Thursday, January 29, 2009

Apology for Layout

I'm having the hardest time getting paragraph spacing on Blogger. If you scroll down to some previous posts they look fine. I haven't done anything differently but if you look at the post from earlier today it is a complete run on! I just wanted to let you know that I DO know how to make paragraphs and I will be teaching my kids how to!

I LOVE a Bad Day Gone Good

This week has been a week of mixed emotions with school. Exhaustion..Fed up..Confusion..Pride..Excitement..Elation!!! And, not only has that been this week, but all of those just today, within a span of about 3.5 hours!!! The good thing is that today the "school" day ended with ELATION, PRIDE AND EXCITEMENT!
The day started with us doing a science lesson. We were talking about the metamorphosis stage of frogs. The actual discussion and looking at some photos and stuff took about 25 min. Maybe 30. Today they had a picture of the life cycle of a frog that they numbered and then were asked to write what they could remember about what we had just discussed about the life cycle. This process is called "narration". For a 4th grader she can pretty much take off and do her own thing. I usually have her do a rough draft, even if it is just a paragraph she does a rough draft and we edit together discussing proper sentence structure (this is how we do grammar and writing as well, no "program" this year). Rather than using a handwriting program, I use their narration as handwriting practice. Our 1st grader and I usually sit down together and she tells me what she remembers. I write her response down word for word and she copies it onto handwriting paper for her handwriting practice.
Today, the narration process for Sissy was tedious. She "remembers everything but her mind goes blank when she needs to write it." Now, because she was looking out the dining room windows while we had our lesson I knew she hadn't been listening to begin with. Of course when I asked her to just tell me verbally all about "everything she remembered", she couldn't. So, she was sent to her room with the books and told to look it up herself. It took her 3.5 hours to do science folks!! 3.5 hours!!! Mom is getting FED UP...Mom is CONFUSED...Mom is getting EXHAUSTED as she realizes how much more stuff we should get done today!
But then.....Sissy finishes science FINALLY and I am working on Math with Peanut. Sissy grabs her book and starts reading today's lesson (usually I read through it with her). She proceeds to work her math problems and GETS EVERY ONE RIGHT WITH NO HELP!! This is a huge deal because on Monday specifically we began longer division (like 346 divided by 7) and it was a disaster...tears and chants from the 9 year old that sounded like this, "I can't do this! It is to hard! I'll never understand!" Now, just a few days later...all right...every problem. I love being able to say "I told you so" to my kids! (Is that terrible to admit?)
So...can you imagine what feelings I need to input here? PRIDE! EXCITEMENT! ELATION!! And mom making up a song all about her about how great she is!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Learning About Penguins

We use God's Design as our science program for school and I really enjoy it. I think the kids enjoy it as well because we usually sit together on the couch while I read through the lesson for the day and I check out various books from the library that include lots of pictures for them to look at. They are also creating science notebooks where the kids include all the stuff I require them to write about or pictures I require them to draw. Currently we are doing Animal Kingdom which has taken us through mammals and we are now into birds. I required the girls to choose mammals and write information that they learned about their chosen animal. This time the girls were required to choose a bird they like and they are learning about those. This weekend we plan to put together lapbooks to keep all their information in. Peanut chose owls and Sissy chose penguins. Peanut's first choice wasn't owl's though. Her first choice was a Quetzal Bird. Haven't heard of them?? Well, you have never read the INCREDIBLE Jan Brett book, The Umbrella then! We have checked that book out so many times from the library. It is actually one I'd like to buy someday and add to our collection of books! The only problem with the Quetzal bird is that I had a terrible time finding child level books about them! So...her second choice was the owl.

Sissy said the most interesting thing she learned today about penguins was actually really gross. "Did you know mom, that the adult penguin actually goes and gets food for it's baby and then chews it and spits it up for the baby to eat?" No, honey I didn't know that...

