentive for them to do their school work quickly on days like today and yesterday, where their friends are home, and ready to play.

The ice cream man has been another reward for a school day well done. What a wonderful way to end one of these horridly hot days. Who knew that such a cold spring would turn into such a scorching summer?

All in all... life is good. :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

California Condors

My mom sent us this picture from down her street today.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sweet Summer

Our yard is bringing forth bounty once more. We have had endless salads of our spinach, chard and beet greens. The strawberries are producing and we are starting to get the years first few raspberries... which makes the kids so terribly happy! I LOVE watching my kids be proud to bring in eggs from our chickens, and to go out and pick chives and other herbs for dinner dishes, spinach for salad, and now strawberries and raspberries for fruit salads. There is something so comforting and fundamental about growing your own food. I feel blessed to be in a place where I can really share that joy (and mild obsession) with my children.

The children are starting to look like Palomino horses. The bronze skin with the sun bleached hair... beautiful. They spend 90% of their time outside. That is going to double when we get the trampoline this weekend. It is their birthday gift from us... a 14 footer... with safety net attached. It should be SO much fun. I am actually excited to get up on the thing and try it out.

Here is the promise of more bounty to come. I am pinching some of the flowers now for salads, along with Borage flowers, and some new cilantro leaves... but soon there will be peas, and then beets, and soon after sunflowers and blueberries. After that the tomatoes, basil, and... oh... my mouth just waters thinking about August and the beauty that will bring. Summer is such a beautiful thing.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer school for me

CS Lewis some Turkish Delights...

 I have always loved things that bring stories and ideas together with reality. Say like a book that comes with the perfect stuffed animal, or the cookbook that comes with a set of cookies made from it with notes from the gift giver. Those are my favorite types of gifts and I try to make my gift giving as three dementional as I can in that way. When I read the book "Prince Caspian" to my children a couple months ago I bought Turkish Delights "Aplets and Cotlets" for them to snack on while I was reading. It was a neat experience for them, as I don't think they had ever had them before. For me, as a kid I went to the Aplets and Cotlets factory each time we drove through the area and I remember eating them our tiny B2-10 Datsun with my brothers and my mom very well.  

All of us homeschooling, vacationing mamas picked up some "Turkish Delights" while on our woman's retreat this weekend... and tonight the kids and I sat and watched Narnia while eating them from a silver plate.  I don't know if it is a memory that will hold for them or not... but I like to collect the moments where I can.  :)


Sunday, June 15, 2008

The last review of first grade

Language Arts... She has been writing and illustrating stories for two weeks now. She mostly writes and draws about horses, princesses, and hedgehogs. Which make me laugh. Her writings are getting more concrete and she is really starting to understand sequence and logic and she is adding that into her stories. I am enjoying this more free time to just watch her use the tools I have given her.

We firmed up some knowledge that we had touched on. Place value and fractions being the main topics.

Science... We are doing a lot of this just naturally as we finish up the harder work (planting/supporting) in the garden and start to get ready to harvest. We have spent a lot of time watching the bees we are so grateful to have here this year. She has noticed the flowers and fruit on all the bushes around the yard and we have had some great conversations about it. We have also talked a bunch about how plants get their energy and the cycle of life that comes after that when animals get that energy by eating it, and then carnivores get that energy from the small animals etc. We have identified most of the birds that come into our yard and are putting together a ‘field guide’ of the Rose Backyard with pictures, illustrations, and little personal notes about each critter we have here this time of year.

Social Studies/PE Health... We have done a lot of fun play with our friends. Most homeschool play groups and library groups are finished now.

Fine arts... Still going. Nothing outlasts the Energizer. ("I am an artist, Mom. Art is my life.")

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Learning Curves

My kids have absolutely bloomed in the last two months. For some reason, they are much better learners in the summer than they are in the winter months. Perhaps it has to do with their birthdays (both July babies), or a bit of SADD (we get depression disorder here a lot in the cold/wet. I mean really, today it is 45* and raining), or what... but especially Cyan has FLOURISHED this last two months like she didn't at all in the months before.

