Wandering in the Woods!

After doing our normal routine this morning; journals, reading and Liam working on his research paper, Luke and I browsing through his new Pathway Readers and did some Polar bear Unit work, I couldn’t wait to get outside!! It was over 40 degrees and sunny! Spring Fever!!!! Get me outside!

We headed over to our local Refuge in Charlestown and hit the trails. The sun felt great, there is still a lot of snow but the trail was pretty packed down.  It felt great to be outside and not freezing. I warned the boys that if they were somewhat quiet today we’d probably be lucky to see some wildlife.

The trail was only a mile round trip so, on our way back the boys took off their coats and laid back basking in the sun and listening to the birds. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by a bunch of black- capped chickadees and saw two different woodpeckers working, and a tuft titmouse who was busy flying from branch to branch. They were in awe and loved every minute of it.

I think we all just laid there on our coats for about an half an hour just observing and listening. They met a snowman along the way and played various games, marvelled at how soft the birch trees were and kept repeating we need to do this more often and when are we coming back?! (I always have to drag them out for hikes, then they have a blast)

We noticed trees are budding!!

We noticed trees are budding!!

0309151212a

Quick photo op of the black -capped chickadee

0309151203

0309151126

Found a snowman friend along the trail. Boys added a nose and Luke checked on him and said good-bye

03091511580309151157

0309151124a

Luke started with BFIAR today

I have looked at and read through this program: Five In A Row  so many times in the past and just love the overall concept! As of today,  Luke is starting with Before Five a Row and Liam will try Five in a Row or perhaps Beyond Five in a Row depending on the concepts and lessons (I’m not sure at this point where to start with him) I plan to add additional activities into the Unit, however I think with Liam since I feel we’ve been all over the place this year, I’ll wait and fully decide what to do by September.  For now I will take what has already been planned for this year and squeeze the two together as possible.

Anyhow, this is a Unit study program, one book read for the whole week, with corresponding lessons! This seems to be the perfect package for me! What do we do when we get new books? read them over and over!! I have always loved a Unit Themed lesson from my days as a teacher in Early Childhood and everything I’ve learned through studying the Charlotte Mason method, I’m hopeful that I’ve found that perfect cozy, practical and engaging curriculum I’ve been struggling with this year.- That I’m thrilled to try this out!!I love the CM approach but I tend to get overwhelmed with so many books in front of me trying to cover all the topics, that I feel one book with corresponding lessons will not feel so daunting and “choppy” if you will.

I signed up for a membership and was allowed access to some samples called “fold and learn”.  I am going to use these and if all goes well (with my high hopes) I will then purchase the actual products.

So for today Luke kicked off his first lesson with the Goodnight Moon fold and learn. This is one of his and my favorite books of all time. The fold and learn can easily be made into a folder or box activity after the week is through for him to go back to at anytime as will fill it this week with the activities etc.  I read him the story this morning as he practically read it along with me 🙂 (see, repetition works! ) Great Cognitive learning!  As I read the story I asked him to find the language card that corresponded with the story. I then went through each one and we practiced rhyming words like clock and sock! Like I said I will add my own ideas and activities and we just happened to have a Goodnight Moon number matching game that we did this afternoon. New ImagegmNew Imagegmm

 

 

 

 

Looks like tomorrow we’ll be working on an art activity and some science too.  I already requested the book A Pair of Red Clogs for Liam for next week from the library since I had already planned on teaching him about the Eastern Hemisphere in Geography.  This story has a fold and learn to go with it, so we’ll just add it or replace it with some things I had previously planned. I’m thinking/hoping he will enjoy this type of lessons. Units can be so fun and you can really get in depth with a subject they truly find interesting!

If anyone reads this that has previous experience with this program I’d love to hear any comments you have!

Things Worth Observing!

“Let Nature be your teacher.” – William Wordsworth

Many tools needed for one jobHard work pays off

With the blizzard just a couple days ago, Liam had set to work on building an igloo for himself. A little persistence, many tools and lots of hard work- it finally paid off! He is outside right now as it’s raining to see if it is indeed a good shelter… How wet do you think I’ll get???

Hmmm, we’ll see!

He already observed that the wider it gets the less warm it feels inside.  He says he has to be careful as he plans out how to carve out the inside because it could collapse.

