Monday, July 25, 2011

Final Four

Let the May Madness of homeschooling begin! We took the month of April off so that I could auxiliary pioneer. I have to say we all had much more fun than I expected. We kept up with phonics and math but everything else was put on hold. We had four book left to do for the school year and just enough time to get them in.

We started off with the book Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews. This is an interesting fictional story based on real people. The Inuit people who live near Ungava Bay in northern Canada collect mussels in an unusual way. The ice freezes over in the winter but the tide still comes and goes. When the tide is out they cut a hole in the ice and go down, walk on the ocean floor and collect mussels. The story is based on a girl, Ava, who goes under the ice and collects the mussels by herself for the first time. We started off the week doing the usual stuff, finding Canada and Ungava Bay on our map and putting the story disk on it. We learned a bit about the Inuit culture and ocean life all week by reading books from the library. We also learned new vocabulary words, discussed ordinal numbers, explored the detail in the pictures of the book, discussed warm and cool colors, and more. One afternoon I set up a pretend setting so Zoey could go under the ice and get mussels.
Here she is dressed warmly with her sled and tools.
Zoey collects the mussels (shells) and puts them in her mussel pan (cake pan).
It was hard to get a good picture of her under the ice. You can see more when I upload and share May's pictures.

Our next book was Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley. This story took us to Venice, Italy. The story is about a tom cat who is adopted by two kittens. It is a very cute story with lots of action too. The canal streets really caught Zoey's attention. We looked at many pictures in books of Venice and Zoey really liked the book, Olivia goes to Venice this week. I think we read it more often than we did the book of the week. Some of the things we learned about and discussed this week were: the shape of Italy, gondola boats, Marco Polo, architecture, creating the illusion of speed in drawings, peripheral vision, types and breeds of cats, and fatherhood.

After Papa Piccolo we moved on to Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Sheffrin-Falk. For this story we visited Russia. Here is Amazon's description of the book, A "heavy-footed brown bear whose heart is soft as butter," Boris is unhappily employed at the animal hospital. When he sees an ornate poster announcing that his friend Max, "the celebrated dancing bear," is about to tour St.Petersburg, his discontent overwhelms him and he can't control his tears, even as he bravely struggles to congratulate Boris. But Boris, too, is soft-hearted, and he sets about teaching Max to dance. Scheffrin-Falk's first picture book gracefully confronts jealousy, self-doubt (Max "felt a little foolish. Dancing lessons at his age!"), the value of persistence and the power of friendship. Garrison's etchings, framed like snapshots and hand-colored to highlight certain objects (a sash, a jacket, a flower) against sepia-like backgrounds, infuse the volume with the feel of an antique scrapbook. This old-world flavor further enhances the nostalgic imperial Russian setting, replete with samovars, graduated Russian peasant dolls (here shaped like bears) and distant spires.

Zoey didn't seem to care too much for this book but she did like the activities we did. We acted out different dramatic words. Can you believe Zoey liked that? We discussed occupations, etchings, boiling and freezing point and  characterization. To help learn time I drew a large clock outside and had Zoey show me where the short hand would point if it was a certain time. She did this for me but she really just wanted to play baseball. Later when it rained she told me happily that my drawing was going to be washed away. She sure does make it clear when she doesn't like something. At least I got a picture of it.
Mean mommy tries to make learning fun.

Our last book of the year was Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha.  Here is a review of the book:

 On his way to help grandmother and relatives at a seaside hot dog stand, seven-year-old Mark stops on the beach to pick up a small jellylike substance that he places in a bag of seawater. A moonlight ride with Gram on a fishing boat takes them out on the ocean where thousands of moonjellies shimmer, and the boy slips his treasure back among them. Based on a childhood experience in New England, Shasha's narrative is full of small details that illuminate the story but don't impede it. His rich pastels combined with the text create a strong sense of place and time--the warmth of family relationships, the quiet companionship of the boy and his grandmother, the cheerful hard work and hustle-bustle of the concession stand, and the magic of the glowing sea. His use of light, shadows, and darkness in the luminous full-color double-page spreads invite readers right into the story. Unfortunately, neither the text nor the jacket notes identify exactly what a moonjelly is. Despite this omission, it's a strong debut. --Marge Loch-Wouters, Menasha Public Library, WI
Sorry I am trying to get this done fast so it is easier to cut and paste than to come up with my own reviews.  Things discussed and learned this week were: New England, responsibility, contrast in artwork, italics, pastels (art), money, moon jellyfish and more. This was our second to last week of school and our enthusiasm was getting low so we just kept everything brief and moved on. There are many fun things we can do if we do this book again in a few years.

