Thursday, December 27, 2012

Grace for 2013

Praise the Lord for daily grace and new beginnings.  Are you discouraged in your schooling? Don't be!  His grace is new every morning....and every minute if you need it that often!  Take a deep breath, pray and begin again.

We are sharing our Christmas vacation with a vicious virus. BOO!  The 2013 part of our 2012-2013 school year will be here before we know it.  I have many plans for fun studies and readings with the little Lambies.  I have some pictures of December studies to blog and share, too. All in good time, friends!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Struggling Reader Story

Some of my children have struggled to learn to read.  Some have picked it up quickly.  Some take a while, but end up successful in not TOO much time.

With one of my strugglers, I took a new tact this year.  He had been working through 100 Easy Lessons, and reached a little over halfway.  Each day, he struggled through it, guessing some sounds, forgetting what he had "mastered" yesterday... It's the way his brain works.  I know it.  He knows it.  We try not to get too worked up about it because when it clicks, it will click!

We tried Pathway Phonics, too, among other things, but it advanced too quickly for him so we set it aside and returned to 100 EZ Lessons.

When school started this year, I sat this son down and talked about how last year went.  We discussed how hard letters are for his brain to remember and how repetition is the key.  Then I "broke the bad news".  I told him we were going to start 100 EZ Lessons over again, rather than pick up where we left off before summer break.

He wasn't happy.

However, ten weeks into our school year, I can say it was the right decision!  He is breezing through the book, reading successfully and with more speed and accuracy.  He actually is interested now in learning to read and is practicing outside of reading time!  He has correctly sounded out words and phrases in real life, even during free time.  He's not fluent by any means, but I see a being a Reader in his future THIS YEAR!

Sometimes, it just takes a reset button.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Buggy For Bugs

If your kids are anything like mine, they are love the four-footed furry animals, but they are also always bringing in new six and eight-legged friends.  We've been a host family to grasshoppers, locusts, an injured honeybee, praying mantises, a potato bug, a sun scorpion and many other buggidies.

I use a couple of different sites to identify new insects and spiders that we see.  The first I found was What's That Bug.  We found this one when we captured a sun scorpion and had no idea what in the world it could be.  We love the Bug-of-the-Month feature.

What's That Bug led me to BugGuide. Now I usually use BugGuide first, since they have a nice thumbnail feature that makes searching easier than by name only.

I'll often bring up one or the other site and let an interested child have some bonus computer time browsing around.  Yep, it's science!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Starting with Money

Missy's newest endeavor is to master the art of money.  She's ten now, and needs to have this skill for adulthood!  Today we sat down and learned the names of the coins.  Missy's special learning style requires many, many multiple repetitions of facts before they are mastered, so we began with simple sorting.  I had her pour out all of her coins. I showed her each, a penny, a nickel, a dime and a quarter, one at a time. I named each president, not that I expect her to remember their names in this lesson, and we talked about the color, size and weight of each coin.  We noted which ones had smooth edges and which have a reeded edge.

I had her find a penny and declare, "I found a penny!" until she had separated each out into a pile.  Then we repeated it with nickels, dimes and quarters.  It took some time, but she was having fun and learning the name of each coin. After that, I held up random coins and had her say "That is a ______ and it's worth ____cents.".  After doing that for a while, I had her pul random coins from the pile, say their names and values and then drop them into the red cup we had nearby.  Our final activity was the funnest.  She closed her eyes, held out her hand and I dropped a coin or two into it.  She had to feel the coin and decide what coin it was and tell me before opening her eyes.  If she got it right, she got to add it to the cup.

She still wanted to play with the coins more, but it was time to wrap up the lesson. I try never to wear her out during a lesson, but stop when she's still enjoying herself. I let her go and let Jack and Troubles join in.  Since they know the coin names and values already, I just played a short game with them.  I had them close their eyes, hold out their hands and I dropped three or four coins in.  They felt the coins, added the values and declared their guess before opening their eyes and self-correcting.  They also attempted to add the value of ALL the coins.  Neither was able to do that, though.

