Tuesday, December 13, 2011

math & wrapping up some code

Lately for Math W has preferred to work on the floor instead of at the table. It is a bit harder for him to focus when there are toys in the room, but for the MUS blocks it makes pick up much easier and I am not sweeping (as many) blocks out from under the kitchen table. W finished Chapter 8 (Solving for the Unknown) and we will be squeezing in Chapter 9 before/during the holidays, 9A section today.

As for Explode the Code 1 1/2, W has only a few short pages left but it seems like the last stretch is taking so long. He likes some aspects of it, but loathes writing. W still needs to work on using lowercase letters more often since he prefers to speedily write in all CAPS. We will start up Explode the Code 2 in January, and have a couple of other grammar/phonics books to work in as well. Today he wrote a short letter to his great-grandmother in FL. I should encourage him to write more letters. That gives him more of a purpose, not to mention it is more fun sending real mail.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy birthday C!

Happy 3rd birthday to my little C! :) He is such a cutie and is growing by leaps and bounds. He loves listening to stories now and often picks out 3 or 4 at a sitting. C loves our Christmas tree (and rearranging ornaments). Poor little guy got an injury while outside playing during our FIAR co-op on Monday, so his boo boo has changed colors many times but is gradually getting better. He plays tough, no one gets in his way-- not even a rock. :)

We spent part of the day rearranging books and book cases so we can fit the puppy crate up on the loft near the boys bedroom. They are getting excited and we are learning together about how to care for puppies. One major thing will be making sure they pick up their toys unless they want the dogs to get at them.

C got many nice gifts from my aunt, uncle, cousins, his grandparents, auntie, and W made him a special lift the flap card. Julie visited for present time and we did errands. Tomorrow we are having a small party to celebrate his day so he'll get to see his cousins and friends.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FIAR: A New Coat for Anna

A New Coat for Anna by Harriet Ziefert is a post WWII story of a young girl who has outgrown her coat and her mother then uses things to barter with the farmer, spinner, weaver and tailor to get a new coat for her daughter. The book ends at Christmas time so it was nice to read this time of year, if you can find it at your library I recommend it. We rowed this book not "in a row", but rather over the course of a couple weeks as it overlapped some of W's other studies (a Little House book club carding/ spinning demonstration this fall, and also rowing Warm as Wool by Scott Russell Sanders).

Yesterday we had our FIAR co-op and used strongly brewed tea and blueberry natural dye to dye some strands of yarn and they came out really cute. We didn't use any mordant (these kids are young so this was a good demonstration anyway) but I can see getting into this and using our small loom to make some woven squares. W has done finger knitting in the past but I might reintroduce it to him again since it may help him slow down and focus while working on something relaxing and productive.

W hung his yarn on the tree and it makes a cute garland. This week we are preparing for Caleb's birthday, as well as preparing our home for puppies. We didn't initially plan on this happening now, but have hoped to get a dog for years and all of a sudden things fell into place pretty quickly. ;)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I ❤ Chocol-8

In Math-U-See, W is currently solving for the unknown in Chapter 8. He is halfway through the chapter, and is finding the blocks to be useful tools to help him figure out the problems. C has been enjoying counting blocks and building things with him while his brother works away. Last year I worried about him with the smaller blocks, but he is great with them now and even likes playing with little legos.

M-U-S now has t-shirts, so an elf may be delivering some pretty soon to our household. (Shhh... don't tell W! I will make sure and post photos after the holidays.) The "I ❤ Chocol-8" shirts are too sweet, and MUS-ers will be able to recognize us in a crowd. The "Can you tell me how to get to Decimal Street?" shirt is pretty cool too.

W has been continuing with Story of the World this week, with reading and projects Mon & Tues and listening to the CD for review today. He has been doing some Explode the Code 1 1/2 and lots of lego creative play & playing UNO. We are rowing a couple different books at once over the past couple of weeks including A New Coat for Anna for our FIAR group. He has been reading a lot of seasonal books lately. 

C has been a bit grumpy but he took a big nap today. I think he still needs naps, although some days he goes without them. He will be 3 next week, he is growing up so fast.