Our very last week was review and surprise trip on the very last day of school, June 10.  Both Mat and I took the girls to the new children's museum, Discovery Place Kids. It is for kids ages 2 to 7 and set up like different occupations and areas of play. I have tons of pictures of it that I will load to Shutterfly and share as soon as I can. Until then here are some pictures of our last day of gymnastics. We really miss this and can't wait for it to start again.

We had a great year for our first year of homeschool. Other than all the adventures we had with books Zoey learned her letters, letter sound and is starting to read. She finally got 13, 14, 15. The other numbers 1 to 20 were no problem. She can spell some words and is enjoying her new handwriting program. She likes to add small numbers and asks to play the adding game when we are riding in the car. We also have started listening to different stories while riding in the car. Charlotte's Web, Peter Pan, and Little House series. Mid-summer update on Little House series. Zoey begs for it every time we get in the car and can't wait for the next one once we complete one. Next we will be listening to The Long Winter so we are almost done. I have focused on Zoey mostly because she is the one "in school" but Sierra is right there with us learning so much. The other day I asked her where China was and she found it right away. She also loves to count things and now is drawing people, trees, and flowers.

If all goes as planned we will start our new school year on August 8. It is so hot out right now it is better to get started and take breaks when the weather is nice in October and April. Thanks for reading all year. Maybe our first week update will come sooner rather than later. Hmmmmmm, maybe not?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spring Surprises (sorta late, huh?)

I know, I know, I know, I promised this back two months ago and where have I been? I have no idea. I was probably in the kitchen loading or unloading the dishwasher. Anyway, I am here now. As I start this I wonder when I will finish. Today is Thursday, July 14. What day will it be when I finish? I can't even finish this paragraph without having to turn the sink on for a peach covered girl. Oh well. I will make my best attempt. For those of you who read our adventures you don't seem to mind my scattered thoughts and ramblings or you at least skip over them.

Back to Spring Surprises. Zoey just took the book for Spring Surprises that I printed out to use for our studies. She loves to go back and review stuff. Some things she remembers some things she forgets.

So here is what it was all about...
Spring Surprises
Now that the weather's warming, are your kids out exploring?
How many ways can you combine your child's enthusiasm for learning and exciting activities with all the delights of springtime? Begin counting with this adventure!
Day 1: What Is Spring?
Day 2: Science Secrets of Spring
Day 3: People and Places of Spring
Day 4: Time for Tips and Treasures of Spring
Day 5: Goodies and Surprises of Spring

We started off with Day 1- imagine that - watching some online videos of spring and seasons. I liked the one that showed the four seasons of an oak tree in fifteen seconds. Zoey then drew a picture of what she thinks of when she thinks about spring. She drew people, leaves, flowers, the sun, rain, a castle (ok?), some seeds and the word change. She then wrote out Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Summer and Winter were written perfectly backwards. I love when kids do this. As adults most of us find this extremely difficult but children can do it with ease. So then we talked about why we have spring, and how the earth revolves around the sun and the angle of the earth axis. I still don't know if she really understands all of this. I write down her answers to questions like What outdoor activities take place in spring and what changes do you see happening. We attempt to write a spring acrostic. This does not go well. Last but not least we go on our spring nature walk and then write about it. Zoey prefers to draw pictures at this point rather than write. This is what I would expect from a five-year-old child though.

Taking pictures on our nature walk

Day 2 - Science Secrets of Spring. This day is all about seeds and plants growing. The time lapse videos of seeds sprouting and of plants growing are very amusing to us all. There are also instructions on how to force forsythia to bloom indoors but in Charlotte it is already blooming everywhere so there is no need to do that. More things discussed this day are clothes you wear in the spring and what time sunrise and sunset happen each day for our nature walk. Zoey rode her bike and then drew a picture of her riding her bike and me pushing Sierra in the jogging stroller. It is very cute.

Getting ready to plant some seeds

Day 3 - People and Places of Spring.  (Now I have to get Sierra up from her nap. I bet nothing will get done on this until tonight or tomorrow. Did I mention I love the draft mode on Blogger? I do.) Sierra is not ready to wake up so I will leave her alone for now. She wakes up like me. It can be scary. But she still takes naps and for that I am so ever thankful. Now back to day three. We learned about rainbows, Noah's ark, George Washington Carver and his inventions. He invented peanut butter. Did you know that? Zoey loved all of the Noah's ark and rainbow activities but not so much the George Washington Carver. I was not surprised. Since these unit studies are aimed at the K-4th grade range I know there is going to be stuff that goes over her head or that she is just not interested in. We talked about being an inventor. When asked what she would like to invent Zoey said, "Shoes that teach you how to dance." Then she drew a picture of a dancer. On today's nature walk we looked for and found bird nests in trees.

Noah sacrificing an animal to Jehovah after they came out of the ark.

