Monday, August 23, 2010

Is there a typical day?

Writing letters to friends and family

It doesn't always go the way I planned (in fact it NEVER goes the way I planned) but here is the schedule that we will strive to follow this school year...

Breakfast at 8:30, start school by 9. We try to do Math first every day. That takes about 45 minutes, then we take a quick break. (So I can get more coffee and Dude can eat, since he's never hungry when the rest of us are.) Language Arts takes an hour or so, depending on what we're doing. Mondays and Thursdays the kids will do 30 minutes of Rosetta Stone German and then have lunch. The other days are D.E.A.R. time before lunch. Afternoons are spent on Science or History, alternately. Wednesday afternoons are reserved for Art because the kids are tired after their swim lessons. Fridays are more independent: Teaching Textbooks for Math and workboxes or independent reading. This year we'll try to finish school by 2:30 and have all chores done by 3.

Trying to stay organized!

We've discovered that we really like unit studies, so there will definitely be days when we dump the whole schedule and just focus on whatever we're into at the time. We've already started a biomes study and will be "traveling" to Africa soon. I created our daily schedule to make sure that we covered all the math and language arts that we're "supposed" to, but we also enjoy ditching the schedule and following our interests. Freeeeedom!

Plenty of time to have fun!

Blog hops are fun! Can't wait to see what others are doing this year!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Simple Machines with Gomez

Gomez would like to demonstrate what he knows about levers. He says that this is a class one lever, meaning the pivot is in between the effort and the load.

As you can see, Gomez has moved the load closer to the pivot. Gomez says that this enables us to use less effort when we move the load. And Gomez is all about less effort, right Gome?

What's that, Gomez? Oh, now the load is very close to the pivot. This allows us to use very little effort when we move the load.

Gomez highly recommends Levers by Angela Royston. He taught the kids a lot about levers using this book as a resource! Thanks, Gome!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My New Favorite Expression

I just learned something fascinating from fellow homeschooling mom Féepoussiere. Apparently, in France homeschooling is called l'Instruction en Famille or l'IEF. I just love this term!

I've often balked at using the word "homeschooler" because of the negative connotations it can have (you know what I mean, so I'll just leave it at that.) Besides, we aren't always "home" and much of what we do each day does not resemble "school" in the least.

But Family Instruction is a far more accurate and descriptive term. When we take a road trip, we frequently get out the map and trace the route with the kids. We learn as much as we can about the place we're going. We read, play games, and listen to music in the car. We aren't home, and we aren't at school, but we are definitely doing family instruction.

I also like that the term emphasizes the family. Who is doing the instruction? Not just Mom, but the entire family. Since homeschooling is as much a lifestyle as it is an educational choice, it affects and benefits every family member. I learn as much or more from my kids as they learn from me. And after a year of having our kids out of public school and at home with us, I can definitely say that we are closer than ever.

My new job title: family instructor! I love it!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

School Under the Sky

We're determined to do as much outdoor school as possible, since we'll be missing these warm days in a couple of months! Today we spread a blanket on the grass and started our biomes unit study. I'm using Amazing Biome Projects You Can Build Yourself by Donna Latham and Farah Rizvi as a springboard for the unit. We read the introduction, compared different biomes and discussed the threats that each of them face.

Then we used sidewalk chalk to list the eight (nine if you count the oceans) biomes covered in the book.

Super tried to write "tundra" in icy letters, but it was somewhat challenging using chalk on a crumbly sidewalk!

We talked about deciduous and coniferous trees, and found examples of each. Deciduous trees typically grow in areas with four distinct seasons, and they lose their leaves in winter.

Coniferous trees have thick, waxy needles that conserve moisture. They don't lose their leaves, which is why people refer to them as "evergreens."

We have both types in our neighborhood. In fact, we seem to have a little of everything here...

We'll be talking about animal adaptations in our biomes unit study, so we read Animal Senses: How Animals See, Hear, Taste, Smell and Feel by Pamela Hickman and Pat Stephens. Have you ever wondered what it's like to see with compound eyes like an insect?

Or to see ten times better than a human, like a hawk?

We did an experiment to find our field of vision: hold your arms in front of you and slowly move them to your sides. When you can't see them anymore, you have found the limits of your field of vision. We learned that frogs have a huge field of vision because their eyes are on top of their heads. But humans have "binocular vision," meaning we focus both of our eyes on the same thing. We can't see behind us, like a frog, but we can focus better on what's in front of us!

Then it was time for some gumdrop geometry...

Count the Dots to find the number of vertices.

It turns out, our geometric solids are useful as grasshopper catchers, too!

Don't worry, we let him go after lunch!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nature Walk


Back to the Stone Age

Watch out for woolly mammoths!

And woolly rhinoceroses!

Because we're headed back to 12,000 B.C. when mammoth-hunting nomads roamed the arctic tundra. It's a bit chilly there--you might want to bring a jacket!

My history-loving kids requested this time-travel trip. When Dad asked them what they enjoyed most about last year's history curriculum, they named the Stone Age. (They will correct me if I don't add that there wasn't really one Stone Age, but three main eras: the Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic ages.) We decided to revisit their favorite time period, just for fun.

We didn't get a chance last year to do this cool project from Step Into the Stone Age. We used Sculpt It to make mammoth tusks and bones.

We fashioned shelters out of bones, skins (craft foam) and leather strips (chenille stems.)

The kids made some little mammoth hunters and animals.

Here is Super's shelter.

Here is Dude's shelter.

This is the side view of Dude's shelter.

And here is Super's campground, complete with fire ring, a stack of fire wood, a cave bear skull, and a man who speared a fish.

We look forward to doing more projects from this book. Tonight we're hoping to catch the Perseids (from the comfort of our porch, not a mammoth-bone shelter!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nature Stuff

I hadn't really planned to start school until the 23rd, but the kids asked if we could jump in this week. What do you do when your kids are begging to start school? You start school, of course! The simple machines unit was pretty much ready to go, so we started there. We happen to be spending this week with grandparents, so it's fun to do the lessons with them.

We're also using some of Barb's (Harmony Fine Arts) resources from Handbook of Nature Study. We looked at the mosquito pages in Anna Comstock's handbook, read Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy, and then wrote about what we learned in Barb's notebook pages. Dude was amazed to learn that there are 2700 species of mosquitoes. Super thought it was interesting that the male Culex pipiens has huge, feathery antennae, but the female has narrow antennae. I was just horrified in general, especially after seeing the magnified pictures of larvae emerging from egg cases.

We spent some time outside, sketching and enjoying the flowers in Nana and Papa's backyard. Sometimes Dude gets frustrated when his sketches don't turn out just the way he wants them to, so I suggested that he start a specimen collection. He also pressed some flowers in some heavy books--we'll give them a couple of days and see how they turn out.

Super sketched a pot of marigolds. She worked really hard trying to get the bright orange colors just right.

I sketched one marigold, a columbine leaf, and a couple of aspen leaves.

We also spent an afternoon at a local nature center. Dad says it hasn't changed since he was a kid!

If we're up early enough, we can see red foxes hunting in our neighborhood. I really wanted to touch this one's fur, but I resisted the temptation!

This may seem silly, but being so close to an adult grizzly was unnerving--even though she was stuffed!

Super took this one--I love it!

Of course, we're spending plenty of time outdoors, just enjoying our surroundings.