Saturday, September 29, 2012

Origami masters we are not

The kids are outside playing after a week of illness. Let me tell you, Mom and kids are both glad that the coughing is over and the weather is beautiful. Saturday is their day to run around with friends and have all the unstructured time they need.  It gives me the unstructured time I need too!

We had a ton of fun this week studying Japan. We learned so much! The kids really liked writing haiku, and they also enjoyed the games on Kids Web Japan. In fact, they chose those games over the ones on Cartoon Network's site. Definitely worth checking out! Dogku and If Not for the Cat were a big hit. We reread Basho and the River Stones again as well. Anthony really enjoyed it.

Our study of origami was a great way for my husband to get involved in school this week too. We learned how to make a square out of a rectangular piece of paper, and then we followed the directions on the web site to make dogs and cups.

It's a good thing we weren't relying on those cups for water! The kids had a great time though. Origami led to a fascination with folding paper which led guessed it! Paper airplanes. I think we have about a thousand paper airplanes around the house, including The Big One. I will try to get a picture of it. It's made of about 5 pieces of paper, glued together. It's a big deal. :) Jerimiah checked out a huge book all about paper airplanes from the library. I don't think this is just a passing fancy.

How was your week?

Monday, September 24, 2012

What we're learning this week

This week we are exploring the world and studying Japan! I am ridiculously excited about this week's plans. I hope some of this enthusiasm rubs off on the kids.


Today we studied haiku. We read about them at kidzone, and then we practiced counting syllables. I felt like I really taught Anthony something today, because he was obsessed with counting syllables for the rest of the day. We read Basho and the River Stones by Tim J. Myers, which I highly recommend. The illustrations are gorgeous!

Then, the boys composed their own "What am I?" haikus. The goal was to write a haiku that allowed the reader/listener to guess the subject of the poem. Anthony wrote:

I am green and seen
I am unusually seen
I am bigger than you

Fortunately, he also drew a picture. This "What am I?" was a crocodile, which is not to be confused with an alligator.

Later haiku included:

I am a creature.
I am the biggest animal
I am a blue thing.

The description was much better, even if the syllables were slightly off. He and Jerimiah both loved this activity. Woohoo!! Score one for Mom!


We are studying Ukiyo-e at Kids Web Japan. They have a gallery on that site, and we may even be able to make one virtually. We'll see if I can get that one to work.

Compare haiku and Ukiyo-e. Both are simple and reflect a snapshot in time. Then we are going to write a haiku that describes a moment in time.


We are heading back to Kids Web Japan to read some of the folk tales there. Then we are going to compare Japanese tales with those they are familiar with now. I would call them American stories, but they really aren't, are they?


Kids Web Japan also has a really cool section on Shodo. If we can't get the virtual Shodo to work, then we will bust out the paint and paper. Please, oh please, I hope the virtual works!


Friday is all about the Origami!! I think this will probably be the boys' favorite.

In math, Jerimiah is studying fractions. He has a pretty good mastery of adding and subtracting them, and we are learning about multiplying fractions for the next few days. To reinforce what he's already learned, on M, W, and F he will play Fishy Fractions, Fraction Cafe, and practice adding fractions at this site.

Anthony is still rocking the triple digit addition and subtraction. He gets to play MathMan and Math Dojo.   

For Language Art/Literature, we are still reading Little House on the Prairie. On Thursday, the boys get to play "Word Invastion" at I love love love that website.  We will also be reading lots of haiku books from the library. I'll let you know if they are any good!

We are starting Geography this week too, but in a super mellow, relaxed, fun-loving way. Tomorrow, the boys get to put together their 50 States puzzle (Thank you, Dollar Tree!) and then play the 50 States game on abcya.

That's about it. What's going on in your homeschool?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One of those weeks

I've debated posting about this, but in the interest of being honest and open and real, I'm going to just lay this out here.

This week was no fun.

Ok, it was a little fun. For about one day. Otherwise, no fun was had in our little homeschool.

Should I tell you about the fun first? Or make you suffer through the week first? :)

You win. Fun first.

This week we continued our weather unit and learned about wind. The highlight of the week was our "What's in the wind?" experiment. First, I had the boys predict what they would find in the wind. Jerimiah and Anthony both predicted dirt, dust, pine needles and grass clippings. (Our complex's lawn care service was visiting.)

 Second, take a paper plate and punch some holes in it. Then, thread yarn through the holes to make a hanger for your plate. Smear the plate all over with petroleum jelly. You don't have to turn your plate upside down. The other side of this plate was red and white checks, which were not conducive to investigating tiny specks in the wind. 

 Hang your plate from a tree that allows the plate to catch the breeze. Then watch your plate carefully (or at least check on it) so that your wind experiment doesn't become a grass experiment.