Today we raked some leaves outside and they played on the swing set. Then we went a little bit into the woods (with orange hats on this time of year) to see the seasonal stream that has developed. It sounds like a babbling brook and there are a few large rocks nearby to sit on and enjoy it. This weather has been really warm lately but I know before long the snow will come again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

'Tis the Season

the beach in Hingham

W playing tic tac toe 

We spent Thanksgiving visiting family. The boys enjoyed stopping at the beach on the way there to see the ocean and throw some stones and shells into the water. After the delicious turkey dinner we took a walk before dessert. The boys had fun making artwork with my cousin and playing with the 80's toys that belonged to her, it is always nostalgic to see them again. My sister was the only one that unfortunately had to work the following day, but I am glad she could be there for Thanksgiving too, it was really nice.

one of the majestic reindeer

Friday we took advantage of the long weekend and took an overnight trip up to the White Mountains. We enjoyed the snow and scenery. We visited Santa's Village & met with Santa, but we decided the park is more fun in the summertime. The reindeer are amazing creatures, that was my favorite part by far. The antlers lost their fuzz since the last time we saw them. C liked seeing them from a distance. We bought the book The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett. I will print out some reindeer themed activities for W to learn about them for a unit study.

having fun with pretend reindeer-- we have a similar summer picture minus the hats and slush! :)

it did look pretty magical as the lights went on

Most of the rides were still open, but I had hoped there might be some special and meaningful events happening given the season. C said his favorite part was the train ride. W liked the dizzying whirlwind sort of rides. There was a breathtaking sunset that evening. We couldn't capture it with photos.

On Saturday, we went to North Conway and visited the bustling little general stores, W's favorite store the rock shop, and walked around the snowy downtown. Then we headed south toward home and gradually saw the snow disappear along the roadside. Sunday afternoon was mild here and Jacob spent it raking the side yard. Today it was quite warm. It is funny thinking of how we visited the beach and snowy mountains in one week, and how different climates can be this time of year within New England. A couple hours in either direction makes a big difference!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

We have been learning a lot about Thanksgiving leading up to the big turkey day. W watched the virtual field trip on the Plimoth Plantation web site, and we have been reading many books with a Thanksgiving theme. The boys made a couple of felt Pilgrim themed placemats with cute felt stickers we found at Michael's craft store. This Wednesday will be Pie Day and we will make pies to bring for Thanksgiving at my Aunt's house.

Last week at co-op the books covered tied in some of the books to a Thanksgiving/family reunion theme and W participated in a cranberry relay race with ladles and cornucopias. He had a fun time! The kids tried eating cranberries (raw) and most spit them out being too tart, but they liked the juice when a bit of natural sweetener was added.

Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving/Pilgrim themed books we are reading this week:

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessey
Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Treehouse #27) by Mary Pope Osborne
The Story of the Pilgrims by Katherine Ross
Cranberry Thanksgiving by Harry Devlin
Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FIAR: Ferdinand - take two

We rowed Ferdinand again recently for our Five in a Row co-op. You can see an older post about The Story of Ferdinand here

This time around we focused on a science aspect. W asked if the little corks on the trees in the cute illustrations by Robert Lawson really grew like that. I said you know, I don't think so but I really don't know, so of course we went to youtube to discover how they really harvest cork for corked bottles and sustainable flooring. He really liked seeing how the bark of the cork tree is peeled off, and appreciated that it seemed like a lot of work for the people to cut it down. Also the fact that it can grow back and be harvested again was pretty cool to know. That was part of geography as well because cork grows well in Spain and Portugal. 

Another science project was focusing on the parts of a flower (Ferdinand's favorite) and coloring in an anatomy sheet. We have read this story so many times that it was nice to do some fresh activities.

Our co-op met yesterday and we made silly hats like the men that decided to bring Ferdinand to the bull fight in Madrid. We used newspaper, stickers, and craft supplies to decorate. This month we will be rowing A New Coat for Anna with the group. 

making the hats

some of the silly hats and silly expressions :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The morning after the snowstorm I only got a couple shots before my camera battery died. Our yard looked so strange with all the leaves in the snow! We had a few branches down but thankfully no serious damage.

The past week we have been recovering from a bad virus, and we still have coughs/runny noses so we have had to postpone our co-op activities until next week. Last week we were affected by the October storm that hit New England and our power was out from Saturday evening until Wednesday morning. It wouldn't have been too bad since we still had heat, but with all of us being sick it made it tougher. We are very thankful to live in this modern age. And I am thankful that the boys made me laugh every day despite our troubles. Thank you Julie for sending us food when we were sick! The boys loved it. Julie came to visit today on her day off and we did a few errands. That was really nice and much needed. So we are back to the land of the living now.

