Web of Life- Our Homeschool Class today

We headed out to our National Wildlife Refuge for our homeschool program this morning. The topic was called Web of Life an ecology lesson on how everything is connected to each other and is dependent upon one another!

In short, the class topics: (it was a 2 hour class)

The Ranger started with asking the children to color various animals and plants he handed out and then to gather in a circle with their cards.

0224151157_Burst01The sun card went in the middle of the circle, then each child who had a plant went next as they are directly effected by the sun, (string was given to child from sun to plant) then they were to yell out if they had a plant eater,then an animal that would eat the plant eater and so on, as they built and connected the string- it was the visual connection, building the Web of Life!

The Ranger then showed various skulls, taking a close look at the placement of the eyes. Giving the rhyme of “Eyes to the side, like to hide” -( prey ) it gives them a wider field of vision to see predators. They need to be able to see forewards, sidewards, backwards and upwards incase a predator attacks.

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 The children then observed the three ducks, the names of each- The Golden Eye, The Wood Duck and the Merganser.  Then had a lengthy discussion on the shapes and sizes of the bills and why they are built in such a way, especially the Merganser who has a saw like teeth for catching his prey.

0224151149After the classroom session was done we headed out to watch the frogs being fed and did a scavenger hunt in the visitor center. They had a blast, learned a lot and can’t wait for the next classes! Liam loved it so much and walked over to the Ranger and shook his hand, thanked him for such a great time! Before, leaving Luke brought his money and wanted to buy a bird he saw last time. He was so excited and built him a nest to live in once we got home.

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0224151300 Once home each of them did some math on Khan Academy- Luke earned “Geek of the Week” , High Five in Math and Making Progress badges. Liam earned Finger or Toes in Math, Five is Alive and Challenge Accepted! badges;)

One more STEM class this afternoon at the library to go!

Birds of North America- Art & Nature Science project today!

John James Audubon was an American ornithologist, artist and naturalist known for his studies, drawings and paintings of North American birds.

We have been studying his book, The Birds of America, which has over 400 reproductions in it.

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After viewing many of the birds and listening to a biography of Audubon, we started an art project; transparency bird prints!

We used our own Birds of the Northeast book, chose a bird, using transparency sheets, lay it on top of the chosen bird, color with water-based markers and made prints on to white construction paper!

Supplies- bird book, markers, transparency sheets, damp sponge (not very wet at all or maker will bleed!) construction or printer paper

Here’s the steps and the prints:

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Choose a photo of the bird and trace and color in with markers on the clear sheet-

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Try blending as many colors together as possible, when you’re done- dampen the white sheet of paper and press down the transparency sheet (marker side down)

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Carefully lift off and view your print! We did touch up a few areas with the marker to make the image sharper afterwards, but they came out beautifully!

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The never ending Math battle!

Math…..Why is it such a challenge?!

So far this year our choice in math curriculum is going fairly well, The Key to.. series is working out very well for my oldest. He’s enjoying it and it works like a unit study, one topic at a time in depth. However, after being part of a  threaded conversation yesterday, I got to thinking (dangerous, I know) many comments were all about going back to the basics when you see your student starting to struggle.  BTW, it seems MATH is disrupting the harmony in many homes!! Though I don’t see a struggle on his current topic of decimals, I got to thinking – how sound are his basics? how much has he retained on topics we haven’t visited in a while? This was quickly answered when I showed him a few flashbacks and asked if he remembered doing these types of problems. *crickets*

Okay, just as I feared, let’s pause for the next month and do a month of reviews! And, honestly I think I may start doing this every 3 months or so- just a month to review and retain what we know so far.  It’s easy to just move on and follow a curriculum, excited to keep learning new things, but let’s not forget the past! I’m thinking each year I may be putting a review unit into our rotation: Feb., May, Aug., Nov.

Both boys have workbooks, they also work on math concepts on KhanAcademy.org and I try to incorporate manipulatives and games as well.

My plan for the next month is to set up a weekly review schedule on each topic, something like this:

Oldest (5th)- Monday: Multiplication and Graphing, Tuesday: Division and Area/Perimeter Wednesday: Measurements and Rounding Thursday: Fractions

Youngest(prek/k)-Monday: Graphing, Adding/Subtracting Tuesday: Picture Multiplying and Dividing Wednesday: Numberline work and number stories Thursday: Counting to 50

 

The Mystery of Chocolate!

This morning we were up and ready to go on a Chocolate Factory tour with our local homeschool group we just recently became members of. Before heading out I asked the kids if they knew where chocolate came from, and how the process works.

 

They were pretty much familiar with it all, but I had them view this video anyway and I’m glad I did as it turned out- even though we were going as a group, it was self-guided. It was a small room off of the shop that had examples and some machinery to look at and the process from the bean to the bar along the wall to read as we walked up the ramp to the viewing area of the factory. (Not what any of us were picturing) we were thinking a walk through the factory, but it was fun just as well. And, free samples to taste- no complaints! They had many flavors I had never heard of, we took some more home to try- we will be going back to try more soon!