I hope that if you have a child who has special needs, you are focusing on real-life skills rather than frustrating your child and yourself on math that they will not be using in their lives.  Missy works on counting, two and three digit addition and subtraction, reading a clock and money and until these are mastered, she doesn't need anything else!

Here are some helpful site for printables and games:
Simple Worksheets and Games
Lots of coin activities!
Interactive games

Friday, August 24, 2012

Why Do You Homeschool?

"Why do you homeschool?"  Ask that at a park day or parent's meeting and you'll get a wide range of answers.

I have two purposes in home schooling. I strive to teach my children righteousness, instructing them in Scripture so they know it inside and out.  That way, if they hear a falsehood, even dressed up really pretty as if it was Biblical, they will spot it immediately and not be deceived.  I desire that they walk with the Lord all of their days and bear much fruit in their lives.

Secondly, I want to teach them how to learn.  That's the purpose of our academic studies.  It doesn't really matter if they commit Boudiccia' story to heart. It doesn't matter if they know every element on the periodic table.  It's doesn't even matter if they can multiply four digits of numbers by four more.  When  they are adults and need to know something new, I want them to know how to go out and get that information. We'll never be able to teach every fact and figure.  Did your years at school give you all the knowledge you needed for your entire lifetime?  Of course not. But you learned what you needed to know at the time you needed to know it.  If you learned how to learn, that process was automatic and you did it with ease.  If you didn't, you probably struggled more when faced with new responsibilities.

Don't get weighed down with the details of education.  Look ahead and see that bright future of watching your child succeed with the skills you have instilled in him or her, not the facts!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Essentials by Greg Laurie

We do a lot of Scripture study in our family.  We attend Calvary Chapel and go through the Bible book by book, verse by verse with our church family.  We have read through the Bible aloud at home.  We've also read through Catherine Vos' great story Bible.

My Lambies are old enough to do some real thoughtful Bible application now, so we are adding other interesting books to our Bible study. On their own, they're reading classic devotional books, like More Than A Carpenter and A Year With C. S. Lewis.  They're reading apologetic books like Know What You Believe and Know Why You Believe. We spent half of last school year and the first couple of weeks of this year reading Essentials by Greg Laurie.  We've enjoyed it very much and had many great discussions sparked from its pages.  I highly recommend adding this book to your family's library!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Classics Offer!

I was made aware of an incredible deal on classic books.  Yesterday's Classics, who I have ordered from several times, has made 225 of their titles available in Kindle or EPUB form for only $49.95!  This is an outstanding chance to expand your home library for pennines per book.  I am not getting a commission or any credits for passing along the link. I just want each and every homeschooling family to have the chance to take advantage of Yesterday's Classics generous offer!  Click over and buy before Tuesday, August 28th!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chinese Cultural Center Visit

The other day we went to the Chinese Cultural Center for the first time.  We drive past it often, but had never stopped by before. We learned about the real lives of Confucius and Buddha during Mystery of History last year and I thought this would be a nice complement to that study. Here are the kids, squinting into the sun because if they faced the other way, the pictures was all washed out.
These two garments were on display. The white one looked older than the black one and was exquisitely embroidered.  The darker one looked machine sewn to me.
 Here's a close up of the stitching on the white garment.
 There was lots of art on display, too.
 This drum was crying out to be pounded, or so my little boys thought.  They controlled themselves very well, though, so I allowed them to thump their fingers on it softly before we left.
 This statue was outside, baking in the sun,  The plaque was entirely in Chinese, so we didn't know who was depicted.  I suspect it was Confucius, though.
Something that would have made it better would have been for a guide to have been there. The only other person we saw was a Spanish speaking housekeeper. I asked her if there was an attendant, but she said she was the only person there. It was a fun little field trip regardless, and I am glad that we finally made the time to stop by.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back-to-School Interviews

I have posted how I plan our school year before, and even once before that, but have never posted about our Back-to-School interview.  Today I will remedy that.