(Yesterday I told you that pj's are typical for school around here, obviously we don't brush our hair before school either!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fun With Shapes and Colors

Since I am not a math person (so much so that I am considering a computer based math program for my soon to be 5th grader for next year) I don't fully understand why playing with things like puzzles and fitting various parallelograms together are so important for early learners, but a friend shared her set of K-1 Saxon manipulatives with me and Peanut has seriously enjoyed them! She really enjoys days like today. Her work required her to use the manipulatives to cover an odd shape, determine how many of each parallelogram she used to cover it and then graph them using colored pencils that match the colors of the shapes. She really enjoys getting her hands on the different shapes. All the girls love puzzles so it isn't a surprise to me that she enjoys this type of math game! (Notice the pj's? Typical school attire around here!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"John the Dunker"

I had to share this funny story! Yesterday Sweet Baby had Tiny Tots (a program for 3 and 4 year olds that is offered in our town at a Lutheran church). In the evening daddy and I were asking her what she learned about that day and she said, "Oh, we learned about that guy." (Of course...that guy...what were we thinking, right?) So we told her we weren't sure "which guy" she was referring to. She thought a moment and then said, "You know, that guy who baptized Jesus, John." So we asked her if she remembered what the full name they called him in class (of course we were wanting her to say "John the Baptist". She promptly said, "Yes, John the Dunker."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Our First Lapbooks!!

So what's a lapbook? Well, welcome to the world of home school lingo. A lapbook is a simple file folder that is filled with mini books that your children use to reinforce what they have learned. The children complete and fill in the mini books after they learn a concept and then compile all the mini books into their folder. I am a member of a couple online lapbooking groups because I think the concept sounds fun for the kids and it is crafty in a way, so I thought it would be fun for us to try.

Over Christmas we decided to try our first lapbook. When Sissy was in public school the librarian had read the book "Snowflake Bentley" by Jacqueline Briggs Martin to the class. She had remembered that she really liked the book and wanted to read it again. We checked it out at the library and low and behold I found that Homeschool Share had a free Snowflake Bentley lapbook just waiting for us!

To start with we read the book, a great book all about how badly Wilson Bentley wanted to share the world of snowflakes with others and how he learned to photograph snowflakes. After we read the book I printed the mini books I thought we would enjoy from the above website. I chose mini books like "Where is Vermont?" (Mr. Bentley was from Vermont). This mini book was basically a map of the US, so the girls colored the state of Vermont. "Things I Like to Do Outside in the Snow" allowed the girls to write a sentence (proper spelling of course!) of what they like to do outside. There was even a science experiment in which they packed a jar full of snow (we have plenty of that!), measured it, let it melt and then discovered if the water that was left was less than, equal to or more than the snow that we put into the jar.

For Sissy I chose the mini book called "Snowflake Math", in which she had to complete some math problems and follow the secret code to learn that "Snow forms when ice crystals in a cloud bump into each other and stick together". She really enjoyed this exercise because she likes math and secret codes!

Both of the girls also did a mini book of "Snowflake Similes" and learned what a simile is and how to write them. The fun part was that they got to make paper snowflakes of their own and include those!

This book was a great topic filled with cute pictures, wonderful history and science information as well. The kids loved the book and as we were finishing Megan said to me, "This is fun! I hope we do more of these later!"

Math for a 1st Grader

We chose to use Saxon Math for both of the girls this year. It isn't a bad program but it moves very slow. Both the girls seem to really "get" math (their Aunt Jennifer would be proud!!) and this program beats a concept to death. The nice thing is that our math lessons seem to get shorter and shorter because I don't expect the girls to do ALL the problems in a particular day. If they already have demonstrated they understand the concept we just move past that problem onto another.

One thing I do like about our program is that it does have some hands on activities for the girls to do when a new concept is introduced. Today Peanut was measuring different items around the house (of her choosing) with linking cubes. The idea of course is for her to understand the concept of measurement. We have measured things in pennies as well, she is learning that things can be measured in different ways and even though the object never changes, the measurement will change based on the what we use to measure the object.