In the last two months she has learned to: Tie her shoes, read fluently, stop sucking her fingers, ride a two-wheeler bike, rollerskate and make her own breakfast using the stove... all of these things have been tried before, esp this year... some a couple times, but never achieved... and this last two months they have all taken leaps and bounds and all of a sudden she is a full-on 'big kid'. You know? A real big kid who can do the whole length of the monkey bars and not drop. Who can ride her bike to the neighbors down the street and I know she will look both ways and not crash. That kind of big kid.

And Alex... His change is just starting, but I can see it too. Today, he set his alarm, woke up on his own, took a shower, got dressed with all clean clothes, and had made his lunch before I was out of bed. AMAZING! Amazing I tell you, considering just last week I had to have a talk with him about how I found one pair of his unders in over a weeks worth of laundry. (Yes... that is gross.) And today, he gets up and showers without even being told. I am amazed.

Perhaps what I have to do is change the year around for them. At least to see how it works. Afterall, Don can much more easily get time off in the winter than in the summer anyway. Why not make the school year around that and take a month off when dad can be there too?

Come to think of it... Logan has been growing leaps and bounds too. It is expected of his age, but he has been in a rut with the communication stuff. Lots of yelling, LOTS of screeching. Lots of deep breathing moments for me. However, this morning, he wanted Cyan to play with him. He was sitting on my lap, and looked at her playing and said "Hey!" and then signed 'girl' 'please', and pointed at her and grunted. It was pretty much the cutest thing ever! Cyan, of course, melted when she realised what he wanted and took him and they have been playing in her room ever since.

I have warmer weather learners. Long day learners, at least. lol... 'warm' is subjective here.

Perhaps it is just thoughts. But I would sure like to try. This isn't the first year I have noticed this summer time learning curve. If I can bank on that, who knows... we may be able to take trips for Christmas and do school outside all summer? Food for thought at least.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The girl of the hour....

Cyan can READ!

She got through her Dick and Jane primer, and her Explode the Code books for the year. She can read the Dolch Site Words, and is starting to speed up. When we were done with Dick and Jane, she wanted to continue on to the next book, and read the first one of those without a hitch... then went on to read half of the book Go Dog, Go. The reading came on out of the blue too. One day she was sounding out EVERY SINGLE LETTER, and the next day she was reading them quickly with all of the appropriate inflections for punctuation. It was AMAZING! She (like most first graders) loves reading exclamation points. lol!

For her achievements, as promised, we took her to get a big fat banana split. She loved being able to share her treat with all of us and it made the reading that much more of an big deal for her.

She would like me to also add that she can tie her shoes. This is also a HUGE (and brand new) achievement that she happily announces to anyone who will listen. :) The guy at Baskin Robins was patient and listened well as she told of her new skills.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Drawing and Art as an end to the school year

Cyan only has two more stories in her primer. Explode the Code and Singapore Math books are finished. We have been focusing more on our backyard and less on animals from far away places... we have been pulling in, getting ready for the summer vacation. We started the year with art, and ended the year with art.

For the last two days, we have been reading and drawing, then reading and drawing some more. We found this wonderful archive of Jan Brett videos that include a whole bunch of "How to Draw a..." videos. Cyan has been watching them every spare minute she can. She has been sitting at the table, enraptured with the author/illistrators every move and asking me to pause the show when she falls behind. Here are some of her works from these fun little draw-a-longs:

Jan Brett has three hedgehogs. Two mamas and a little one. They are the CUTEST things! OMGoodness! At the beginning of her 'How to Draw a Hedgehog' video, she shows her baby hedgehog, which is pretty much the sweetest thing ever. She also tells the story about when one of her hedgehogs got loose and got stuck in one of her socks, which was the inspiration for our favorite Jan Brett book "The Hat".