For the last few years, I have created a Back-to-School interview for my children.  I print it off and give each child a copy to complete.  Children who can not yet read or write get to do it orally with me.  I ask things like, "Which book you enjoy most last year?", "What would you most want to learn about this year?", "What did you least enjoy last year?" and "What do you need to practice more this year?".  There are usually 8-10 different questions of this sort.

After giving them a day to complete it, I call them to me one by one, privately, and discuss their interviews.  I find out what they didn't like about a particular book or subject; what their specific, personal interest is for the term or the year; and specifically what they think they need to work on more.  We pull books from the shelves according to their interests and later I begin working on their term work forms. I really enjoy our time talking together and getting some insight into their feelings about school.

I often craft a course specifically for a child's interest or need discussed in the interview.  For example, last year for my 10th grader, I made a Health and Nutrition course.  I chose three books for her to read and wrote down the specific requirements for her to earn her credit.  I will write out the specifics in a future post.  I made two copies of that page, one for me and one for her.  She was required to complete all the points before the end of the school year.  It helped teach her responsibility of time management and how to budget her work load throughout the Term.

For another example, one of my daughters loves to cook.  She has mastered making most of our normal meals and wants more challenge.  Therefore, this school year, she'll be doing a "World Cuisines" course. I haven't planned the entire study yet, but consists of an overview about a culture (Japanese, for example), a history of their geography and natural food sources (which greatly affect their traditional foods),  their 'stereotypical' dishes and if they are realistic or not, specific vocabulary relating to their cuisine (wok, chopsticks, etc) and choosing a few of their dishes to prepare and serve.

Our back-to-school interview makes this kind of planning easier because I can really get to know what they would like to learn about in depth.  It makes school so much more worthwhile than simply doing Math, Science and History blah-blah-blah.  To have a real personal interest to explore makes a world of difference!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer Nature Study in the Sequoias

We went camping last week in the beautiful Sequoia mountains. I love it up there! I spent a wonderful hour or so with Missy and Troubles, doing an impromptu nature study. We walked down a hill from our campsite and began looking...really looking at our surroundings.  We turned over rocks to see what may be living under them, we examined tree bark, we spied all that we could.  Here are some of our finds:

This is an ant nursery that was under a rock.  The white things are the larvae.

There was a lot of this around.  I thought it would be easy to identify, but alas, I can not find a picture that looks like it.  Any guesses?

Here's a centipede we found under a rock.  We also saw (and captured in a cup for a time) a large millipede.  Always be careful with both, since they can bite and are venomous. 

We think these might be some kind of mushrooms.

This is a net-shaped web that Missy found.  Later, we found ones closer to the ground and observed the spiders living within.  They are large, about as big as your thumbnail, and brown and black in coloration. 

I haven't been able to identify this flower.  It was coming up out of the leaf litter and bees were pollinating it and drinking nectar. It had no apparent smell to us and no green leaves.  It measured only about 5-6 inches across all of the clumps. Anyone know what it is? Please leave a comment!

Nearby, we found this.  At first we thought it was scat, despite its bright coloring.  After researching, I think it may be Vomit Slime Mold.  What a crazy thing!  

These caterpillars dive-bomb right out of the trees.  The children liked their 'horns' and tail.  

We found this weathered stump with clear rings.  Counting carefully, we got to 40 before we reached the middle and they became too small to discern. 

I took this one to show how small the stump actually was.  Think how long it takes a tree like this to reach maturity!  

The Columbines were blooming and beautiful!

The next day, our family took the beautiful, two mile hike to the Adam and Eve Trees near Shake Camp Campground. 

Here are lots of Columbine near the trailhead.

Manzanita was plentiful along the trail. 