Finally, check out what is in the wind. The boys were pretty spot-on with their guesses. 

Okay, people. Fun's over. 

Much of the week was spent in a battle between Mom and boys. Who won? I'm not really sure. All week, Anthony and I struggled with him staying focused on his activities. His focus lacked focus. My patience lacked patience. Jerimiah, of course, took advantage and pushed the limits as well. Sass mouth reigned supreme. We took Thursday off in an attempt to get our minds (and hearts!!!) right.

Friday went better, but was still not overly fantastic. It is what it is. Friday included the thoughts, "Why am I doing this? What am I doing wrong? Why am I fighting so hard? Is it even worth it?" 

And so, ladies and gents, it came to this: I know why I am doing this. I want my kids to be with me. I want them to see their dad, despite his non-traditional schedule. I want to know what my kids are learning at school. I want God to be the focus of our school. I want to allow them to learn at their own pace, following the interests and strengths God has given them. So we press on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pics from last week

 Here's some of my favorite pictures from last week's learning!

 Jerimiah doing some serious fishing-related task. I think he's baiting his hook.

 Now, he's doing some serious fishing!

 Anthony was looking for just the right spot to fish!

 One of the best parts about homeschooling is that the boys get to see their dad so much more than when they were in public school! We tried fishing off the dock, with no success.

 I'm not much of a fisher-person, but I love love love being out by the water and in the woods.

 A cloud. Bonus points if you know what kind!

 The cover of Jerimiah's cloud book

 A sample page of the cloud book. Basically, the boys used cotton balls to create the shapes of different kinds of clouds.

The silhouettes. Anthony's is on the right. As you can see, we needed more light. One kid looks like the Wicked Witch of the West, and the other looks like his features melted off. It was fun, though!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review of last week and this week's plan

I shared last week what our plans were. We were super ambitious, but we actually got a lot of things on the schedule done. I, too, am shocked, especially if you read about our science experiment fiascoes.

All in all, it was a good week. The kids' favorite activity was probably drawing a plantation, which really surprised me. Jerimiah in particular really thought about how his plantation should be organized. I loved that he wanted nice accommodations for his slave quarters. We ended up having a really good discussion about slavery in general, which lead to talking about how we treat others and what the Bible says about loving others. They also enjoyed their cloud books, which I will try to get a picture of soon. It's a dark, rainy day here. My cell phone just can't handle that!

The silhouettes were a bust. We didn't have enough light. We made them, but they didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. They also weren't as enthusiastic about all the cool websites I found. Some held their attention, but I was surprised at how quickly they wanted to be done with the sites overall.

We didn't do the Williamsburg site or the Colonial map because we went fishing instead. We didn't catch anything, but we saw a ton of egrets and herons. 

We discovered the Jerimiah loves listening to and reading along with books on CD. Our library has a great selection of age and reading level appropriate books on CD that we can check out with the book itself. Then he can read along. We will be getting a new one each week. Anthony wants to try them out as well.

This week, we are continuing our studies of weather and Colonial times.

Monday- Science

We began Science today by reading Rumble, Boom, which is a good overview of thunderstorms. We studied Thunderstorms at Weather Wiz Kids. We also studied Lightning at the same site. We watched this video on YouTube that explained how lightning forms. We also checked out the very helpful animations on Scijinks.  The kids loved every single thing we looked at today. (Mark that down on a calendar!)

For language arts, we are working on writing a paragraph about lightning. By the end of this year, Jerimiah should be able to write an essay, with an introduction and conclusion. We are building up to that by improving his paragraph writing skills. Anthony should be able to write a short paragraph by the end of this year.

Tuesday- Social Studies

This week, we will be studying Native Americans during Colonial times. The goal is to look at colonization from a Native American viewpoint, as well as learn about Native American groups and history from that time. We will look at this Thanksgiving interactive, which includes lots of information about the Wampanoags. We will also be making use of this site to learn about Northeast Woodland Native Americans. From that site, we will be reading the Wise Owl powerpoint and discussing the "moral" of the story. In addition, we will be reading parts of Indians of the Northeast by Lisa Sita.

Wednesday- Science

We will study Wind at Weather Wiz kids, followed by Tornadoes from the same site. As long as it's not raining, we will do this experiment to find out what's in the wind. We will also continue to work on our Lightning paragraphs.

Thursday- Social Studies

We will continue our study of Native Americans by using the same site as Tuesday, but this page. This covers the Native Americans of the Southeast Woodlands. We will read the Invisible Warrior powerpoint and discuss. Then we will compare and contrast the two stories. I'm still looking for a fun Native American craft or other activity to do. We'll see what I come up with. I'm leaning towards a dreamcatcher, but we'll see what kind of financial investment that takes. We may make paper canoes too.