In this photo she had just measured our kitchen chairs and was amazed at how many linking cubes high our chairs were.

And here, she decided to measure "Princess Sweet Baby" (notice they both had already dug into the dress up clothes for the day!).

I have to say that this was a great exercise for me as well. I struggle with really KNOWING if I am doing a decent job with the girls education. I worry most about math since it is my weakest area. Peanut is only in 1st grade so of course her math concepts are super simple. We are doing VERY simple addition and very simple subtraction right now. She is working on her +2 facts right now. But to see if she fully understood the concept of adding I asked her how many cubes tall our chairs were (50) and then how many cubes we had to add to the stack to reach the top of Brooke's head (4). So, how many cubes did we have in all? I wanted to see if she needed to set the row of cubes down and count them, but she didn't. It took her a minute but she hesitantly said, "54?" She got it! I nearly jumped out of my chair with excitement!!

So all in all, Saxon is a fine program, it would be PERFECT for a child who really needed practice on a given concept. (It would have been just what I needed as a kid. ) But for our girls, I think we'll be looking for something that moves a bit quicker next year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas Festivities

I wanted to share a couple Christmas morning photos for family that live far away. Especially my Aunt Beryl and Uncle Paul who I know check this blog regularly and I can tell you that the last Christmas we spent together was when I was about 4. They live in California during the winter months and though we see them once every few years (we did get a day visit this fall) it isn't enough. I hope that some year we can spend the holidays together.

Here are photos of each of the girls enjoying their favorite gifts this year....Sissy has been wanting a new fleece blanket for the last several years. I made one for her when she was about 3 and it was big then, but it hasn't covered her entire body for about the last 3 years! So, this year both her and Peanut got new blankets that fit their beds. She is also wearing the new bathrobe she got, another gift that was tops on her list.

And Peanut's favorite gift..a Kit American Girl doll. She had saved a bit more than 1/2 of the money, so daddy and I kicked in the remainder. These dolls are adorable, and their clothes are so pretty, but I don't spend $22 on my own clothing so it nearly killed me to buy 1 dress for a doll at that price! If Kit looks a bit different to some of you, it is because we got her the wire rimmed glasses as well. When Peanut was trying to decide which doll she wanted she talked about getting Molly. The only reason she wanted her was because of the glasses. So, I thought she would like having glasses for Kit.

Sweet Baby asked for a Bitty Baby for Christmas. Another doll by American Girl. Again, it was a stretch to spend so much on a doll, but the girls didn't get nearly as much this year since they were getting larger ticket items. Brooke goes through phases when it comes to playing with dolls, so we'll see how she does with this one. She has dragged it all over and has asked me to feed it and watch it while she plays with other things though. The funniest story about this one is that she was changing its clothes the other day and she told daddy to "close your eyes daddy, she needs her privacy."

Winter Fun in Michigan

I love taking un-posed never know what you will get. I especially love ones of my kids because it seems like that is the time that you get to see their real emotion. This photo is one of Sissy and her dad having a snowball fight just before Christmas. He is such a wonderful father and I love having it documented! When I don the winter snow gear it is usually just to help shovel the driveway, but daddy will actually get into the winter games. Here is a photo of the girls making the first snowman of the year. They don't build a lot of snowmen because "it is to hard". I suppose they still are a bit young to hoist a big belly ball into the middle of their snow friend, but even a little guy like this one dresses up the lawn!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Our Christmas "vacation" has been a whirlwind of get togethers, snow shoveling (then of course also watching it ALL melt away) and a couple days of mom getting away with girlfriends. But, I did not want to let another day go by without sharing a photo of the girls all dressed in their Christmas best. I'll share some more pictures in the coming days, but this is my favorite of them all ready for church the Sunday before Christmas. I hope your holiday was filled with peace and opportunities for reflection of the blessings your family received during 2008. God bless you in the new year!