A majestic Sequoia

You really should put visiting here high on your list of things to do before the Lord calls you home. It's simply magnificent!  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Of Climate, Phlebotomists and Deserts

It's summer.  We aren't doing any organized studies right now and it feels nice.  That doesn't mean that we aren't learning, of course.  I'm doing tons of canning and house projects, the kids are helping, of course, and practicing their favorite skills.

EmBlem is studying her drivers manual (GULP!) diligently and helping craft items for auctions and giveaways to help adopting Reece's Rainbow families with the financial burden.

GirlofGod is the chef in the house.  She'd cook every meal if I would let her!  In fact, her birthday is coming up and when I asked what she wanted, she replied, "I want to bake myself a cake and cook a full dinner!".  She's enamored with the idea of culinary school and looks forward to working in a commercial kitchen, perhaps as a sous chef.

Vic is becoming quite good at guitar and is helping to lead worship in midweek service.  He's also learning to play the keyboard. Innate musical talent astounds me and I am so glad to have a son with the gift!  I love hearing him making joyful noise to the Lord.

Trixie has such a heart for orphans.  She's a prayer warrior for Mark.  Isn't he the cutest? She enjoys jewelry making and made a very nice bracelet for the last Hidden Treasures auction.

We spent the 4th of July in the mountains, lower than we usually visit, so the landscape was different.  We drove through grassy foothills and Troubles marveled.  As the golden grassy fields stretched as far as you could see, he remarked that it felt like we were driving through Egypt! As we gained elevation, there was a moment when we very clearly left the grassland and entered forest.  I thought it was interesting how very different a few feet can be between climate zones!

Later, the Lambies were discussing vampire bats.  Polly was teaching Troubles all that she knew about them (which was quite a bit!).  He asked me if vampires (like the human shaped monster type) were real.  I answered that the only human type vampires were phlebotomists.  He then asked if they were in the same family as mosquitos.

Jack is reading more and more, which is nice. I appreciate the effort it takes him to sound things out and work out the meaning.  He's also becoming quite aware of the beginning sounds of words and working hard to pronounce them correctly.

Missy, happily, doesn't enjoy watching TV, so when it's on, she's usually drawing or copying.  She *loves* copy work!  She's growing in responsibility and remembering to do her assigned chores without being reminded.  She brings me books on occasion and asks for a story.

I miss reading so much to the children.  In the business of summer activities, daily reading sometimes falls by the wayside.  To help combat that forgetfulness, I began a chapter book with the Littles.  We're reading The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor illustrated by Phillip Reed.  I tried to find the copy we have online for a link, but couldn't.  Maybe it's an unusual one?  I will next read some of the Tales From The Arabian Nights, if they are still interested in this style of story when we finish Sinbad.

Speaking of Arabia, Troubles wanted to write a story about deserts but didn't know very much about them.  He asked me to take him into our library and find a book about deserts so he could learn about them for his story.  We pulled and read "Desert Giant" and "Cactus Hotel" since these are the type of desert that we are nearest. He really paid attention and is crafting an interesting story.

Learning doesn't stop because its summertime!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Minotaur Tales

My kids love Greek myths and the retellings of them are an often-requested read-aloud.  The other day, my husband and I were at Toys R Us and, as usual, went to the Playmobil and Lego mystery figure bags.  My husband is incredibly good at using his "Feel-O-Vision" and getting the characters he wants.  I don't think he has ever been wrong when he decides a bag is worth buying.  This time, though, I was the one who found the cool character.  I felt and felt and was pretty sure that I had found the Minotaur we'd been looking for.  After we bought is, I opened it and I WAS RIGHT!  SCORE!

As soon as I revealed it to the children, my son, Jack, asked if he could play with it.  He promptly created this:

I'm counting it as a narration!

If you want to read the story that goes along with this playset, read one of these great books:

Adventures of the Greek Heroes
D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths
The Heroes
Favorite Greek Myths

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spelling Games

Spelling doesn't have to be a chore.  I don't even focus on it with my Lambies unless they don't develop good spelling naturally by fourth grade or so.  I have seen Charlotte Mason's Dictation method of spelling work well with some of my children.  With others, it didn't.  I have the first Spelling Wisdom book and have used it for spelling and copy work.  I do like it, but it didn't really work for all of my learners as a spelling tool.   