W has been getting back into his Math-U-See routine (now on Ch 7) and working on workbooks and the Story of the World activities. Now that my voice is better we have been reading more chapters aloud from The Long Winter by L.I. Wilder. How fitting that we read the October Blizzard chapter after our own storm. ;) I just hope our winter this year won't be that bad.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Trick or Treat

Despite our best efforts to suggest concept based costumes for W, he chose to portray Finn McMissile of Cars 2 for Halloween, and C was more than happy to be Lightning McQueen. Yesterday was the annual Downtown Trick or Treat event in MA that we've been attending since W was a baby. We enjoyed meeting up with friends beforehand at a local coffee shop. It was quite rainy but the event was rain or shine so we went anyway and the boys had fun. Luckily their costumes fit over winter coats! 

Earlier in the day we went to the Singalong at the library, and C had fun. They sing various songs including the Firetruck song, I'm a Little Teapot, ABC's, and the classic The Wheels on the Bus. It is more of a little kids event, so W chose to read books during part of it, but later joined in playing some of the instruments after the noisy parade. We checked some books out so we have plenty of reading material for a while. 

Last night also marked the first snow of the season. It is pretty unusual to see snow whilst still seeing the leaves in various colors on the trees.

Monday, October 24, 2011

FIAR: Andy and the Lion

Last week for Five in a Row, we read Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty. The text is in capital letters and kept very simple, while the illustrations are expressive and heartfelt. The book is not one of the longer FIAR selections, so I recommend rowing it on a week when you have a lot of other projects going and need a "light" fiar week. This story closely mirrors the Aesop fable of the Lion and the Mouse. The overall message is that creatures of all sizes matter and have a special purpose. 

Sunday was the blessing of the animals at church. It was a nice ceremony to acknowledge the animals of our community. There were several dogs, a cat and lots of photos of all sorts of animals. W brought a photo of our cat, he attended last year but we didn't want to stress him out again. 

W enjoyed the book and thinks that "the lion was good". We researched African Lions online, and found the National Geographic website to be very informative and have a lot of great photos. W was flabbergasted to learn that lions are full grown before his age, he couldn't imagine being a grown up lion. We also watched the famous youtube video of Christian the Lion who was reunited with the people that raised him after being introduced back into the wild years later. If for some chance you haven't seen it, it's pretty cool. It reminded me so much of Andy and his Lion being reunited, and it is extremely moving. W liked comparing and contrasting our own cat to his larger "big cat" relations. :) 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teddy Bear Picnic & Little House stuff

We missed co-op this week unfortunately, but W and C decided they wanted to have a Teddy Bear Picnic anyway (the theme they did this week) with an apple feast. :) Jacob often sings this song to them, so we sang and watched it on youtube and gathered pretend and real food for our picnic. The boys enjoy a lot of imaginary play together. Most of the time this features cars, trains, or legos, but W has a renewed interest in his stuffed friends lately.

 Pooh enjoyed it, but it looks like Paddington passed out. 

Today we had our Little House book club, one of the moms in our group was very kind to bring a demonstration of a spinning wheel, carding wool, and knitting needles so the boys had a great time trying this first hand. We ate some homemade applesauce for snack. It was a low turnout but we had fun anyway, and I hope some more families will be able to make it next time. I will need to think of a good November activity. W and I finished By the Shores of Silver Lake this week, and will begin The Long Winter soon. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

SOTW: The more things change...

The more they stay the same. How little the world has really changed over the span of humanity, only now they put it on TV and tweet about it. W is learning about the Middle Kingdom of Egypt for history and ancient people and dictators fighting for power, all while the news of the death of Gaddafi is in the headlines. It certainly puts things into perspective! When I asked W where Libya was he said without hesitation "next to Egypt". He remembered it from our lesson maps and the GeoPuzzle.

I have been stretching the Middle Kingdom lesson into a few days and today we listened to the CD and did the narration. W and C also made "golden" Nubian bracelets with yellow card-stock and they attempted making sock monkeys with beans. We are about to head into the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt and some Bible stories which he has covered in Sunday School, so I think by hearing these again they will sink in more with W, though he may surprise me at how much he remembers.

Photos and Fall Poetry

View of the fence Jacob built in our back yard, decorated for the season.

