Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Weather unit and the rest of March

Beware: Lots of gratuitous photos in this blog posting.
For the month of March, Graham and I did a mini-weather unit.  And by "mini" I mean I started the month out well and did like three things and then fizzled.  And because I currently have a $5000 fine at the library, I was avoiding going and checking out some weather books.  Yeah, we homeschool.
Anyway, here is our cool tornado in the jar (via pinterest).  I was skeptical, but it actually really works.  We have left it sitting in the widow of our kitchen all month because it is so fun to play with!
We did a couple of fun weather crafts.
My favorite activity was the weather bath!  Add some blue food coloring and shaving cream clouds to a regular old bath, and it becomes super special and super fun!  Graham and Grayson had a ball playing!
Graham did an experiment in the tub with shaving cream and blue food coloring to demonstrate how rain drops through the clouds.
Last month, I started the "All about Reading" Level 1 with Graham.  He zoomed through the pre-reader level, so I figured he was raring to go for the next step.  Ummmm, not so much.  I had to pull my hair out to get him to sit still enough to do the lessons every day, and when he did sit still enough, he was getting frustrated with the material.  He was just not ready for it.  Totally Okay.  And totally why we homeschool.  So, I am putting it away for a few months to re-visit it next fall.  Anyway, I have decided to work on some other skills for awhile.  We have been doing alot more math lately, and Graham has really enjoyed it.  I think SO much of it at his age is him developing a positive view of math and building some math confidence.  This is something I sorely lacked from the moment I walked through the doors of the public school until the day I walked out.  I think this has much to do with why, even now, I am very reluctant to teach math.  But my boys both LOVE math and so far both of them feel pretty competent and I don't want to do anything to hinder that!
So, one of the things we did this month was to set up a "numbers station."  I pulled out a ton of stuff I had on hand: number stickers, number magnets, number dry erase boards, manipulatives, bingo markers, etc. and just let him play.


One day we got out our scale and he weighed all kinds of things.  He had big fun with this, and I couldn't believe how long he played with it.  We talked alot about why things weighed more, how to get the scale even, and why sometimes one side of the scale was heavier even though there were less objects on it. 
Little Bubba also got in on the action.  He seriously had a ton of fun putting stuff on the scale and playing with the smooth river rocks.
I gave him an egg carton and he played with it forever ("forever" in toddler time is around five minutes or so).  He put rocks in it and then I gave him all sizes of colored pom poms.
Graham is into Star Wars right now.  We did a Star Wars preschool pack.  One day I had Isaac read Graham a Star Wars book.  This doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it warms this mama's heart! Notice diligent/organized/project-oriented child fully dressed and ready for the day while creative/messy/somewhat lazy child is still in his pajamas.  Not that we put anyone in boxes around here or anything.
For Geography studies, Isaac is learning about South America.  We did a diorama of the rainforest.
Here is Graham looking SUPER cute next to the diorama.  Isaac is noticeably missing because when I attempt to take a normal photo with him in it....
....this is what happens.  Part of having a nine year old boy I guess.
I was starting to second guess our geography curriculum, and was about ready to think the whole year had been a massive waste of time from an academic point of view, until I started really working with Isaac and quizzing him on some geographical things.  He can tell you on what continent, what country and often what city many major geographical landmarks are located (El Castillo, Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge, Itsukushima Tori, Grand Canyon, The Parthenon, etc.).  He can identify where most major countries of the world are, he knows about many of the important eco systems of the world, and can tell you at length what the differences are between a temperate/tropical/arctic climate.  I am so proud of him!  And, the best part is...I am learning right along with him!

Friday, February 22, 2013

On expectation

I remember hearing a mom speak about her grown children. The topic of the speech was on facilitating your children to know the Lord so that when they are adults, they are walking with Him. It was a great topic, and I listened with rapt attention. One of my bigger fears for my children is that they will walk away from the Faith they were raised in when they are adults. This fear has much to do with why I homeschool. I want to give my boys every foundational advantage to walking with the Lord when they are adults. I often pray that I will not be a stumbling block to their salvation in any way. As I listened to this mother, I was wholeheartedly agreeing with what she had to say, until she got to one part of her talk where she shared that her oldest son was not walking with the Lord, and that he "hadn't turned out." Something about that phrase jarred me. I got the picture of a cake baking in the oven, and collapsing into a flat mess when the door opens. But children aren't cakes. Is there really such a black and white line between "turned out" and "not turned out"? All of us have sinned and fallen short of his Glory. I don't think my heavenly Father is up in heaven, peering down at my behaviors and measuring whether I am "turning out" or not. And the same is true for my children. What I am doing by homeschooling my children is preparing for a harvest. But, I often ask myself what a "successful" harvest will look like. What if my children choose not to walk with the Lord? What if they are good and decent men, but don't want anything to do with the faith they were raised in? Will I think that they hadn't "turned out" and that my work was in vain? I have trouble thinking of things in such black and white terms. Sometimes the seed takes longer to grown into a thriving plant. And I can't imagine throwing in the towel and declaring myself a parenting failure if I get to the end of my active parenting days and my children don't act or look anything like I had imagined they would. I want to give them liberty, through Christ, to be who they are. I want to set aside my expectations of who they will become, and just let them be. I want to trust my Heavenly Father to lead them, pursue them, tend to them and help them grow. That is one job that I can take my hands off of. I can feel my spirit relax as I type this. There are so many things that are on my shoulders. There are so many tasks and jobs I have in rearing them that I get overwhelmed and exhausted. But this, this one thing of pursuing their spiritual hearts, this is not my job. And it may take a lifetime, but I believe that if I train them up in the way they should go, that when they are old they will not depart from it. And if it does, in fact, take a lifetime for this particular harvest, I will certainly NOT think they hadn't "turned" out along the way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