Sequential Spelling was highly recommended and we tried it....really, we did!  It took quite a while to get through a written test every day.  Too much time for me.  Also, my worst speller wasn't improving, despite the repetition of patterns.  I am totally willing to use it again, but it wasn't right for the learning style of the children currently working on spelling.

Currently, for my learners that need basic spelling work, I use Fry Words.  I made a Weekly To-Do List to keep them on track and give them the new word list on Mondays.  I look over their spelling work on Friday and give them a test. Here are their weekly tasks: Monday: write each word 10 times. Tuesday: Use each word in a sentence. Wednesday: Build each word using letter tiles. Thursday: Complete a (mother prepared) puzzle. Friday: show all work to Mom and take the oral spelling test.  Any words that are missed on Friday are rewritten 10 times and retested.

I've seen my struggling speller begin to improve in daily writing.  I love progress!
I make a lot of puzzles for my Lambies.  It's an easy way to make learning fun.  Some of my favorite puzzles can be custom made at Discovery Puzzlemaker.  I recently found a word search generator that I like even better.  I've been making a word search of the week's spelling words using it. I also use these generators for occasional science and history work.

Boggle, Boggle Jr. for Littles, Scrabble and Word Bingo are fun games for spelling.  You won't be able to use a word list, of course, but it develops different skills than looking for known words. 

How do you work spelling into your day? Please share in the comments!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Train Mini-Unit

My son Troubles, requested that we learn about trains, so I made up a little unit for him!

We browsed over Eyewitness Trains and Usbourne Trains.  There are lots of great tidbits of information and pictures to enjoy.  We don't read everything in this type of book...that would be TOO much!

We enjoyed Mailing May and used her story for a little map work.  We specifically learned about trestles here.  Model railroads can be a great way for kids to learn about real ones!  This is an amazing video of a German model railway.  It's massive!

Other books we read:
The Little Train by Lois Lenski
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Little Train by Graham Greene
Casey Jones by Carol Beach York
Black and White by David Macaulay

I asked my Facebook friends for book suggestions and they recommended:
Tootles by Gertrude Crampton
Down by the Station by Will Hillenbrand
The Freight Train by Donald Crews
Coolies by Yin
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

We listened to Johnny Cash sing about Casey Jones here and watched the Disney cartoon, too.

They built and played with our Fisher Price Flip Track Mountain.  It's been a while since I brought this tub out, so it really held their attention.

I made a word search with train words using Discovery Puzzlemaker. We printed off some coloring pages.

We're not all that far from the California State Railroad Museum.  Who knows, maybe we'll take a trip there this year!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day Books

The hearts and candies are everywhere in the stores, but at the Crew's home, we're all about the history.  I want my children to know the real reason that we remember Valetine's Day.  It's not for the chocolate (but who am I to say "no" to a little nibblet of sweetened cocoa?)!

We will be reading a few good books to help us remember the legendary-but-maybe-true-ish meaning of Valentine's Day.

The Story of Valentine by Wilma Pitchford Hays, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard is my favorite.  It's just the right length to be easily read over a week and is engaging to kids of all ages.

Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda is another good biography.  I love the ancient mosaic style of the illustrations.

Though not specifically for Valentine's Day, I like to read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein this time of year.  I usually get a little scratchy-voiced and teary eyed at the end.

That's all folks.  Valentine's Day is fun, but not a real focus for study around here.

ETA: How could I forget Cranberry Valentine?  Thanks to VBMKL for reminding me!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hooray for Thrift Stores!

My dear husband took me thrift store shopping today and I found quite a few wonderful books.  I was especially happy to find a copy of "Anno's Counting Book", Michael Hague's "Favorite Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales", "The Columbus Story" by Alice Dalgliesh and "The Mexican Story" by May McNeer and Lynd Ward.  I found a number of other books, as well.