The Hauser Chocolatier

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Having a good backbone, makes life easier!

This past weekend I headed over to a local book store to browse the “school” area. To my delight it had expanded significantly from my last visit. I found some great keepers!! I’ve been looking for books in each subject we can all do together, meaning books or curriculum that can be used for any age or at least a wide range. I want to be able to have a great backbone and work off of it with both boys, just making their work a bit different so each is challenged in their own way. After this morning I’m pretty sure we have a good backbone in a few subjects now, and yes, it made my life so much easier!To grab the books and enjoy going through them in a chronological order is just what I’ve been looking for all year- yes, since September! Ugh, better late than never 😉

I found: (all for $12.00!) a prek-1 Reading Workbook (Giant Basic Skills) Spell Well! Scholastic grades4-8, -it’s all interactive 50 activities to help with spelling, The Kids’ Nature Book 365 , Animals of the World– 7 in depth chapters broken into specific categories, 2 Harcourt Language Arts Program books, and Kaleidoscope Math– Geometry, Polygons and Prisms, Space Figures in Kaleidoscopes and Infinity Boxes.

We had a blizzard yesterday, so we took it easy and I looked through the books and was eager to get started using them in our curriculum. I found a great Science and Nature book/guide that flows through each month and day, filled with lots of seasonal ideas and activities. The book luckily enough starts off in January, and two things I’ve been wanting to do with the kids was in this weeks activities in the book! Yay!

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Like I said we had a blizzard yesterday, so the first was easy!— Snow cream to drink. We scooped up some snow, added sugar to taste and a bit of vanilla extract and cream! Delicious!IMG_20150128_091003_760

The second project was to make our own icicles. We needed two containers and had to poke a small hole in the bottom, so the water comes out at a slow drip, we then added colored water (our added idea) and gathered some string to “catch” the drips. We headed outside and used our grill to place the bottles on and then tied the string under them and used the snow to hold the string still for us. We left it for about a half hour and then came back to this! Also, lesson learned- one used hot water, one used cold water and it ended up freezing up and not making as big an icicle!

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So pretty!

We then read many books together from the library and then we read from the Hidden Surprises LA Harcourt book called Wild Shots, They’re My Life it was a photo Essay and Science story about a women who takes photographs of animals for a living.  We are also taking about African animals and Mammals this week, so it was a great tie in with that. The focus skill was Story Elements. After each story is a Response Activities section. My youngest Made a chart listing Furry, Feathered and Scaly animals. My oldest created interview questions he would ask if he were reporting on her, and then made up some answers.

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We did some Geography and Art then finished up with Math. They did a workbook page and then we tried out our new Kaleidoscope book. Today was the intro. and it focused on Geometry of Mirrors, and holding the mirror perpendicular to the page. How lines are reflected in a mirror and in creating symmetry. It was very fun!

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Having a good backbone, makes life easier! I’ve been piecing together subjects and activities for so long  and feeling like we’re skipping around all the time, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have these new books and it seems to have agreed with the kids too!

We ended on a good note and went sledding this afternoon at the town park.

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Winter Nature Walk

Today was one of those days where sitting and concentrating was NOT going to happen! They had a lot of energy and after trying a few planned lessons and threw my hands up and said- get your snow gear we are going out for a walk!

We headed out just as the snowflakes started falling! It was so pretty and the boys were able to catch as see the geometric shapes in the snowflakes as they landed. They were so excited, it was the perfect kind of snow for a hike.

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We headed out and just went down the street to a place called Barn Island. We walked through the marshes and saw some birds and continued catching snowflakes. It didn’t take long for the boys to find the ice under the snow patches and begin to explore!

They tried to break it, slide on it, dance on it, and observed how the water moved underneath and the ice and how they could eventually use the broken ice pieces as a tool to break the rest of the ice! They had a blast and discovered quite a bit about the ice and observed changes from when we were there in the fall.

They got more out of their day here than at the kitchen table for sure!!

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Catching Flakes!

Catching Flakes!

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"look how it cracks!"

“look how it cracks!”

Ice Dancing!!

Ice Dancing!!

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“Look at this one! It’s overflowing and coming out on top!”

Digging in with "ice picks"

Digging in with “ice picks”

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African Adventures

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African Elephant Chalk Drawing

This week we are exploring the animals of Africa as requested by my youngest.  We are reading and viewing a couple of animals a day to learn more about the animals and their behaviours and the geography of Africa.

Today the boys began their day setting up some new and old race tracks and did some video recordings of a car being chased by a boulder. They worked together for a few hours, getting new angles filmed and action scenes were reconstructed as ideas were thought of!

IMG_20150121_083116_963IMG_20150121_090339_228 This was an activity with no end! They are still at it 3 hours later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20150121_084656_246After reading about Lions and Cheetahs today. We viewed some pictures of Ndebele house paintings. The people of southern Africa are famous for colorful, geometric designs painted on their houses. Traditionally they used homemade fingerpaints to decorate and believed this type of painting created a connection between the past, present and future.

