Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Snow Queen

My friend Tree over at The Enchanted Tree is hosting a blog giveaway. She has been wearing her fingers out creating this whole array of the cutest bendy dolls ever. Believe me, they are so cute I've bought two of them already for myself. And your little ones will love them as well. To thank everyone who has been buying her bendy dolls, Tree has decided to give away this beautiful Winter Snow Queen Bendy Doll.

Check out all the wonderful bendy dolls that Tree has on her for sale page.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reading Reading Reading

We are still struggling with reading at our house. Sometimes Dakota surprises me and reads words that I had no idea he knew. Then at other times he acts like he can't read the easiest words. I don't know what that's all about at all. I know he understands what I read to him. His comprehension is good even if he can't read all the words. We keep plugging along with it. Right now I am having him do first grade language arts extensions to try to help bring him up to grade level in his reading.

A friend of mine told me that he would read if he found something that he really wants to read. So I've been looking for some things that he would like. For the holidays he is getting a series of books called Captain Underpants. I thought that would be just the thing for him. You know how 8 year old boys can be so focused on things like that. Underpants, private parts, and gross bodily functions seem to be the main thing they are interested in. Especially if those functions can make nasty sounds and smells. I also bought him a series of Percy Jackson books. He discovered Percy Jackson last month and thinks he is just great. I am really hoping these will spark his interest enough to get him going on reading.

Other than that we have been going to the Nature Center a lot lately. One of his classes this month was Amphibians vs Reptiles. I found some cool games to add to his knowledge of amphibians. They have videos, puzzles, and games at this site. I especially like the puzzles. But, this is supposed to be about kids learning. Oh well. I like playing the games a lot. One of the games is a lot like frogger that I used to play.

Have fun playing great learning games over this long holiday weekend.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beczak Beaks and Feet

Today we went to Beczak Environmental Center in Yonkers, NY. Beczak is one of our favorite places to go. The topic today was Beaks and Feet. Ms. Susan taught the kids about different kinds of beaks and why the birds have different beaks. Pointy beaks allow them to pick up seeds. Long pointy beaks allow them to sip nectar from flowers. Broad beaks help them scoop up fish. Curved beaks allow them to shred their food as they eat it.

Then she talked about feet. Webbed feet help ducks and other water birds to swim. Eagles have talons which enable them to hold their food in them. Other birds have Broad webbed feet that act like snowshoes to help them walk on top of mud and snow. Each bird is made perfectly for the tasks that they do.

After a trip outside to look for birds, everyone came back inside and made their own beaks and feet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Busy Week

We've had a very busy week this week. It seems like we have had activities almost every day. On Monday we had Geography class. I love Geography class. But it seems the kids are not as interested in it as the parents are. At one point toward the end of the class the speaker asked if there were any questions. Four hands shot up in the air. The speaker was all excited to answer so many excited kids. One by one she pointed to each child. And one by one the kids asked, "When is this class over?" The sad part is that one of those four hands was the speaker's own daughter. Tuesday was Lego Class. I am teaching a lapbook program based on legos. This was our third class in a series of four. All of the kids were pretty attentive except for one. You guessed it, my son. Besides being very frustrated with him, I was reminded again of the speaker from Monday's class. Boy could I relate to her. Wednesday we went to Montclair Art Musuem. Everyone was attentive to Ms. Peggy as she lead them on a tour of the museum discussing Positive and Negative space. They returned to the craft room to do an activity. They had a white piece of paper. They cut shapes out of black paper and glued them on to the white paper. Dakota made a pumpkin by gluing on the eyes, nose, and mouth. He has a good grasp of the idea of negative space.

Thursday we went to a class based on the Little House on the Prairie books. They read an excerpt from one of the books about a particularly long cold winter. It was so long that they used up all the candles they had. And there was so much snow they couldn't get anywhere to buy more. Then the kids made Button Lamps, Tiny Oil Lamps, and they hand dipped beeswax candles.

The button lamps was Ma Ingles idea during that long winter. She took a scrap of cloth from the rag bin and a button from the button jar. She put a button in the center of the scrap of cloth, then she tied the cloth around the button. Ma Ingles then asked Pa to go get her some of the axle grease that he used on the wheels of the wagon. Ma spread this grease all over the button lamp. Then she lit the lamp and suddenly they had light in the tiny dark cabin.