Friday- Science

We will be wrapping up our weather unit by learning about Temperature and Weather Forecasting from the the Weather Wiz Kids site. (Can you tell I love this site?) We're going to give science experiments another go with a make a thermometer experiment.  We will finish up our Lightning paragraphs as well.

Whew! What a week. Our week-long projects/learning include reading "Little House on the Prairie" aloud. We should be working on that book for a couple of weeks. The kids really loved "Little House in the Big Woods." I hope that this enthusiasm carries through the entire series. I loved those books as a kid.

What do you have planned in your homeschool?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Science experiments- an exercise in patience

This week marked our first attempt at science experiments and hands-on learning. What an exercise in patience this turned out to be!

Our first experiment was "making fog." To do this, take a glass jar (we used a glass), ice cubes, hot water, and a strainer. Heat up the glass with hot water, and leave some in the bottom. Put the strainer on top with some ice cubes, and behold! the magic of fog.

Or something like that. Six tries later, we finally got some fog. You would think this one would have been pretty easy. I mean, how hard is it to mess up fog? We made it happen though.

Today we tried the popular "suck an egg into a bottle" experiment. This one is designed to illustrate air pressure, and since we were talking about weather, it seemed like a good fit.

Take a minute and go to YouTube and search "egg in a bottle." I'll wait.

Find one? Looks pretty easy, right?

Uh huh.

Let me tell you the Saga of Sucking an Egg Into a Bottle. It starts with me, a mom trying to do something fun with her kids. Our supporting cast consists of my husband, a dad trying to support his wife and play with fire at the same time.

What could go wrong?

Our directions specifically said to use a bottle with a long, narrow neck. We chose a beer bottle because it has a long, narrow neck. (Side note, we did not drink the beer.) Thirty two matches later, we wondered if maybe the neck was just a bit too narrow.

Wishing we had maybe drunk the beer after all, off to YouTube we went. No one on YouTube was using a beer bottle. In fact, no one used a narrow-necked bottle at all. Sigh.

We went out to run some errands. We discussed going to Goodwill or the dollar store to find just the right shape. Finally, we decide on a Snapple bottle. The husband stops at the gas station, only to find there's no Snapple to be found. He makes a huge sacrifice for our learning and gets one of those Starbucks drinks in a bottle. The top looks a little big to me, but heck, what do I know?

We try again. We set fire to a paper napkin, drop it in the empty bottle goes out. So we drop three or four more matches in. They go out. I stick the egg on top anyway, and slowly...ever so slowly...the egg is sucked into the bottle.

High fives abound. The kids are a little confused at Mom and Dad's over-reaction of happiness. I mean, it's just an egg in a bottle, right?

Just an egg. Just a bottle. So much work for forty five seconds of fun. Oh, and learning.

Anyone else ever have this happen?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Math TV

Hey everyone! It's Monday, which means we are fighting the "I don't want to's" and the whiny-s. Such is life. :)

Both of my guys are struggling a bit since they switched from whatever program the school was using to Singapore Math. They are understanding the ideas, but it's not as easy for them as they would like.

I was looking for some math resources to switch things up a bit, and I found this site. It has videos of people other than Mom doing math. When I used to be a corporate trainer, I found that listening to someone else was infinitely more appealing for my classes than listening to me all day. So we gave it a shot. The kids seemed to like it.

Hope you find it helpful!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Plan for the week

I thought I'd share our lesson plan for the week. Now that we've settled into a routine for our school time, I'm able to better plan out what we are doing on each day. I have a much more realistic idea of what we will be able to accomplish before brain overload kicks in.

Literature: "Little House in the Big Woods"- I know it's probably not a masterpiece of literature, but the kids are obsessed with "Little House on the Prairie" on TV. I read aloud to them, usually two chapters. The plan is to read the entire "Little House" series. Then we will move onto something else.

Bible study- "What Would Jesus Do" and memory verse "E" Psalm 55:17. "What Would Jesus Do" is a fun little story that gives life examples as well as a section of the Bible to read. I usually use my YouVersion app (the best app ever) and play the section of Bible we are studying. We discuss the section, apply it to the story, and try to apply it to current events in our lives. This usually takes about 30 minutes.

Grammar- One worksheet page (usually) per child. On a day where we have a lot of writing planned, I give them a pass on grammar. We usually spend about 15 minutes on this.

Math- One lesson or review. We use Singapore math. Depending on how much review is needed, we can spend up to 45 minutes on this. I try not to exceed 30 minutes for math. We also include skip counting, mental math, math facts, or logic problems.

Game of some type: We do Boggle, Word War (a game Jerimiah made up), math flash cards, or some sort of memory game. The goal is to get them thinking about what they've learned in a different way.