Using card stock , permanent markers and pastels, the boys each designed their own painted houses! The book Amazing African projects seen here is a great resource!

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Creating Creative Thinkers

It’s been awhile since I have made an entry on our homeschooling days, mostly because I wanted my focus to be in the moment and not behind the camera and due to the fact that our computer was temperamental for a while!
Anyway, when I started this year of schooling my goal was to get some creativity going! I started to read a lot about Waldorf and was drawn to the creative side of this method. I love having a MLB- main lesson book, where the children draw out images from the main lesson being taught at the time. I directed this for a while to get the habit and thoughts rolling, and this week it finally took off and the boys asked me, yup, they asked me to draw from the story we are reading, which is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

I went out and got them each a daily journal to write in or doodle in each afternoon as we close out the “school” day, they have embraced it and I’m mostly implementing this because I want them to be free thinking, creative, and most importantly seeing and observing from their entries and illustrations what they are internalizing and taking away from each lesson personally. Fingers crossed this is our new path and it will continue to grow from here. I also love that they are naturally incorporating writing, spelling, math and fine motor development as well as critical thinking skills!
Here are some documentations they made this week:
IMG_20150108_095717_354In chapter 3 and 4 Milo, the main character visits Dictionopolis and ends up in a word marketplace, where one can buy words or letters that are for sale.

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My oldest loves Tock, the dog and created a drawing of the character from the cover of the book.

IMG_20150113_142511We are also studying Ancient Greece this week and did a Waldorf inspired watercolor painting, First we drew pencil lines for a guide in creating the depth and then worked counter clock wise adding in the rainbow of colors only using primary colors and let/used the water “mingle” and blend and create the secondary and tertiary colors.

Journal entries after watching a Minecraft video set in an Ancient Greece mod on Youtube. They each wrote the three minecraft tools they like the most and why.

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Map of Ancient Greece and an animal drawn using detail by my youngest 😉

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Are we flying or on the ground?

This week one studied Owls and Bats, while the other continued with Botany, studying the evolution of the plant kingdom. Owlets and  pups, nocturnal creatures. Mushrooms to the Fern Family, the earliest plant forms of creation. We were either flying up in the air on deep down in the dirt this week studying the babies of both worlds!

IMG_20141009_121408_002We were lucky with some great library books as Luke discovered the similarities and differences in Owls and Bats. How do they move? What do they eat? What is a predator? Myths and facts about bats. How do these animals see if they are nocturnal? Why are they important to our environment?

Over in the Hollow was a great counting story and he worked on measuring bat wings as another math activity!

10inch wing span!

10 inch wing span!

He drew a sketch of a bat’s anatomy and worked on writing all the letters of the alphabet he knows so far ( he wrote about 10 random letters) as well as making a new letter card- “o” for Owls this week.

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Moving over to the plant kingdom, Liam started with a re-cap of the baby of the plant kingdom, the plant family known as fungi! He then took a look at and sketched the Five Kingdoms of Life, and how they are classified.   Algae and Seaweed were next, the dreamy plants of the underworld in the sea! Since we live on the coast we headed down to the beach to investigate hands on.

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The last three of the week were Ferns, Horsetails and the Club Mosses. From the ancient times through the Ice Age, how did the fern family grow? What is a rootstock, a frond? How do the horsetails develop in two stages?

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making fern prints using a hammer and a fern

making fern prints using a hammer and a fern

Matisse inspired paper art of seaweed!IMG_20141007_095533_035

This week, Liam also worked on Changing units of weight and adding/subtracting weights, fractions and decimals in weight for his math measurement block that is also a main lesson this month. He’s enjoying it so far. The workbook is very hands- on and interactive, so – so far, so good! He does free-hand geometry once a week, this week was and exercise using equilateral triangles!

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We also headed out for a nature hike this week and had a great time! We watched a music documentary, and the boys each made a Halloween picture to send to a dear friend who’s serving our country right now. Luke drew a scary pumpkin guy and a guy holding letters, Liam made a picture of “The Thing” and wrote a little letter to him on the back.

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Luke’s

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Liam’s

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Pretty great week we had! 😉

Photo Collage of our Fall Field Trip

We headed out to Haley Farm to see some foliage and explore some nature by hand since we have been reading about it all week! Not the sunniest day to go, but we enjoyed our nature walk just the same- drizzle and all, we got to see and explore a lot! Seeds, Leaves, Deer, water,reeds, marsh and puddles!

Observing the foliage and seeds

Observing the foliage and seeds

Pretty Purple

Pretty Purple

boys will be boys- sword fighting with reeds!

boys will be boys- sword fighting with reeds!

Liam found and opened up a seed to find it smiling!

Liam found and opened up a seed to find it smiling!

Lots of seeds here!

Lots of seeds here!

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The puddle player!

The puddle player!