I have been wanting to read some poetry with W so I found a couple of autumn related ones online. I printed them on cardstock. This can go along with nature study and appreciating all the sights, sounds and smells of outdoors in the fall. Here is a nice poem for the season by Robert Frost.

Gathering Leaves

by Robert Frost

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

                                                   Next to nothing for use.
                                                   But a crop is a crop,
                                                   And who's to say where
                                                    The harvest shall stop?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I was tasked by the 5-in-a-Row supplement to teach W the following: there exist 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, and 5280 feet in a mile (I Googled just now to double-check this last one).  In addition, we were tasked with measuring W's height and finding the height of La Girafe.

I decided that the conversion numbers are the least important aspect of this lesson. Foremost is to show that measurements are useful.  I asked W how we might build a lid for our stove, and we worked through using the measuring tape to decide where to make cuts in our imaginary lumber (our pretend buzz cutting being the highlight of the lesson).

Next, we thought about other things we might measure or different ways to measure things.  I told W about how there are devices that measure distance by how long it takes light to bounce back and forth.  We put the same principle into practice by counting how long it took for W to run back and forth.  W knew that the longer it took for him to bounce back and forth, the greater the distance.

I also wanted to emphasize that measuring units are fairly arbitrary, so we remembered a past lesson in measuring the house in lengths of W.  We created "the crayon" as a unit of weight and talked about how we'd decide how many crayons a book weighed.  We also talked about why there are different measures of length: for greater distances, you want a larger unit so that you count in smaller numbers.

This was a great lesson for W because it kept the Daddy lecturing to a minimum in lieu of several small, fun activities.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Geography Puzzles

Last week during a rainy day W and I did puzzles that tied in with our Giraffe that Walked to Paris theme, as well as studying about Africa. We used the GeoPuzzles for the continents of Africa and Europe. I helped him form the outline and then asked him if he could find the interior pieces and he turned them around until they fit.

We used a yoga mat to keep the puzzles stabilized. They are made of sturdy cardboard and most of the pieces are shaped like the countries. I showed W how they overlapped yet it looked like Europe was zoomed in since it has some smaller countries. These puzzles are fun for all ages and a great way of learning about countries all around the world. We often use Google Maps and Google Earth as well when focusing on particular countries for FIAR or seeing "directions" in our stories, like how the Giraffe Walked to Paris, or where the ingredients came from in How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Math Monday

This week W begins Chapter 6 of Math-U-See Alpha. He completed chapter 5 last week and even wanted to do the extra fun pages that go along with the chapter, woohoo! I am hoping he can cover a chapter per week now that he's on a roll with this material. I think that is a good pace to be challenging enough. He works on the Kumon geometry workbook every now and then but doesn't find it as appealing as MUS. They use the number line differently, so I don't want to confuse him too much (MUS goes 0-9, while Kumon uses 1-10).

He is working on addition problems and sometimes it surprises me what he can get right and the things he gets stuck on too; the "teen" numbers are difficult for him to remember how to say and write sometimes when just reading them, although he can count them fine reciting out loud. W continues writing some numbers backwards, sometimes both ways on the same page. I can tell his brain is trying to figure them out and by 3rd grade or so kids usually can master writing numbers properly.

Math-U-See "names" some of the manipulative blocks by color & calls 8 chocol-8, 7 se-vanilla, and 9 minty nine so W likes these nicknames for numbers and it's helpful when doing the color matching exercises. We use the blocks sometimes for building or solving problems that aren't even MUS. C likes them too, mostly for building towers, but also likes counting.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Raking Leaves

W asked to rake leaves the other day. I couldn't deny him that, so I went into the dusty old shed and found it. The only problem was that there weren't really that many leaves yet. Boo.

Probably by the time there are he will give up all interest. ;)

C, on the other hand...

Watch out! I've got a rake and no idea how to use it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

FIAR: The elusive Giraffe That Walked to Paris

A friend from co-op lent us the hard-to-find book The Giraffe that Walked to Paris by Nancy Milton and illustrated by Roger Roth. (Thank you Steph!) :) We are rowing it for Five in a Row this week. It is a pleasure to read, the story is a true one based on a gift given to the King of France from the Pasha of Egypt in the late 1820's. The illustrations are beautiful, in soft colors and extremely detailed. W and C both liked this story, it is quite long so I was pleased that C listened too.