This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,–when they ask, ‘What is it?’ and ‘What is it for?’
– Charlotte Mason

Also, with the blizzard we’ve had many feathered friends out back gathering food! Luke has become interested in them and sits by the window watching and talking to them. He asks me to identify the different birds he’s seeing and wants to see a book with their pictures in it! I’ll be borrowing one of Liam’s bird books shortly for him. 🙂DSCF9989DSCF9990

snowdsnowc

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.  ~Marc Brown

* yup, A day in homeschool*

* We’re not trying to do “School at Home.” We’re trying to do homeschool. These are two entirely different propositions. We’re not trying to replicate the time, style or content of the classroom. Rather we’re trying to cultivate a lifestyle of learning in which learning takes place from morning until bedtime 7 days each week. The “formal” portion of each teaching day is just the tip of the iceburg. – Steve and Jane Lambert ( Five In A Row )

Shel Silverstein Poetry Math

I did much research this weekend on Living Math.  How to apply it, what exactly does it mean and how to begin transitioning over along with a million other questions I had running through my mind! I’ve done lessons here and there that I’d consider Living Math, but not as a my typical method or style.  I found a ton of information and I have many Living Math books on their way. So with new knowledge, ideas and some much needed inspiration-  we kicked it off today with some Poetry Math using two of Shel Silverstein poems! (if interested, just type in a search, found many pdf’s) Under my Living Math tab, I have listed many books and links on this subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read the first poem The Googies are Coming, and with the use of our change jar in front of us, we answered the follow up math questions as well as some of my own questions I had for him. He loved it! I actually heard the words “this is fun” come out of his mouth! Words that don’t usually go hand in hand with this 8yr old and math! For the last question on the sheet I grabbed the calculator and showed him how to actually add up a total using the decimal point key, and reminded him to always add it up twice before making your final answer. Normally, I would not take out the calculator for math, but I did read about introducing the different buttons on it and teaching children how to use them. He can add mentally as a rule so I thought the added calculator to the lesson would be a switch and he’d learn another little something. We proceeded on to the next poem Smart and finished the follow-up math questions on this poem as well.

I also use Life of Fred for math and we did a Chapter in that book as well today. The lesson in today’s chapter was about seeing patterns in things. Such as a game of Which of these things is not like the others. Example: 7  36   8    1/2  in which you can see, could be any of them depending on your thought process!  He chose to say the 1/2 because it was a fraction, to which I said is correct, but it could also be 36, it’s a double digit, could be 7 it’s an odd number…and so on.

I took out a workbook for a Grammar lesson next and said there is a lot here, why don’t you just do the first column. He said “hold on” muttered to himself aloud….there’s 24 here, 12 in each row….cut that in half…that’s 6.…How about I do 6 in each column then? Absolutely! Great math buddy!

 

Aviation and Egrets

This weekend the boys each made their own walking sticks, so we had planned to go for a hike today. It was the perfect morning, a little chilly, sunny and a nice way to ease back into the week. My oldest, also became excited about riding his bicycle this weekend too, so I figured we’d make a morning of it and go for and bike and hike at the local beach state park.

( PVC pipes, wrapped in camo duct tape! perfect size each of them and light weight! Dad drilled a hole and added rope for them)

As we entered the park we saw some wildlife in the salt marshes. After the bike ride we walked over to the observation area- which prompted the question of the day: Are these birds cranes or Egrets? and, What is the difference?

We headed down one of the roads first so Liam could bike and Luke was a bit sleepy so I pushed him in the stroller as we headed towards the water. Very peaceful and quiet, towards the end of the road Luke was ready to walk so he got out and had fun chasing after Liam.

We made it back to the car, grabbed the walking sticks and made our way over to the observation deck, where we were able to observe many birds in the marsh. Liam read aloud to us all the info on the board about the habitats, birds and their diets/nesting habits. He was most excited to see the one bird with it’s baby and wanted to use the camera to take a picture of them himself.

Once we returned home, had some lunch, it was time to start some investigating! Were those birds Egrets or Cranes?! We have a few bird field guides so we began to look through, even with those it was had to distinguish the two. We pulled up some info on the internet also, but it was still hard to be 100% sure! Many similarities, except for the beaks. The birds we saw, one had an orange color and one had a black colored beak. So, with our best guesstimate… we think we saw both? Liam has a nature journal that we add to once every so often, I asked him to make an entry in it using these pictures and write down something as well. He wrote “To be a crane or egret….that is the question?!”

With that we moved onto some concrete lessons! 🙂

Life of Fred math-a short lesson on single and double digit multiplication.

