Friday, March 28, 2014

A Month Of School Days

I was browsing through my pictures and realized I have a few that were taken with the intent of a school days post, and just never shared. So I thought I would pull some together, and shove them all in the same post. This is just a smorgasbord of things we have done over the last month or so :)

Letter/Number Matching
Buddy Boy really enjoyed this game that Miss Priss created for him! She would go and hide the numbers/letters, and he would have to go 'seek' them and put them back in the right place.

I ordered a little something new for our shelves - *reminder to self*- check the dimension size of puzzles when you order them. As small as it is, they have actually really enjoyed working with this geometric shapes puzzle. 

Miss Priss is working through the subtraction memorization charts, although she isn't moving through them quite as fast as she did with the addition charts. She is beginning to get her hands in a few things all at once. 

In the reading book that we use as a base for reading lessons with Miss Priss and Bug, there are spelling hints to coincide with reading new blends, digraphs, etc. In the following pictures, the rule of "short vowel sounds = ck, long vowel sounds = ke" is shown. 

She actually made this transformation herself - I presented her with the word 'bake' and asked her the rule for it, and she took another blank word slip and used the reverse of the rule to make a new word. She has mastered this spelling rule, and has brought it up in conversations since. 

I made a wish list purchase of these natural wooden geometric solids from Learning Resources. I considered carefully whether I wanted to order the traditional Montessori Geometric solids, or the 6 piece set from Learning Resources, or this one (the 19 piece Learning Resources set). I really am glad I made this decision - I like the natural wood, and the variety of solids, in this set. 

Some exploration....

Some goofiness....

And some extension work (self-created). They had a lot of fun creating pictures from tracing the solids. 

Then Buddy Boy (a day or two later) wanted a lesson in the solids, so I gave him a three period lesson in identifying the cylinder, cube, and sphere. Afterward, (self-motivated) he compared some of the other solids to the ones he learned, visually made connection to the ovoid with the sphere, and tried his hand at seeing what would stand and what would not - hence the ellipsoid on top of the cylinder - that thing rolled off several times before he realized it just wasn't going to stay there!

I gave a lesson on the 'Four Categories of English Names' with LM, Hoss, and Miss Priss.

*sidenote - when you tell them that a name can be given due to description (i.e. John Tall, Bob Short, etc.) you may or may not have someone suggest their brothers name, followed by 'fathead' and laugh hysterically at how it sounds! True story... I won't tell you what he followed it up with...

Hoss is starting his fourth year in little league (church league) baseball. He has secured the position of catcher over the last couple of years, and does quite well at it!

"Who IS that masked man?"

These are just a few tidbits of what we have done that didn't get included in any particular post, and won't be needed for a future one.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Safari Surprise!

Let me just start off by saying, I could probably count on one hand the times I have won a giveaway/drawing - and still have fingers left over. So here recently, when I just happened to notice that Safari Ltd. was having a giveaway, I noticed that all you had to do was like their facebook page, which I had done months ago. So simple that I didn't give it much more than a moments thought, and a quick comment to say what a great bunch of things they were giving away. Imagine my surprise.....

My children were so excited to see that we were indeed the winners! And when this lovely box showed up a week or so later (ignore the laundry - it just always manages to show up around here!), they couldn't wait to tear in to it!

This beautiful basket was inside, filled with all these wonderful goodies!

We had fun taking some 'real life' pictures with some of them. :)

The Brachiosaurus

A lovely Eastern Chipmunk 

In the left corner, we have the ginormous Gigantosaurus. In the right corner, we have the fierce Tyrannosaurus Rex. The fight is on!

It's a face off....

.....and the T-Rex falls!

In lovelier parts of the yard, we have the Palomino Mare....

...and this very detailed German Shepherd :)

We were even able to capture something of a rocky background for our scorpion, thanks to some dried dirt and rocks :)

LM decided to make a nest for the Brachiosaurus. 