I always wanted to go to Paris in the fall.

We found many materials online to accompany this book. Check out this paper printable of Paris from Made by Joel, an artist's website. It am a dork about paper dolls, so I was in heaven, but W even liked them. We printed the pdf on cardstock so it will last longer and W had fun coloring in all the people for the city. We will continue using this for our French lessons with HOP, Muzzy, and the First Thousand Words in French. We found a Giraffe coloring book page which resized nicely to go along with our city.

Thank you to the Pumpkin Patch blog for your free lapbook for The Giraffe that Walked to Paris. This covered vocabulary words, which months go in which seasons, a wind science experiment, learning about giraffes, geography, and history. Jacob is planning a Daddy lesson on measurement to go along with this theme too. 

Now I just wish la Girafe would come back in print!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

SOTW: Narration - Ancient Asia and Africa

W is currently learning about Ancient Asia and Africa in The Story of the World Vol. 1. With these lessons we first read the book, then work on map work or coloring activities, then a day or so later we review by listening to the CD chapters we covered and then do narration. This way I find the stories sink in more for him (and me). We are not completely classical in our approach by any means, I don't think we could live up to the rigorous schedule, but I do like some of the methods and materials.

Map of Ancient China with the Yellow River Valley colored in. W remembered the Yangtze River from The Story About Ping which he rowed for FIAR last year. :) He also got some library books about China for last week to go along with this theme. 

W playing with tangrams

Chinese Pictograms 
W's notebook was mistakenly left outside as you might be able to tell from this pic (oops) so some if it got wet from dew but it is dried out now and usable again. 

W really loved the stories about Anansi the spider from Ancient Africa. Here is an example from the narration book, we just use an empty drawing booklet and I write what W says to summarize what he read. It doesn't have to be long but it gets him to articulate the way he understood the story. He drew a picture for the narration of Anansi and the make believe food.

Monday, October 10, 2011

FIAR: Little Nino's Pizzeria

Last week we rowed the Five in a Row Volume 3 selection Little Nino's Pizzeria by Karen Barbour. It is a sweet story about a little boy who helps his father in his pizzeria, but then his father decides to be a bigger business man. This made little Tony sad and eventually his father decided he wanted to go back to making pizza and working with his son. We discussed many social studies issues such as serving, helping the hungry, and running a family business. This was a story that C sat with us to read each day. The vivid illustrations really kept his interest. W & C count pizza among their favorite foods, so they were excited to participate in making it and they got to see the yeast in action when we made the pizza dough. For toppings they chose turkey pepperoni and cheese, and we added some fresh oregano and basil.

pardon the fork and bite mark. it was good.

W visited a web site about the artist Henri Matisse, whose style is similar to the art in Little Nino. We also played a few pizza games, and found a neat site on pizza fractions here. Little Nino's Pizzeria was featured on Reading Rainbow (see below), so of course we watched this on the day we made pizza. We recently got DSL so we have been enjoying our higher-speed internet. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Full Fall Days

We have been having a good week. I am feeling really happy with where we are at in general. W is rolling along with Story of the World (Ch 10, W began Ancient China today), Math-U-See (Ch 5 Alpha), science supplements, Explode the Code 1 1/2 and Printing Power workbooks among many other things. Today we made pizza dough for homemade pizza to go along with the book we are rowing this week, Little Nino's Pizzeria. That post will be once we have the photos of the finished product. ;) Anyway, this was something both boys enjoyed using their measuring cups and seeing how the yeast changes and makes the dough rise.

This week we hosted our FIAR co-op here Monday, and went to another homeschool co-op yesterday. So far the focus has been on the New England states. The kids listened to a book on the Nashua River called A River Ran Wild: An Environmental HistoryThen one of the moms did a presentation. The kids brought in some rocks, leaves and twigs to add to a large container of water to see that once they settled, natural things did not hurt the water. Then they added in paint and oil, and quickly they got the idea of what should not go into the water supply! They also read One Morning in Maine, we have been on a Robert McCloskey kick lately for sure.