Geography- we watched a short video on the 50 states and their capitols.

Science- Famous Inventors,  is what the topic will be for the next couple of months. Today we read about the Wright Brothers. I read aloud the book “My Brothers’ Flying Machine” by Jane Yolen.  We compared how long the first flight was to how long it takes him to microwave his chicken nuggets! He also liked that the first flight was in North Carolina, because that’s where Grammy and Grampy live!

Literature: We continued reading a bit more of  “Wind in the Willows” Some of the wording is a bit confusing for him, so I read a paragraph or two, then pause and do a quick recap to help him follow along.

Grammar: The lesson was a review on types of sentences. He was thrilled to see it was based on The Magic School Bus! He was to fill in different types of sentences about a field trip- statement, question, command or exclamation. He made it a trip to Atlantis and used the character names in the sentences and used the catch phrase “seat belts, everyone!” He loved it, read it over and over to himself and the best part was he was writing without noticing it! 🙂  He hates to write unless it’s something like this that has a little spark to it.

He then moved on to organizing and cleaning out his toy box while Luke and I attempted to play the game Doggie Bingo- match the patterns to the correct dog house. Then he was off to watch Little Einsteins.

Free Educational Resources

Here are some free sites for books and other online educational freebies! I use most of these, some more than others.  A few are geared toward homeschooling, but can be enjoyed by anyone just the same! If you have   favorite that needs to be added, let me know! Check back often as I will update and add to the list as I come across new sites/resources!

Elementary Math:

Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching- (MEP)

Fun for the brain-mulitplication

Math Fact Cafe

Mothmatic Math-online game

Book and Language:

International Children’s Digital Library

Magic Tree House

Shel Silverstein

Dr. Suessville
We Give Books

Kids Literature

Links and Living Books-lists

Usborne

Shakespeare for kids

Online Mad Libs- Wacky Web Tales

History:

Scholastic-colonial times

History for Kids

British Culture

Lego Castle

Civil War

The Middle Ages

Science:

50 Birds and more

Animals Myths and Legends

Nature Detectives

Kids Biology

National Geographic for kids

Space Place-NASA kids

Biology for Kids

Bats for Kids

Art/Music:

Olga’s Gallery

Classics for Kids Music

National Gallery of Art for Kids

Norman Rockwell Museum

Getty Games-Art Museum

Social Studies and Geography:

Heifer International-build a better world

Connecticut Kids

Social Studies for Kids

Foreign Language:

Spanish for Children

Foreign Language printable worksheets

Online Educational Game Sites:

Funbrain

Brainpop jr

Brainpop

Poptropica

Covers all Subjects!:

Some of these are not free, but can be used for ideas, resource and finding supplies. Easy Peasy is totally free and a complete curriculum.

Easy Peasy-  

Simply Charlotte Mason

Queen Homeschool Supply

The Tanglewood School Supply

An Old Fashion Education

Head of the Class

Oak Meadow

Documentary Tube

education.com

neok12-site that has videos on all subjects

Discovery Kids

It’s Monday and more!

Image

It’s Monday! First on the “to do” list was to get to the library to pick up our books that had arrived. Errands and learning done hand in hand, as we had many things to get done today!

Listening Skills: On the trip over we listened to the audio story “Kenny and the Dragon” by Tony DiTerlizzi.  Both of the boys seemed to enjoy it as they giggled at some of the humor in the story. Luke who is 2yrs old,  mostly repeated words that stuck out to him and Liam made several comments as the story continued on.  Quick trip over, so we’ll have to continue that one on our next car ride. Great way to use the imagination and create mental imagery! Not to mention a positive way to keep occupied as we do errands or travel around!

Science: We returned home and watched a DVD from the library “All About Amphibians” as we ate lunch.  Both boys again loved it! We are focusing on bodies of water this year and right now it’s rivers, lakes, ponds etc. so this fit right in. They yelled out with excitement at the different frogs, toads, fish etc that were shown. Luke repeated many words and cracked up at some of the cartoon imagery in between the segments! He just woke up from his nap as I was writing this and asked to watch it again! Liam knew a lot of the information already but did learn a few new things as well.  I tested him by asking a few definitions to some vocabulary words we heard as well as asking him to verbalize the similarities and differences we heard about fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Math: We started  “Life of Fred” math today. This is an alternative type of math learning, not the typical work/text books you see. These tend to be told in story form and then give a “your turn” section at the end of each short story. I figured we’d do one each Monday as something different for math learning.  Today’s chapter was about pets and Liam learned the meaning of Cardinal and Ordinal numbers when answering the “your turn to play” section as well as a little intro to algebra by figuring out what value X and Y had, to make the statement true. He was a little confused, but said he understood after several explanations?!