On Friday I was thinking about our busy week. I was dwelling on the fact that we had not done any school work all week long. As I looked over the curriculum that we use, and thought about our week, I started seeing how each activity we did fit into the curriculum. Geography class was certainly Social Studies. During Lego Class, we learned about Interference Fit and Friction. Science. As we counted the lego blocks, it turned into math class. The Art Musuem was of course Art. At the Little House Class, we had reading, science, history, and social studies. Oh and weather too.

What a great week we had of learning! About the only thing we didn't study this week was spelling. So to fill out the week I found some spelling lists that I could print out. I especially like the monthly holiday lists. I printed out the Thanksgiving list that Dakota used for handwriting practice.

We really did have a great week of learning. We study a bit about every topic and we had so much fun doing it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Language Development

Language is something we use every single day. Even if you are sitting at home by yourself you are using language with all the thoughts that are running through your head. One of the earliest things we want our children to learn is language. We long for those first days when our little one says "Mama". We dance with joy when he says, "Dada." But do we ever stop to think about where our language comes from? While searching around the web this week I found a site that teaches language skills. I found this great site that plays games to teach where our language comes from using Latin matching games. I love playing the matching games. They make me feel a little less "illiterate". Okay, I know that these are games for elementary aged kids, but they still make me feel good about myself.

A lot of the language skills that our kids are learning are based on the Latin Roots of the words that we use every day. I don't think most of us even think about that. I know I don't. I am trying to teach Dakota a bit of Spanish. I think it's important for him to know that language of his heritage. The more we dig into Spanish, the more I realize the similarity of the English words to the Spanish words and to the Latin root words. Flores - Flower - Flos. They are all very similar words.

I hope that learning where the root words in our language come from will help my son learn Spanish as well as improving his skills in English.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crafts in the 1800's

We went back to Historic Speedwell again this week. The class was about crafts from the 1800's. First the kids wrapped paper around a block of wood that had a piece of tin taped to it. They drew pictures on the paper. Some of the kids used the pictures that they had ready. Then they used a hammer and nail to punch holes in the tin. When they finished they bent the tin a bit so it would wrap around a candle. Of course Dakota had to draw a picture of a rocket. His favorite thing. I'm not sure that they had many rockets oin the 1800's. Tin punching was a craft that was practiced a lot as a way of decorating their homes.

After they finished tin punching, the kids all made a patchwork quilt. They hand sewed the pieces together to make a pinwheel. Then they layered the top and bottom together and sewed around three of the sides. Then they turned the project inside out and lay the quilt batting inside. Then the finished the last side. All of the kids agreed that it was a lot easier to go to the store and buy a blanket than to go through all this work. It took most of them nearly two hours with lots of help to finish their little 8 inch square quilts.

This will be our last Historic Speedwell class for this year. They will start up again with a new schedule in March or April. We will miss going there over the Winter. But we'll be back again in the Spring.
Before I end this today I just had to include this picture of the old tree they have on the property at Speedwell. His huge branch comes down and touches the ground and then goes back up. It's beautiful.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homeschoolers and Testing

This is the time of year when a lot of homeschoolers I know are beginning to think about preparing their children for testing. One of the biggest issues for people, I think, is how to prepare for the SAT test. I think writing in general can be a scary thing for a lot of students. While searching around for more information on improving your writing skills, I found a great online writing program. This program teaches kids how to plan their time, how to develop their idea, and how to get it all done in the limited amount of time that they have during the SAT process. Not only do they have a program for preparing for the SAT, but there are writing programs for younger kids as well. Even elementary aged kids can learn grammer, sentence structure, and paragraph writing. It's a great program.

Testing is something that has always scared me. When I was in school I could not function on test days. I'm afraid that fear has passed on to my son. Even the short quizes that he does with Time4Learning throw him. He will do almost anything to avoid them. He will be working along just fine in his lesson. Then a test comes up and the acting out behavior begins. This is just one more reason that I am glad to be homeschooling. In the public schools here testing is required in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Even with excellent test prep programs, I don't think he would survive these yearly assessments.

Check out these resources and let me know what you think. I'd love to know how much they help your student take tests.