W has been enjoying this co-op, but I find it challenging to keep C entertained through the whole thing. He sits down and listens to stories at home, but his attention span is better for short stories, and his energy level is high. It is an afternoon co-op at the time he usually takes a nap at home. They had a variety of puzzles and activities so he did pretty well, and since this was our 3rd time going I felt more comfortable with him doing his own thing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FIAR: Make Way for Ducklings

For our Five in a Row co-op, we rowed Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey in September. Yesterday we had our monthly meeting with four local homeschooling families to read the book together. The kids got to share their artwork and activity pages they worked on. Our friends even brought a real duckling in, it was so cute! We heard it peeping, and they told us the duck parents were very upset that they were taking the duckling since they didn't know it would be right back that afternoon, they were so protective just like Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in the book.


W worked on some activity pages made by a friend's Mom on CurrClick, and learned about the duck life cycle. He read about the statue in Boston which he visited last March and will see again in a couple of weeks. 

W is working on lowercase letters; every now and then an upper case sneaks in, but there is great improvement already!

W (pre-glasses last spring!) and Mama Duck

He also read a Rivers booklet from CC. This geology/ science study has tied in with where we are in The Story of the World as well, he is learning why ancient cities were located on rivers since not only was it a good water source for drinking and crops but it also gave them much easier transportation on boats compared to crossing mountains or deserts. I love when the stars,.. err... curricula align, much easier for planning lessons! ;) Outside he used sand from his sandbox to make hills and obstacles for his mini river to go around. We checked out a Rivers and Ponds DK Eyewitness dvd from the library as a supplemental resource. They have a pretty large collection of these dvds there so I will try to remember that for next time, he really enjoyed watching it. 

W also read Homer Price by Robert McCloskey as a read aloud and finished it last week. It is a chapter book which reads more like short stories. He absolutely loved it and many of the stories made him laugh. I did get a chuckle out of the doughnut story, although personally I prefer Mr. McCloskey's books for younger readers. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

FIAR: Salamander Room

Salamander diorama (the head is by the yellow leaf)

Last week we rowed The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer. W said this was his favorite Five in a Row book and he really enjoyed reading it to his brother as well. We went on a hike in our woods looking for salamanders but were unsuccessful. Rain put a damper (quite literally) on our plans to try again. So after reading a FIAR message board post I was inspired to go to the tackle section at Walmart and found realistic looking fake ones for cheap. If you do this please, please take out the hooks before giving to your kids! They were thrilled with their creepy crawly little guy and found some leaves, ferns, rocks and sticks to make him feel at home. And I was thrilled that I didn't have to touch a real salamander. ;)

W enjoyed reading this website on Salamanders and Newts and seeing the photos, and in the past when Jacob finds them in our yard when working he has shown the kids so he was excited to see some that looked "just like those". The Salamander Room was also featured as a Reading Rainbow book.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By the Shores of Silver Lake

W and I began reading By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder last week. I was somewhat reluctant to start it with him since he is in "first grade" and this book is the turning point in the series when Laura begins to grow up very quickly. He thought the Garth Williams cover looked exciting and he recently finished On the Banks of Plum Creek, so he wanted to read the next one. I have read it many times, but it really hit me (again) anyway and of course I was in tears by the end of chapter two. W just wanted me to keep reading as he was absorbed in the story. We are currently on chapter nine. So far W said his favorite part was when they arrived at the new camp and found Uncle Henry and their cousins Charley and Louisa there, since it was such a surprise to meet more of the characters from the Big Woods again.

I always felt touched by Laura being "eyes" for her blind sister Mary, but reading the amazingly detailed descriptions of all of the Little House books, I realize how that may have actually helped Laura really see things in depth herself and later use that gift as a literary tool. It is pretty well known that her daughter Rose Wilder Lane had a hand in heavily editing the books, but I have read many of Rose's other works and although she definitely had a gift for storytelling, it just wasn't the same as her mother's descriptions. 

"Mary" and "Laura"

Last week our Little House book club met for the first time this fall, and we have some new members along with friends from last year and it was a really nice time. The kids and Moms made corn husk dolls and chatted about the books. We dried some corn husks on a low temperature in the oven (took about an hour) and soaked them again the morning of the book club so they would bend easily to work with. It is something we would do again, we used wooden doll heads to attach since they were a bit easier to draw on, but all the dolls came out pretty cute.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SOTW: Early Writing

W using a clay "tablet". He preferred the picture writing of the Egyptian Heiroglyphs.

In our last post I touched upon the Egyptian Heiroglyphics and Sumerian Cunieform we are learning about through The Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times. In addition to W translating my written message on paper, we decided to try it with modeling clay last week on one of the rainy days. 