Writing:This year I am using the workbook “English for the Thoughtful Child 2″ and today’s lesson happened to be a writing exercise. He was asked to write in his own words the featured story….well, he hates to write so two sentences down was all I got, however he knows it’s expected to be spelled correctly and written as neat as can be, both of which he did. Next, we did copywork from the poem ” The Arrow and the Song” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Again only a few sentences done with his best effort each day until it’s completed. I chose this one because he’s into archery, we are studying the Middle Ages and figured by putting the two together he would enjoy it! He likes copywork, so no complaints on this one :).

Geography: Alaska is our state this week. I pulled out our big wall map as we located the state,  the capitol and the highest mountain, Mount McKinley! The size and the thought of the long days or nights gave him lots of fuel for questions and making comparisons between the states.

This weeks Read Aloud: We are continuing to read “Wonder Struck” we are about half way through now and hope to finish this week, as we’re both anxious to see how these two lives are going to connect! We read aloud each day for about 15-20 minutes, followed by some narration. -link to narration ideas and the method.

Spanish: Today’s lesson was to read and circle the Spanish number corresponding to the shown number of objects. This was done is a couple of minutes, so I think we’re ready to move on to some basic words next week.

World History: The book “Castle”- Medieval Days and Knights” by Kyle Olmon was last on the list today. Liam found this book at the library this morning so a last minute change in history plans for today, but I have to say it was a great find! It’s a pop up book with facts about life in the Castle. His favorite page contained a small catapult in which to put a small rolled up piece of paper and launch it! I stacked up some dice we had handy as a target and he like that!

 

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

We have been enjoying the summer, but I felt it was time to get back into the groove this week.  Although we inserted as much education into our outings and the weekly trips to the library served us well in not totally abandoning all things educational for the past few weeks, it’s time to officially begin our “school year.”

This years topics: Middle Ages, Colonial Times, the 50 States, various genres of literature/poetry, Intro to Spanish, various Science topics, Singapore and Life of Fred mathematics. Follow along as I will always share quality books I find to go along with the different topics we are studying!

First Book:

“When Knights Were Bold”by Eva March Tappan

Squires Castle in the Fall

Squires Castle in the Fall (Photo credit: Tim_Arai)

This is the first book we are starting on the Middle Ages. Before I began to read aloud the first few pages, I asked him what he knew about this time period already. Apparently at boyscout camp a few weeks ago, this topic came up, as part of the camp was named “The Sherwood Forest” and his favorite activity of the week was archery! (I love it when one thing unexpectedly leads to the next!) So, he knew of a few things as we started.

Before jumping into the first chapter, I asked him if he knew the difference between a Page, Squire and Knight. I have to say I liked the explanation (8yrs): ” Well a Knight he’s like the ultimate guy, the Squire is his right hand man and I’m not sure what a Page is.”  By the end of the first chapter he had comprehended that a  Page was a boy close to his same age and found that scary and intriguing all at once! He said that it sounded like it was pretty hard to live back then, but fun too if you can become a Knight, hmmm?!
As we finished he said “I like this year better already, all the new books, even the math is better!”  ….SCORE!

Next highlight of today:

‘Wonder Struck”by Brian Selznick – JFiction

This book was recommended by a fellow home school parent at our “Happy Homeschool Hikers” group meeting last week. We’ve only just begun the first chapter on this one as well, but AMAZING! It is “A Novel in Words and Pictures.”  The basis is two children 50 years apart in time,  each tell a story, Ben’s in words, Rose’s in pictures and they begin to weave back and forth and unfold the symmetry. This quote in the first chapter that appeared more than once  “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”  had us both thinking and wondering what it might mean as we see the two characters coming together, a little foreshadowing perhaps! This was a great opportunity to teach him about foreshadowing and what it means as well as great grounds for narrative speaking on his part.

Once again, I love the Charlotte Mason approach of using living books for learning it is so effective and enjoyable!

Reflections and Forthcomings!