January and February Preschool Unit Study: Snow, Winter and the Arctic

Much like the months of January and February in North Dakota, this unit study seemed to drag on and on and on. Mostly because of some other things this mama has had going on in my life, I haven't had the time or energy to focus on doing alot of the fun stuff I had planned on doing. However, we did get to some fun things.
We made these adorable polar bears (Isaac says they look more like Panda bears, but whatever!)
I made this cute snowman felt playset (thanks Pinterest!)
We also made these adorable penguin footprints (I am a sucker for any craft that involves their little hands or feet...they always end up in my "art projects to keep" momento box!).  Thanks again, Pinterest!
We did several ice-related experiments, which Graham had a ball with.  Some (like this one pictured below) I got off of Pinterest.
The others we did were part of the arctic kit we got from our Kiwi Crate.  I LOVE our Kiwi crates, and Graham does too.  These photos are from a robot inspired kit we got a few months ago.




And last, but not least, are some of the winter-inspired reads we picked up at the library!
 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mid-year update

I cannot believe we are more than halfway through this school year.  It is amazing to me how the months fly by (even though some days seem to drag on and on).  Before I know it, I will be schooling a fourth grader and a kindergartner.
I am feeling pretty good about the progress we have made this year.  I am going to take this opportunity to record some of the things that are going well and what needs improvement.
I will start with my Graham:
Graham has far exceeded my expectations this year.  As both he and Isaac have summer birthdays, I like to give them an extra year of preschool before doing kindergarten work.  However, with how well Graham has been progressing, I think it is safe to say that we will be doing two years of kindergarten as he is definitely doing kindergarten-level work (and some first grade level work).  At the beginning of the year, one of my goals for Graham was to know letter names and sounds.  After just a couple of months using the "All About Reading" program, he has fully mastered uppercase and lowercase letters and their sounds.  At this moment, we have worked through the entire program and I am going to be purchasing the next level soon.  This will move him onto the next phase of learning to read.  I am SO excited to think Graham will be reading on his own soon!  I am so proud of him. If I were to be sending him to public school kindergarten next year, I would be sending him knowing how to already read, and that would be a great feeling!
Graham also knows all of his numbers, can write them and we are currently working on counting to 100.  He can count to 100 by tens, and can count by ones with help.
Graham is able to write his first name without help and we are currently working on his last name.
The areas I need to work further with Graham on are behavioral areas (such as getting along with his brother and being able to handle a "no" answer from mom or dad), stopping some bad-language habits that have recently developed,and furthering his spiritual development.  I need to be more disciplined about doing daily devotionals with Graham and helping him to understand the reason why we expect certain behaviors from him (because of what the Bible tells us) versus us just trying to make his life miserable! :)
Graham is having fun with some extra-curricular activities right now.  He is in Basketball (through a local church), and is taking swimming lessons.  Graham has recently also learned how to swim, so that is a huge milestone as well!
For Isaac, his progress has been less visible this year, but I know he has definitely progressed academically.
His handwriting has been a big area of improvement for him, as well as his ability to do independent work.
Isaac's biblical literacy has dramatically increased.  We have finished 3rd grade Bible already, as well as his TNT book for AWANA.  I really feel as though Isaac has a great understanding of how the Bible is laid out, and some of the main precepts within the Bible.  I think this is truly impressive for a third grader!  Isaac is just beginning Bible quizzing and I am anxious to see how he does.
Isaac needs to work on refining language arts skills, particularly proper punctuation and capitalization abilities.  Some days I feel I will surely never make it through this phase of teaching him, but I recall feeling this way about his handwriting, and now it looks so much better.  I really would like to see Isaac be able to write a short, descriptive report by the end of the year with proper punctuation and capitalization.  I may need to look for a more targeted curriculum to help him in this regard.
Isaac seems to be doing well in Math (this is through Teaching Textbooks) and according to his gradebook, is getting all "A's" in daily lessons and quizzes.  I am very thankful that this is a portion of his schooling I do not have much to do with.  Thank you, Lord for technology!
We have recently started Apologia Science, and I am really enjoying this so far (and so are the boys).