Writing was not easy!

Our chaotic everything table. :) We do lessons here and eat every meal here, it's pretty much the center of our home since our kitchen is attached to the living room. This is pretty much what it looks like during weekdays on "normal homeschool days" (when we don't have co-ops or friends over). You may notice our math workbox at the far end and the bucket of crayons in the center. The red binder has W's history stuff. C is standing up for some reason but he always is curious about W's projects and this one was fun for him too.

Today W and I listened to the last few chapters on the CD as a review (now we are finished with Chapter 7, Hammurabi's Code). W thought many of the rules that Hammurabi set were not fair (such as killing people over stealing an animal). I love my peace-loving little guy. :) We have a couple of word finder puzzles from the Story of the World activity book which he will work on this week. I may take them along for W on Friday when C has a doctor's appointment.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lego Pyramid

Last week we dove into Egypt with The Story of the World, so W helped make a step pyramid with legos. He wanted it to be all red, and he built the base. I had to help with the inside support bricks so it would last more than an hour, but then he clicked in the ones around the top. It was complete with an unlucky mini-figure "mummy", and a yellow "gold" brick for his treasure inside.

poor lego dude!

W added a cat on top to guard his pyramid.

As part of our Egyptian study, The Story of the World gives an alphabet for Egyptian Heiroglyphics and Sumerian Cunieform, so I wrote a message for W to translate and write in English. He had fun with that, and I gained respect for ancient Egyptian scholars! It is no easy task to write out words.

Lately we have been reading 1-2 chapters at a sitting, doing a simple narration to go along with his project notebook, and during the week we listen to a few chapters on CD again while coloring supplement pages to go along with the chapters.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FIAR: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

Last week W chose to row How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. We had done this one last year and recently the geography co-op we're in read Marjorie Priceman's other book How to Make a Cherry Pie and see the USA, so he had a renewed interest in this theme. Not to mention there is pie in the title, and it is apple season here, so he knew he was guaranteed an opportunity to help make a pie! He helped measure ingredients, squeeze lemon juice on our apples as I cut them, stir, and put the pie bird in.

W's pie

We utilized our GeoPuzzles and maps for this one to locate all of the places mentioned in the book. I printed out a sequence- matching card game created by Karen Prior at FIARCircle.com. We laminated and cut out the cards so we can reuse it and keep it in W's FIAR notebook. It came out great and inspired me to use the laminator more often. I had to chuckle when reading Pioneer Woman's blog post about her new-found obsession with her laminator. It is a common sickness with homeschooling Moms around the world. ;)

See the pretty cards? We made a NH card with the blank one for "Home". He had fun putting all of the modes of transporation, food ingredients, and places in the right order. 

This week we are rowing W's "favorite Five in a Row book so far" according to him: Salamander Room by Anne Mazer. Wish us luck in finding a salamander or newt in the woods this week. He is on the hunt!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lessons from Little House

Our family enjoys watching Little House on the Prairie, and in an episode we watched last Friday, the kids had a conversation which I found rang so true. Mary was trying to force her little sister Carrie (around age 3) to work on her alphabet, while Carrie wanted to draw pictures. It is important for children to learn things at their own pace, and this was a reminder to me also not to push W too much with writing when it's not what he wants to do, since he has a lot of time to work on that and boys of this age are somewhat notorious for not wanting to write. 

Here's the transcript of that particular scene from Little House (first season, For the Love of Johnny Johnson episode):

Mary: Here, Carrie. Let's make letters. (proceeds to start writing on the slate)
Carrie: Pictures.
Mary: No, Carrie, we're going to make letters.
Carrie: Pictures.
Mary: Letters.
Carrie: Pictures!
Mary: Letters!
Carrie: Pictures!
Laura: Let her draw! Why do you always have to spoil everything, anyway?
Mary: I don't know what you're talking about.
Laura: You do too. We always used to have fun walking home, and now all you do is show off playing "teacher."
Mary: That's silly.

(continues into an argument and Laura storms off)...

I know W will master the lower case alphabet someday, but he is 6 and many times would rather play outside or do other projects, so sometimes I need to let it go. :) I want to encourage him to write some letters or postcards more often to use that as practice time instead of forcing the workbooks every day.