 

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The children’s lessons should provide material for their mental growth, should exercise the several powers of their minds, should furnish them with fruitful ideas, and should afford them knowledge, really valuable for its own sake, accurate, and interesting, of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure.” – Charlotte Mason

As I begin to get my thoughts finalized for this coming “school year” I tend to get overwhelmed and want to plan too much. This quote comes in handy for me to reflect on as I choose books and make an outline of subjects to cover. I find once I start to think of the year ahead I want to choose interesting, fun and engaging materials and topics, always hoping to get that spark out of my children.  My initial reaction is to browse my favorite sites and bookmark  pages and all kinds of activities to use throughout the year. However, when I go to look back I tend to confuse my self as well as become overwhelmed! I know many of us go through the same process each year. Here are my thoughts:

This is our second official year of homeschooling, we were eclectic last year as it was our first year getting our feet wet and I was honestly not sure what we were doing, only knowing a new challenge and lifestyle lie ahead of us. My oldest asked me to homeschool him and I knew in my heart I did not want to send him back to public school, it was not suiting him in the least! So, after little thought…. I said ok, let’s jump aboard and do this! I knew of a few families who homeschooled,  got some advice and so it began.

As we progressed through the year and I found out more about my teaching style, even though I had by trait been a teacher for over 15 years this was new territory and we were like most things figuring it out as we went along.  This year I knew we were going to follow the Charlotte Mason method after much reading and research during last year.  I found we all love to go to the library and left so excited with new literature in hand, which is one of the methods that stands out most in the CM method- using “living books” to teach. Instead of using dry text books with a typical Q and A, instead after a subject has been taught, you use books written by an author who has a true passion for the topic at hand told in a story form, which seems to come alive and have a deeper connection to the student. As we read, we pause and discuss through dialogue and narration for an evaluation of understanding, which requires a deeper understanding as the child process the information, re-calls facts by speaking or makes drawings of details that stand out in his/her mind.

The other method that stood out for us was the philosophy of spending time outdoors. My oldest son thrives on nature and sciences! I discovered that most topics he became excited about were related to science topics and he indeed began his own nature notebook before I was truly aware of what one was. He really became infatuated with birds by the end of winter last year and asked for some books on birds and conducted his own research and recordings! He grabbed his field guide every time he saw a “new bird” and memorized lots of the names of the birds he had spotted.

So, in short, with the quote in mind, and the philosophy of Charlotte Mason I see actually in play and working so well for my children, I am reeling my self back in for my final outline of the year ahead.  Being who I am however, I am not 100% CM, I tend to always look for balance in everything and therefore we will be tweaking things here and there as we go I’m sure, as not all of CM’s strategies work for all of us. I will use some workbooks with Q and A’s, and computer technology for some of my teachings and any other idea that surface.

Hope this was a bit helpful for some of you just starting out on your own journey- I can honestly say I LOVE homeschooling and if you would’ve told me that I’d be homeschooling years ago I would have thought you were crazy! It never even entered my mind until, like most major life changes, BAM! here’s a curve ball for you!

So, if you are thinking of homeschooling- You CAN do it! It just takes a will and some dedication, but the results and self- fulfillment are indescribable!

Noodles and Marbles

 

What started out as a fun game, quickly grew into so much more! I was so happy to see the boys working together and taking the reins on this one.  Then watching it all spiral! A lesson for me- let the boys take from it what they will!

As Charlotte Mason said:

The child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself–both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas that he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences.
(Vol 1, Part V Lessons As Instruments Of Education, p.178)

I originally found the idea of this “race track and marble” game on pinterest, and my first thought was fun and we can make it into a math game! Let’s measure the tracks, time the marbles, try different layouts and compare.  So we set it all up.  All that is needed is a foam noodle cut in half, some marbles and a box to catch them at the bottom!

I gave my oldest the paper and pen and asked him to write down any data he thought was important as he played that would have to do with math skills (leaving it wide open to see his reaction). Well, he took that and ran with it, documenting so much more than I had planned. He made up his own chart and then the ideas for different things and ways to chart just came pouring out of him!  As an example, he thought to try using the large marble to hold a line of smaller marbles in place and let them all go at once to see what would happen. 

My youngest son made up his own games as well, he’s two years old,  so it was pretty much him rolling the marbles followed by a  yell, then a chase after the marbles around the room! However, he kept manipulating his foam noodle as well and tried rolling the marble down it to discover if it worked or not.  We moved the noodles around to different places for variations of heights and had some competitive racing as well.

Finally, my older son asked ” now can we do marble painting?!”

and so we did….. with an impromtu Jackson Pollock lesson! (next post!) 🙂