Miss Priss wanted me to see just what she thought of the scorpion. 

The German Shepherd was definitely Buddy's favorite. At one point, we probably looked like the oddest group of people when Buddy managed to leave him laying in a pile of leaves and we were all searching the front yard to find this little guy....

Hoss decided that, despite the teeth on the ferocious creature, the Gigantosaurus was to become a herbivore, and fed him *poisonous* berries from the tree. 

Inside the house, we have had a ton of fun as well. I created a rainbow paradise for the Fairies!

I included a few wooden blocks from Buddy Boy's wooden block set (a Christmas gift) in case someone's imagination struck them to get the rest and play a little with them. I set this on the shelves with the rest of the sensorial works that I have out right now. 

I included the Unicorn in initially, although it didn't stay because it didn't fit in with the lid closed :)

Here is a group shot of everything (except the fairies in the sensory box). There are so many fun things and I can't wait to use them all at one point or another for some hands on learning! In fact, after starting this post, I discovered a video that LM took with my camera. She put the giant polar bear in his natural habitat - or, as close as she could find - the deep freezer - and began telling everything she could remember about polar bears. 

I love these little minis and have decided that they are going to prompt me to break down *finally* and get a hardware cabinet for all of our minis. We have a TON of little things in a ziploc bag, and it will be so much easier to use them when I get them in a cabinet.

This energy ball is a big hit with Buddy Boy. At the bottom, there are two small metal strips. When you place your fingers on them, they cause the ball to light up and make a small siren noise. I have caught him with this ball in his pocket more than once already!

Good King Alfred :) And that turkey in front of him has some amazing detail!

It was no surprise that LM delved in to the small collectors book that was included. This sparked some curiosity and the desire to learn more about Bornean Orangutans, which got us on youtube to find video of them. This link will take you to tons of video about them all.

Down to the last drop! They enjoyed every last bit of this, including the box itself!

I would HIGHLY recommend Safari Ltd. materials to anyone, especially homeschoolers using them to give a concrete, hands on view of learning. Interest is sparked in my house - may it light a few fires in yours, as well!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Community Helpers - Our Hospital Experience

Part of what has kept us busy the last couple of weeks was learning first hand how important doctors and nurses are that work in hospitals. Particularly, the outpatient surgery ward.

Hoss had to have his tonsils removed about a week and a half ago. We had been through this type of surgery before, with LM, when she was about 3. I don't know if it was just her age, or her age and temperament put together, but it felt like a living nightmare to me for almost 2 weeks during her recovery. For 10 days, she ate next to nothing, we did all we could just to keep her hydrated! So I had no idea how he was going to handle it, although he had about 5 years advantage on her.

Thankfully, he did just fine - although I will say, it was quite interesting to see his reaction to Verset. In an instant, he went from a sleepy, drowsy boy, to a wide-eyed, wild child, intent on.....showing everyone his underwear??? :D It was quite the embarrassing, funny 10 minutes or so. Thankfully, the light bulb went back off as fast as it seemed to come on, and he settled in to his sleepy state of mind again. 

It was a full week and a half recovery for him, though. School was definitely out of the question for him, and taking care of him and keeping up with him as he flopped back and forth between feeling good, then tired, then good, then hurting and just wanting me to sit with him, meant that it was a little hard to do school with the others, as well. So we did what we could, and took it easy the rest of the time. As of yesterday, though, he is very much back to normal. He is finally able to eat anything he wants - not that he stopped eating, mind you, but we can add meat and rough textures to his diet again. The others are very grateful for this, since they had about all the macaroni and cheese they can stand. However, the ice cream was appreciated by all, especially those who didn't have to endure surgery to earn it!

Work Plans and Journals, Part 4 - Work Plan for Primary

I didn't think I would be considering even going to any kind of work plans for either of my youngest two. They are both too young, and a plan is not necessary. What I did decide to do, however, is prepare for a work plan.