We learned about principles of flight including "Lift," "Thrust," and "Drag." We made our own gliders, flew them and recorded and averaged the length both of them went. Isaac wrote out his hypothesis for what he thought would happen beforehand.
Here is Graham working on his glider.  This experiment was timed really well for us because he recently read a book about the Wright Brothers with his dad and so some of the ideas of flight were fresh in his mind.  LOVE it when things work out like this...it is Serendipity!



Isaac modified his design halfway into the race to make the nose of his glider more like the beak of a bird.  This was a great opportunity to talk about his glider being Aerodynamic!


Isaac is also having fun with some extracurricular activities right now.  Besides testing for his dragon belt (halfway between blue and brown) recently, he has also completed swimming lessons (where he did so well I decided he could wait awhile to do another round of lessons this summer) and is in Basketball with Graham.  As I mentioned before, Isaac just finished his TNT book for Awana and will begin Bible quizzing. Isaac also participated in a play with the local public school where he also did really well and got one of the lead roles!  I am so proud of him! Below is a photo of Isaac as one of the "Cool Cats" in the production of "Cinderella."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Europe

For our geography studies, we have been visiting Europe. Here are a couple of the fun activities we have done: Stonehenge in the UK

The Greek Parthenon

Here is my own Greek sculpture, I was highly impressed with my abilities. Isaac was not, however, and he laughed at it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Diligence

If I had to sum up my theme for this school year in one word, it would be "Diligence."  I know what the word means to me, but I wanted to look up the word to find it's exact meaning.  According to www.dictionary.com, the word "diligence" means: "constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind."
To me, diligence is that thing that makes me crawl out of my warm bed every.single.morning to educate my boys.  It is what makes me look tirelessly for new and creative ways to help them learn.  It is the characteristic that makes me keep doing what I am doing even though every part of me wants to quit some days.  When the apathy wants to overtake me, diligence is what makes me push it down so that we can be successful.
Diligence.
I want to take a closer look at the definition above:
(1) Diligence is constant. 
There are always days where the discipline of diligence takes a back-burner to other things. But diligence itself is what makes me pick right back up where I left off. My natural tendency is to completely give up if I cannot do something 100%. Because of my focus on diligence, I don't have to be at 100%. The key for me has been consistency. If something gets me off course one day, I get back on course the next.
(2) Diligence and accomplishment go hand in hand.
I may not always be able to see the results of what I do with the boys on a daily basis, but I know that there is tremendous accomplishment in what I am doing with them. The diligence of our daily efforts is what gives us accomplishment in the long-term.
(3) Diligence is not only something I utilize with my mind, but it is physical.
On those days I don't "feel" like doing school with the boys (and there are many of those days!), I make my physical self get up off the couch and walk downstairs to the school room to begin our day. Often times, overcoming my apathy is as simple as taking those few short steps to the basement. I pray diligence will be my constant companion in the years to come. Our success depends upon it.

October Unit Study: Elections, Presidents, and Voting

Our October unit study was all-things election! We really packed a TON into this unit study. Although most of my monthly unit studies will be focused on Graham, this one also involved Isaac. Here are a few of the things we did this month:
*Patriotic art projects: Uncle Sam mask, Popsicle stick flag, 3-D White House
*Wrote Essays on "What I would do if I were President"
*Participated in a mock election (photos below)
*Read facts about each president during calendar time every day
*Learned about the branches of government, the electoral college, and the women's suffrage movement
*Went on a field trip to vote on election day!

Here is Graham looking adorable in his Uncle Sam mask:
Here are a few of our other art projects:
For our mock election, we read from three books: (1) "Duck for President, (2) "Grace for President" and (3) "My Teacher for President."  The election we held was between these three "candidates."  We spent some time a couple of weeks before our mock election talking about campaigning.  We made some campaign posters.  I thought it was hilarious when Graham excitedly had me come outside to see that he had proudly stuck his poster to the bumper of his car as a bumper sticker!

Here's Graham on our mock election day:
Our Voting station was equipped with a ballot box, "I Voted" stickers and a laminated photo ID for both of the boys to present before voting.  I assigned electoral votes to myself, Isaac and Graham based on age (guess who had the most electoral votes?) prior to our election.
Isaac casting his vote:
Graham casting his vote:
Proudly wearing their "I Voted" stickers!
The election break-down: Grace won!
Here we are on the REAL election day!


Even though this election didn't quite turn out how we had hoped, we learned a TON this month, and it was so fun to be learning about things that were unfolding in real life.  There are SO many great election-themed and patriotic children's books out there.  Below are a few of the books we read this month.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loy Krathong

photo of authentic Loy Krathong boats made by the Thai people
For our studies of Thailand in World Geography, we studied Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is a traditional Thai festival in which the people celebrate water and worship light. The people of Thailand celebrate this by gathering on the banks of bodies of water (in mid-November on the night of a full moon) and launching hand made boats illuminated by candles. The boats also contain offerings to make up for wrongs committed during the past year. We made our Loy Krathong boats, but because we do not worship light (We worship the one who MADE the light!), we wrote "Jesus is the light" on the boats. We took them down to a nearby pond and launched them. We wanted to light them, but the candles wouldn't stay lit in the wind.