I love this sweet little chick!

This is my favorite of the day. Cyan did such an amazing job!

As you can tell, I really love Jan Bretts work, and she has a generous spirit to have all of these activities for kids to follow along with on her web site. I am sure part of the goal is to get people to better know her work, but her love of her art shows through every thing she puts on there, and it is just so neat to be able to share some of my favorite fine art authors with my kids on such a personal level. I mean really? How many 6 year olds know what some of their favorite authors look like? Much less get to draw along with them on video and watch them take trips to Africa!

I remember what Dr Suess looks like from my youth from his pictures on the backs of his books... and a wonderful local illistrator and author, Jasper Tompkins, I got to meet when I was young at a Young Authors confrence (which I am fully ready to have my kids go to!). I remember these moments fondly. My dad is an English Prof and my mom ran Young Authors in this county for years... the fondness for good books was one of the few things they shared, and well, it is just really neat to be able to share that same love with my children.

You see the difference in hair color? The red/gold is my color... just a bit lighter. The blonde blonde is more toe-head and I believe that Cyan's hair will go brown before she is a teen. Maybe light brown, but brown, more like daddy. I think that Logan will have hair like mine. I love this picture. :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Math in the Garden Class #2

There wasn't much math in this part of the class... mostly it was games. Which were super fun. First we played "Back Yard Bingo" which they had to go and find each one of the things on this list and call out "BINGO!" (On this card, you can see the pink heart stampers and 'bingo' across the top of this one) The game went on for quite a while longer than we thought though. The kids really were into the 'hunt and find' part of the game, so they kept going... every one of them... until their cards were full.

Then we did a 'sniff and search' game. I had taken a egg carton apart and put (in two cup segments) 6 different herbs in them. The first side of the cup was an peice of the herb so they could see what it looked like... and the second part of the cup was a bunch of cut up peices of the same herb, so they could really smell it. Each kid picked one and they ran off to find the herb that they had chosen. That was SO much fun! I hope that Sarah got pictures of it... I sure did not... I was having fun running around and comparing the kids guesses with them. :)

Then we did leaf rubbings. I had picked a bunch of huge Broad Leaf Maple leaves on my walk that morning, and the kids did big rubbings of them on a roll of paper. Then they each got their leaf and made a creature out of it. After a while, imaginations were kicking in....

Then, their imaginations went wild. They started asking if they could do the same with leaves from around my yard. All of them were amazing!

It was just amazing to watch... Every one of these came out of beautiful 1st grade minds. :)

The last bit of the class was comparing our garden boxes. Each family had taken care of theirs a bit different. One had put hers in a sunny window for a week, and then put it outside. Another had it outside the whole time, and another had it in a shaded, but bright back room. Drastically different just from the amount of direct sun they were allowed to get and the warmth of their first growing weeks. That was incredible to me, but I have to admit, the kids were not as thrilled with that part as with the rest of the class. lol...

During the first class, we planted some seeds in my big garden of swiss chard and spinach. The kids from the second class helped me pick all of that, and then make a salad out of it.

We pulled up our carrots, chard, and radishes from our garden boxes, and added the chard to the salad from the big garden. We talked a bit about what plants need to grow, and read part of the Seeds, Seeds, Seeds book. We ate the salad and drank lemonade and had our salad with raspberry vinagrette dressing for a lunch starter.

All in all, even without much math, it was a great and fun class.

More science inspiration

Take a Cloud Walk

What a cool little e book! I am putting this one away for a nicer day this summer. :)

Monday, June 2, 2008

New science inspiration

This book on Amazon

What a neat series! I would have never thought of using this if I didn't have an older child, but it really is about 3rd grade and up... a few of the concepts can even be modified for Cyan's level. And most of them can go along with really fun outings/unit studies/cooking. I am adding it to my list for next year as well as others in her series.