I know that when I gave the older three a work journal and they began to use it, Bug would waste no time in asking for one. That's how it generally goes with a younger child- "Oh, the big kids get one? Where's mine???" When she did ask, I just explained to her that she didn't need one just yet, and surprisingly, she hasn't made an issue out of it. Jessica from Montessori Trails shared in this post about her son's first work plan - that he started at 5 1/2 years. While I was working on the accountability part of our new work journals (explained next post), I was thinking about the work plan that Jessica's son used. She offers a great printable, by the way, for anyone who wants to use the same card style for their little ones. However, it is definitely tailored to what she needed for him, and I needed something tailored to what WE need.

Some of you might remember my posts on the primary montessori environment and classroom. I remember going to observe at one point at the end of the school year, and I remember seeing something I hadn't seen before. Some of the primary students had half-size sheets of paper, and there were four-five words on them (probably printed from a site such as One of the 3rd year students just happened to show hers to the teacher, catching my attention, and pointing out that 'she only had sensorial left'. I recognized it for what it was - a type of work plan for the primary child. I didn't see the exact words, as I was just close enough to be able to tell what it was, but not close enough to read each word, but I imagine it was *culture*, *language*, *math*, *sensorial*, and maybe *practical life* - or something like that. Thinking about it now, it was preparing them for what was to come - an early work plan.That would be a great way to prepare your early child for a work plan, if you have your classroom (or materials) separated by category. It doesn't overwhelm them, and there is still plenty of time and freedom for them to be able to choose other work during the day that they would like to do.  However, the terminology is not as commonly thrown around here in the home - my children don't readily recognize *practical life* and *sensorial*, so I still needed something different. I also wanted to stay loose as far as what I expected her to do - I don't have any set expectations at all for her, really - I like to see her touch Math and Language at least once a day, but I don't push it on her just yet. Usually, she does anyway. Instead, I came up with this:

I grabbed some index cards, and, with my very inartistic drawing skills and some colored pencils, began drawing each individual work on a card for her. I covered all the materials in the sensorial category (that we have) and am still working on making sure I have a card for each math and language material that she has been presented. Above, you can see cards for the first Geometric Triangles box (a DIY that I have never posted on, but will have to), Melissa  and Doug's See-and-Spell in the top left corner, and across the top you can see the card depicting our teen strips (printable from JMJ publishing/Liveable Learning).There are quite a few, probably about 15 or so, and that doesn't include all of the math materials or any of the language yet.

Here is a picture of where they are stored.  This picture was in my last post, about the pocket chart. On the top shelf there is a small basket in the left, front - that is her basket of cards. 

They are kept in a basket on top of a shelf, next to our mantle, and our hanging pocket chart. One of Bug's biggest hurdles to get over is working independently, and right next to it is making an independent decision on what she would like to do. She tended to be a big floater, having no real direction. I wanted to enable her to have an assist in choosing something when she couldn't make up her mind, as well as being able to feel like 'one of the big kids' by having a part in the pocket chart. As she chooses a work, either on her own or with the aid of the cards for ideas, she completes it and then sticks the card in her designated pocket. So far it has worked very well, and she tends to be able to self motivate better morning. Hopefully this will prepare her for the work journals which will come at some point in the next year - year and a half.  

For the links to the earlier posts in this series on work plans look below. I hope this has helped someone. I know for us, having a solid work plan is key, and I believe that could hold true for every homeschool family!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Work Plans and Journals, Part 3 - Accountability

*This is being posted a little later than expected! There has been so much going on here, and I have a handful of posts just floating around in my head and in draft, and will be spending some time catching up on what we have been doing!

                         Accountability and Work Journals

I knew that when we began to use work journals, there would come a day when more accountability with the older three would need to be put in place. *In my opinion* it isn't enough to just expect them to get everything done you want them to do every day, when sometimes, that just won't happen. There needs to be some underlying direction to make sure that the necessary basics get completed each day/week. After about a week of getting good practice recording their work in the journals, I brought BACK the small pocket chart I had planned on using, but am using it in a different way. 