After we returned home, I began sorting the books.  I make two piles: one to pass along and one to keep.  I have to admit the Keep Pile was higher than the Pass along pile, as is usually usual.  I also make a third pile: Books To Check.  I have ...several... bookshelves and it can be hard to remember if I have a certain book or not. I also compare books to swap out for better copies if I can.

 In my Keep Pile was a copy of Old Befana by Tomie de Paola.  I like Tomie.  I have quite a few of his books.  Seventy-five to be exact.  Yeah.  I'm a fan. So, picture it...I am going through my Tomie shelf to see if I have a copy of this one, because I didn't think I did...and I was right.  So I sat there on the floor in my library and started to read my new Tomie book.  I opened it up and found this:

Hooray!  It's the first inscribed Tomie I have ever found!  Good find, indeed!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Animal Tracks and Wildlife Signs Science Unit-Part Two

We have been using Crinkleroot's Animal Tracks and Wildlife Signs as a science spine for the Littles for the past few weeks.  I blogged about the first part of the book here.  We're finally done so the book can be returned to the library. I really do need to invest in them for our own shelves.  Here's the remaining activities:

We met Owl next.  As I began reading about Owl, I asked each child what they already knew about owls.  I was pleased that they knew so much already!  They learned nothing new from this section, but did enjoy doing a virtual owl pellet dissection.  If I had planned ahead, I would have ordered a pellet kit.  They are inexpensive and a fun, hands-on activity that they would have enjoyed.  We did an owl coloring page and talked about owl characters in books we've read.  There are many!

We read about Snowshoe Rabbit and Bobcat on the same day, since they are a common prey/predator pair.  The Lambies enjoyed learning about the way the Lord camouflages the hare during the different seasons.  They were also amazed at the size of his feet!  I used this amazing video (even though it has a lynx rather than a bobcat) to show how agile he can be.  Be sure to preview this one if you have sensitive littles.

We watched several videos of bobcats winning the race and enjoying their meal afterward.  We also enjoyed the "Bobcat Kittens" videos.  This is the coloring page we used.  We discussed how wild animals are not pets, of course, and how, now matter how very cute they are, we mustn't touch any wild animal we may see in the forest. I have at least one child who wants to be a wildlife rehabilitator when they grow up.

We live close enough to take a trip to CatHaven and I plan to take all the children there this spring or summer. They even have a 'Track and Trail' class they can take!

Red Fox came next.  We have some foxes around here and saw one once, running across the road.  None of the Littles remembered it, though.  We watched a video or three and looked at this page.  We're not in Virginia, but I appreciated the big pictures and simple summaries. Note, too, the links at the bottom to useful videos and a coloring page.  (Can you NOT mention Redd Foxx during this lesson?)

Last but not least was the Grouse.  What a pretty bird!  We used this site to learn a bit more about this handsome fellow.  There are tabs for additional info, including the interesting sounds a male makes with his wings and a video, too. I printed off this coloring page.

So, that's all for this Crinkleroot book.  I let the children color a picture of Crinkleroot himself, too, so they could remember this fun unit and all we did.  I hope you find it in your library and share it with your children, too!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Elementary Christian Reading

My dear nearly-non-blogging friend Twiggy wanted me to do a post about Christian reading for kids.  I have to admit that I don't seek out many specifically Christian series or books.  I mostly keep the reading to classic things that don't go against our beliefs.  That being said, there are some that are in our library and come to mind.

First and foremost, the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.  Every one of my children who are able have read these.  Most have listened to at least one read aloud.  I really love these books.  The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was read to me, and the rest of the class, in the third grade by my favorite teacher, Mr. C.  I'm so glad that he introduced me to Narnia!