BREAK TIME!!!! We've discovered if we don't take a break, things go downhill pretty quickly. We take breaks at work, why not at school? On most days, we watch "Wild Kratts" on PBS and have lunch. Sometimes, though, we run errands in the morning before school. In that case, they watch some fully non-educational show and have a snack.

After break we begin our science or social studies lesson for the day.

Monday: Social Studies

We are continuing our study of the 13 colonies. Primarily, we've been using this book, which is an excellent overview of the 13 colonies. Last week, we studied Jamestown pretty thoroughly, and we began studying the Puritans.

Voyage on the Mayflower

First person videos

A variation on this Mayflower Book activity

Tuesday: Weather- Clouds

Weather Wiz Kids- This is an amazing site with information and activities about all types of weather.

A variation on this flipbook

This cloud video

This cloud experiment

Wednesday: Social Studies

Continue reading our book

Draw and label plantations

Create silhouettes- Silhouettes were popular and affordable during Colonial times.

Explore Colonial Kids

Thursday: Science- Rain and Floods

Rain and Floods

Air pressure experiment

Friday- Social Studies

Finish our book

Explore Colonial Williamsburg

Label the colonies on our U.S. Map

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Music class

I love music, but for some reason, I haven't included any music in our homeschool. I was reading a homeschooling blog, (and feeling woefully inadequate), and decided to immediately include some sort of music appreciation immediately.

I am so grateful to the people that created the Internet! (Thank you, Internet inventors.) A three minute search and explore delivered these two sites:

Classical Connect- Tons of classical music that is searchable by composer and instrument.

Making Music Fun- Information on composers, lesson plans, and all kinds of other awesome stuff

Are you doing music in your homeschool?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Changing course

After spending all summer, and part of last school year, and hours and hours of prayers, worries, and discussions, I created amazing lessons for my kids and I to share during homeschool.

And they were amazing lesson plans, let me tell you. We were going to learn it all. EVERYTHING. Every single thing there is to know....we were going to learn it.

About that.

We're changing course. Originally, I had planned unit studies for our boys. Our first unit was Habitats. We studied the desert, ocean, forest, and rainforest habitats. Each week was a different habitat.

Week 1, Oceans, went pretty well. Full of enthusiasm, optimism, and smugness, we studied all about oceans- animals, plants, etc. We wrote about the ocean. We watched documentaries. We were brilliant.

Week 2, Forests, went well also. We started this unit with a little less enthusiasm and optimism, but still had plenty of smugness to go around. We drew trees, labeled the parts, and dissected an acorn. A trip to Warner Parks and the nature center convinced me even more that homeschool is far superior to any experience public school could offer. (Lots of smugness)

Week 3, Deserts, started with exhaustion, arguments, and whining. What had happened? Every desert book we read was like pulling teeth. Even studying sand with our super-cool magnifying glasses failed to motivate. This spilled over into our other subjects as well. Math, normally our "easiest" subject, turned into a battle of wills. We didn't learn much about deserts, but we sure learned about ourselves. (Smugness gone)

Week 4, Rainforests and the 13 Colonies, marks a change in approach. Instead of all rainforests, all the time, we are adding in some Social Studies. Labor Day was spent revamping all my carefully, perfectly constructed, amazing, wonderful plans. Instead of being about me and what I think is fun and interesting, it's about my guys and what they think is fun and interesting.

Week 4 starts our every-other-day approach. On Tuesday, we learned about Jamestown. Today, we are studying the Rainforest. Tomorrow, we learn about the Puritans, and Friday, we are doing tessellations.I think that focusing on one topic, reading about only that topic, and writing only about that topic was too much for the boys. Even though I thought I was switching things up enough, the boys were getting bored. Bored kids=grumpy kids=grumpy mama.

Through our adventures, I've found lots of really fun things that the kids and I both enjoyed. Hope these links are helpful to you!

Adventures of John Smith- This is produced by National Geographic, and my kids spent over an hour going through the adventure. It's a great mixture of video learning and instruction and games that reinforce without being boring. The boys asked to play this one again today.

13 Colonies Interactive Maps and Info- This website has maps, games, and information about the 13 colonies.

Colonial Kids- This is a fun ThinkQuest site that gives kid-sized info on life in Colonial times.

Create an animal- This is a fun activity. We're using this as a follow up to learning about all those habitats. The boys will create an animal and provide descriptions about its habitat, adaptations, etc.

Saguaro Cactus Interactive- The boys had fun with this one. The page has links to an interactive picture that gives information about all kinds of desert animals.

Tessallations- This is an amazing website. Tessallations are lots of fun, and this website defines them, explains how they are created, and has amazing pictures to help you through it.

My goal is to try to share with you resources that work for us. I hope you'll follow me and share with me too!