Not to continually repeat myself all the time, but I must lead back to the articles that Jessica from Montessori Trails and Montessori Nuggets has written on work plans. In particular, in this case it was one she wrote on teaching the elementary child to do research at home. She says that the language used throughout the day, and your child's life, is very important in teaching them - it almost takes on an 'unschooling' approach. She speaks of using the correct vocabulary and conversation to teach all throughout the day. I decided to use a different vocabulary with the pocket chart, and a different approach to using it. One at a time, I sat with LM, Hoss, and Miss Priss and we went over our *Expectations*. I explained that I have expectations for their week. Example: I told Miss Priss I expect her to do a Math work at least 3 times a week. We only have school four days in the home, and a library day every week which does more than cover plenty of learning. I told her that she needs to decide which days she *expects* her self to do them. That way, she still has the freedom to choose what days she wants to work on them, but also teaches her to be accountable to both me (for the week's work) and herself (the day-to-day work). 

Here is a picture of our pocket chart, where it hangs from small hooks off the mantle in our living room:

There are only five rows, which will be plenty for the five children in our house. Currently we only need three of them for expectation cards. Here is a closer look: 

I  wrote the four school days - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday - at the top of four blank index cards (4x6 size). Then I just gave them some simple expectations for the week - example: I told Hoss I expected Math three times a week, Grammar three times a week, Cursive handwriting three times, Spelling 3 times, Reading four times, and History two times a week. Then, one at a time, he decided which days he would assign each subject to. I told him that MY expectations were the weekly ones, but his expectations for himself were going to be the daily ones. He was to keep himself accountable for his daily choices, and if he didn't finish his expectations each day, they would automatically be *pre-journaled* for the next day, with a star beside them to show that it was something that needed done from a previous day. Then, if they don't get finished, or if the daily ones for the next day don't, it moves on in the same manner until Friday. By friday, if there are any leftover expectations, they MUST be completed, along with Friday's work. I explained that I expect all work complete by Friday, because I personally prefer to have nothing carry over to a new week. 

This is how we have brought accountability in to our days. I still want to work on showing them to be more specific in their journals, and it may lead to more specific expectation cards in the future, but I think we are on the right track!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Human Body - In a Book!

I was out shopping at Sams here recently - by myself, I might add, since Sams is such a fun place for kids to go and it always takes twice as long. I always do a quick walk through of the book section and wanted to share something I was rather excited about finding for Life Science research in our home.

I love the Build-Your-Own Skeletons, and sets for constructing the human body, and the lovely way you can see how God made our bodies to fit together just right. It's amazing, isn't it? What wouldn't be so amazing is seeing Mr. Billy Bones in all his pieces if Buddy Boy decided to do his own research on how quickly he comes apart. :) There will come a day, and not too far in the future, where such a purchase will safely be put in our home. Until then, this book is a fantastic replacement!

A few samples of the goodies inside!

I really liked that it explained the Urinary System, without going in to too much detail into anatomy that we aren't ready to learn about just yet! ;)

As you can see in this picture, and even better if you click on the photo to enlarge it, as you turn the page, the particular system covered on that page separates from the rest of the skeleton. Perfect isolation of what is being covered, and these small pieces are held together with what resembles small zip ties, which is reassuring that it won't be ripped off/out easily.

I love the clear, easy to understand (and yet detailed and pretty enough to be an eye-pleaser, in my opinion) pictures through the book. 

So if you are like me, and not ready to commit to having a hanging skeleton in your room, tempting little hands to (*ahem*) explore, this is a wonderful solution. 

Here is the link for this on Amazon. I think I paid $11 or $12 for mine, and the price is about the same on Amazon, maybe a dollar or two better if you have free shipping through Prime!

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