Another from my childhood was "In Grandma's Attic" by Arleta Richardson. My parents bought me the first while we were driving from Northern Oregon to Northern Washington. I began to read and read until the book was finished. I looked up and we were at the ferry boat, ready to end our drive!  Those were the fastest hours ever.  I received many of the remaining books as I grew, buying the last few that I didn't have as an adult.  I have a complete series now and enjoy sharing them with my girls.

Brian Wildsmith's Jesus, Joseph, Exodus and The Easter Story are beautifully illustrated, fairly simple stories.  I was put off by a rather clear drawing of Joseph's hiney in his story.

Paul Maier's excellent, beautiful books are a great addition to our library.  He has done a great job relating the stories of Genesis, Exodus, Easter, Christ's birth, Martin Luther and The First Christians.  I put these out often and the children pore over the beautiful paintings.

I have The Sugar Creek Gang series and The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black, but have not read them through so I can't review them.  Do any of you have something to share?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learning Bursts

My daughter, Missy, is developmentally delayed.  She learns differently than all of my others, even her twin brother.  Over the years, I've discovered that she learns in fits and starts.  She'll learn new things, whether academic or physical, and be "open" to learning for a while.  Then she'll plateau for weeks at a time, not able to learn anything new, even struggling to remember what she had so recently learned.  Then, seemingly without reason, it's like a switch turns and she's back to learning.  I have begun calling these her "learning bursts".

During her academic plateau times, we simply review the basic things she knows.  We cement them into her brain. She reads the same phonics stories and does the same type of math over and over, and gets enough wrong, or needs enough help, that I know her brain is "off".  I continue in these times to read aloud rich literature and have her narrate.  She continues copy work and other hands on projects.  I continue having her sit in on lessons with siblings, even if she doesn't seem to be absorbing the information.  Then, suddenly, she starts getting pages done super fast, without help and reads her stories easily.  I know it's time to introduce new things.

During her most recent learning burst, I had her begin to do her math without the assistance of blocks.  It had taken her over half of a school year to master the use of blocks.  The last time I asked her to attempt problems without blocks she was unable to complete even the simplest of problems.  It was simply to much for her brain to take in.  This time, however, she easily accomplished it.  She did page after page, (asking for more!), and scored 100%.

Today I introduced subtraction.  I explained it and had her try without blocks.  Best to skip a step, right?  Well, that was too much, at least at first.  So she completed her page using blocks and got 100%!  We'll see what tomorrow brings.  I love learning bursts!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Animal Tracks and Wildlife Signs Science Unit

I've been using this Crinkleroot book for science for the Littles.  We love Crinkleroot!

The first animal mentioned is Beaver.  We read the section here, then went through Getting To Know Nature's Children: Beavers.  We did a coloring page and watched some videos on YouTube.

Otters are next.  The kids had fun sliding down the back of the bathtub like an otter slides down a muddy bank.  I showed them pictures we had taken when we saw the otter exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium a few years back.  Of course we also watched some videos, including the MBA Otter-Cam and colored a page.

Raccoon is the next one we met.  In addition to videos, we did a coloring page and read Jim Arnosky's Raccoons and Ripe Corn.  We discussed why raccoons are considered pests in some places and how dexterous they are.  We looked at the anatomy of their hands and how they have functional (but not opposable) thumbs.  I taped down the children's thumbs to show them how hard life would be without thumbs!

I found a great video showing Beaver and Otter together during wintertime.  I now can ask a Little is he or she is acting like Beaver or Otter and they will have a character trait to identify.

Whitetail Deer was next.  We saw a doe and her two fawns last summer when we were camping and the children have a great memory of it.  We learned about how bucks grow their antlers and why.  We learned how they shed them every year.  The Lambies spoke of trying to find some next time we are in the forest before the mice nibble them away.  I let them feel some faux-velvet so they knew the texture of the velvet on the antlers as they grow. We read Deer At The Brook and watched a clip or two of the graceful creatures.

I'll continue blogging our activities for the second part of the book when we are finished with them!