Zoey's drawing of Noah's ark.
Day 4 - Time for Tips and Treasures of Spring. We start today with videos of birds feeding their babies and baby robins from eggs to first flight. Zoey and Sierra loved, loved, loved this. We watched them over and over and over. And once again when Daddy got home to show him. We decided that the baby birds were cute and ugly at the same time. We continue the day learning about birds and different types of nests. We have a robin nest in our tree at this point of our study so this was especially interesting. Next we learned about the life cycle of a frog. Zoey already knew all about this so it was a review to her but she still loved it. After that was parts of a tree and why a tree has roots. Our nature walk was last. Zoey's favorite part of the walk was, "going really fast on my bicycle." This makes me miss spring. I am looking forward to the cooler weather we are expecting this weekend.

Day 5 - Goodies and Gadgets of Spring. Videos of baby ducks start the day off followed by a discussion of fruits. We were supposed to make something from one of the strawberry recipes - oops! Next we learned about baseball and spring training. We found the states on the map where spring training happens. I shared with Zoey my experience with spring training and all of the traffic that it brought. We also learned about Claude Monet and looked at some of his artwork online. (Just went in and checked on Sierra again. She is sitting up. When she saw me she said, "GO!" I left. Now she just came around the corner and said, "The sun is up." At night I tell her to stay in bed quietly until I come and get her and that I will come and get her when the sun comes up. I started this in the winter when she was crying for me at 5:30 or 6:00 am. Now she just sleeps until 7:30 or later. I love her so much. Back to Monet. Zoey attempted to do her own copy of a Monet. She did quite well, my little artist. However she was not interested in doing the lapbooking activity, "Facts about Claude Monet." Today the nature walk either didn't happen or we didn't write anything about it.

Zoey pitching for Sierra. Can you see the ball in mid air?

Funny Stuff
Throughout the week there were various lapbook activities. Some we did, some we skipped. However, we never put the lapbook together. I guess we will work on that soon if Zoey is interested. She enjoyed making the pieces we just need to glue them in a file folder and it will be done.

The funniest thing happened on the last day. Mat had bought one of the cheap plastic baseball and bat sets from Wal-mart. Zoey had been asking for one for a long time and we thought with our studies this week and the nice weather it would be a great time to get it. Also, as mentioned earlier, we had been learning about birds, nests and eggs. We watched a robin make a birds nest in our back yard a few weeks before we started the unit study. I checked on it a few times and never saw anything. I figured they had given up on that nest. I guessed that the girls came outside one day and with all the noise they make the bird left and never came back. Back to the baseball set. I surprised Zoey with it at the end of the school day and we went right outside to try it out. Zoey missed the first few. Can't really blame her. I blame the pitcher, me. The first time she hit the ball it went between the trees. The second time she hit the ball it went straight to the top of the tree with the nest in it. For a second I thought it was going to be stuck at the top but it started falling down through the tree. It fell, bouncing all the way, through the tree and landed right on top of the bird's nest. At that same instant we heard a loud, SQUAWK, and see a robin fly frantically away from the nest. The ball fell to the ground. Zoey and I stood there shocked for a second and then we went to investigate. Sure enough there were four blue robin's eggs. They really are beautiful. The nest was low enough that I could easily lift Zoey up to see it. We moved our game to the front yard so hopefully the robin would come back to the nest.  Well they did. Both mom and dad robin tended to the eggs and eventually the babies. We were able to check on the nest every few days and see the progression of the babies. It was great! Except the part where the parents dive bombed us to keep us away from the nest. Actually even that was funny when it wasn't me.

The beutiful Robin's eggs.

Here you can see momma bird with one of the babies poking its head out.

The next Friday after the whole baseball and bird incident I was sharing the story with our friend Tristen who go to gymnastics with us. After this anytime Zoey got an adult who would listen to her she would tell them the whole story and if you think it is long when I tell it you should hear her. I just laugh every time I hear her tell it. She even uses the sound effects that I used.

Now, I don't know how you could plan a better unit study than to have a robin make a nest in your yard the same week you are learning about them but one thing I know for sure, we all learned so much and best of all - we had a fantastic time. In the weeks following this we also discovered a wren's nest in a planter near our back sliding glass door. We were able to watch the wrens come and go as they brought food to their little ones. We even got to see three of them leave the nest. There also was another robin that made a nest in the tree in our front yard down low so we could watch it. Unfortunately is was also low enough for a cat or something to get to the nest when the babies were a few weeks old. We learned from this too. I think was more upset than the girls.

In the white bowl on its side in the planter is where Wrens made their nest.

Next week we will be doing the Summer unit study and while I am sure it will be fun. I doubt it will come close to the discoveries we had while learning all about Spring.

We painted with some pretty spring colors.