We have our first Little House book club meeting of the fall on Friday, and we'll be attempting to make some corn cob dolls. We are starting the book By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder this week. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Science Leaves Out

Kids have lots of questions about the nature of the world, and this is good.  However, I think our answers to these questions often miss the mark.  Consider that quintessential chestnut, "Why is the sky blue?"  Google for an answer and you will find physical explanations involving atmospheric molecules, light scattering, and wavelengths of light.  Let's focus on the color aspect, because here the explanation given to children and adults is about the same.  The color model is that white light, such as that given by the Sun, is actually a bundle of waves, where each color is a different wavelength.

I remember reading such an explanation in one of W's "science for kids" books and feeling uneasy.  I did not like the matter-of-fact approach and authoritative tone, as if the question and answer belonged to the same category of question as "What is the state capital of Massachusetts?".  It seemed to me that something important was left out of the answer.

One source of my uneasiness has to do with how much explanatory power we can ascribe to physical models at all and how we interpret the reality of those models.  I could write at great length here, but I'll admit this is mostly metaphysical quibbling.  Given the success of physics in getting men to the Moon and back, I am willing to put aside those questions... at least until the boys are a little older.

But even if we take the physics at face value, I still have uneasiness.  Doess the "color is really just a wavelength of electromagentic radiation" answer really do full justice to the phenomenon of color?

Recently I came across a thought experiment that articulates my unease: Mary's Room.  The idea is to conjure someone who has never seen color because she has been captive in a colorless room her whole life.  Now give her perfect knowledge of the physics involving color, atmosphere, and anything else you like.  The question is this: when she is released from the room and looks up at the sky for the first time, will she learn anything new about color?

Of course she will.  She will learn what color looks like.  And here we come to what it is that physics necessarily leaves out: experience.  Because of this, we should not pretend that physical science provides complete explanations for the nature of things.

Let's get back to the child asking why the sky is blue.  Maybe "color is a wavelength" needs to be part of our answer.  But maybe part of our answer also needs to be "color is a particular experience".  Which is a small child really reaching for: the mechanics of light waves, or wonderment at why an experience is just this experience and not that experience.

As a philosopher might say, perhaps whatever answer we give should end with a semi-colon instead of a period.

Friday, September 16, 2011

C update: Pre-Pre-K Homeschool

C is often the sidekick in our posts but here is an update just for him. He will turn 3 in a few short months! That is really hard for me to believe, he will always be my little miracle baby to me.  He woke up congested this morning and his little stuffy voice is so cute, but I seriously don't want to catch this bug! He is still not potty trained and is not quite ready for it, he is still in cloth diapers at home. C naps most afternoons for an hour or two. We have a vision appointment in a couple of weeks for him, as the doctor recommended it after seeing W, so it will be good to get him checked out. He loves eating apples and bananas. The photo is him eating an apple from the tree in our yard. He is not a fan of veggies so that is always hit or miss.

His vocabulary is growing every day and he communicates more clearly than a few months ago. He benefits from the many stories that his brother reads to him, and has been exposed to Five in a Row books on his own level. He reads many of the Before FIAR books although we do not have the workbook for that. His favorite books are board books for Goodnight Moon  by Margaret Wise Brown and Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli (which he calls "Baby Soup"). :) He loves painting, drawing, and doing puzzles, playing with his t-ball set outside, and swinging on the swing set. He already loves imaginative play with his brother with legos and toy cars.

C has a deep love of trains and anything with wheels, he has been fascinated when we took him on train rides and to the museum. He tags along on our field trips and co-ops. He plays with W’s math-u-see blocks or duplos while W does math, and already he can count to twenty when counting with manipulatives. He is working on his ABC’s too, but does not recognize the symbols for most of the letters/numbers so far.  

He loves animals, especially our cat and is learning to pet him the direction that his fur goes. Luckily our cat Luddy is very patient with him, and he seems to enjoy the attention despite his expression in the photo. ;)

C loves Mickey Mouse, Curious George, and Dinosaur Train. Occasionally he will watch a Thomas and Friends dvd. I find that waiting as long as possible for TV makes the day flow easier, such as when I am making dinner that is a good time for a couple of shows. I usually will let them each pick one; 90% of the time lately C wants Mickey. I like popping in a Disney movie or musical like The Sound of Music on a rainy day after we do lessons, but since he naps most afternoons he usually sees the first 30 minutes. 

W and C don’t always get along and certainly have their moments like any siblings, but they are best friends and I think W really loves having the company of his little brother each day.