Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tot Trays - FINALLY!!

The kids were away for the weekend with Daddy to visit Granny Franny so I finally had a chance to reorganize all our school supplies and set up some trays for Vicki.   Vicki came back a few days earlier than Georgie so I was able give the trays a try without Georgie "helping".

The trays were actually small baskets I bought at the dollar store.  I thought baskets would be easier for her than trays to transport stuff in without spilling.  Plus, the dollar store didn't have trays and I didn't feel like placing an order with Oriental Trading or Rainbow Resource.  I have them set up in a bookcase (from Ikea) with doors on the lower shelves.   The doors will be kept shut and latched except during school time.

I set up five baskets in the cabinet.  The two boxes on the top shelf are puzzle cards - flash cards that are in two pieces and fit together like a puzzle.  We've had these for a couple of years and haven't used them much but I decided they would be a good thing to add to our school day.  They were in the cabinet only because I didn't find another place to put them but these were the first thing Vicki chose (of course).
I couldn't get the picture of the box to orient correctly.  Blogger has decided that is was meant to be sideways so there it stays.  I gave Vicki between 5 and 10 card sets (some were harder than others - simple words and animals were the easiest) and she had a lot of fun putting them together.  When she'd finish, she'd yell "I Won!!"   Evidently that is the cue to mean she's finished with something because she did the same thing after each activity.    I'm going to rotate these into our Tot Tray activities since she enjoyed them so much. 

At first I had to remind her to clean her stuff up and put the basket away but by our second day doing them she had it down pretty good.  The cabinet is at the perfect level for her to be able to look at things, pull them out and put them back by herself.

The next activity she chose was pompoms and colored shot glasses (plastic ones from the dollar store).   She sorted the pompoms by color. 

The second day she played with these she decided she wanted to stack the glasses into a castle and pretend the screw them together using the otoscope from the play doctor kit.  I'm planning to make some magnet pompoms and put them into the Tray rotation with magnet sheets from Making Learning Fun and Confessions of a Homeschooler.   I'll probably also do a sensory bin with pompoms, spoons and scoops.

The next basket had beads, pipe cleaners and an old Parmesan cheese container to hold them steady (I saw this idea on Shannon's Tot School).  She had fun putting the beads on the pipe cleaners and pushing them all the way down into the container. 
The second day I tried to encourage her to make bracelets but she had more fun pushing the pipe cleaners all the way through the beads instead of leaving the beads on them.  She also loved running her fingers through the beads.  These will also be put into rotation with the shot glasses and a spoon for color sorting to give a little variety.

Our next bin had a number dry erase book and marker.  She did very well tracing the numbers (I really expected just scribbling since that's what she does on any worksheets she gets) and even held the marker fairly close to properly.  I have a few other dry-erase boards with numbers, letters, addition, shapes and a blank doodle page that I will rotate with this book.  This was easily the one she played with the longest.

Next she did some cutting practice.  She likes using scissors but pretty much only makes single cuts into the edge of the paper.  I included colored paper and colored foam.  Some of the paper had cutting lines drawn on them but she pretty much ignored it.  Once she gets a little better at cutting I may include pages from the Kumon cutting practice books.

Our last bin was foam stickers and paper.  She didn't show much interest in that one.  I'll probably keep stickers in the rotation just because it's so easy and she usually likes them. I'll alternate foam stickers with paper stickers.

I'm hoping these baskets will keep her occupied when I sit down with Georgie to do Math and Reading in the mornings.  We won't get a chance to see how it works until next week because we're spending the next few days preparing for Steph's Sweet 16 party being held Saturday. 

To see what others are doing check out Preschool Corner & 5K Too at Homeschool Creations.

Fun at the Zoo

We went to a local zoo today.  It was a beautiful Spring day and we had a great time seeing all the animals.

The prairie dogs were a favorite.  We went fairly early and they were outside eating so we were able to get a pretty close look at them.

George really liked the rhea.

The guanacos look just like the alpacas we see on the farm by our house all the time.

In the Education Center we saw cave cockroaches.  I guess I'm doing a good job of not having my dislike for all things creepy crawly rub off on the kids since Vicki piped up with "I love cockroaches".  Of course, she also said she loved turtles, starfish, frogs and snakes.

After we saw all the animals, we rode the train.

We had a nice picnic lunch and finished up with some ice cream. 
A bunch of peacocks came to see us while we were eating our ice cream. They were very curious and came within a couple of feet of where we were sitting.  The kids wanted to "pet" them but I didn't think that was a good idea.

The zoo we went to had a very nice and extensive playground with 3 different sections to climb on and a sandbox.  The kids enjoyed playing but the day was getting hot and we were all tired.  Both kids fell asleep on the ride home (doesn't help that we ended up getting lost and it took us over an hour).

I was planning to start our animal unit next week but George spent the beginning of this week with Granny Franny.  We still need to finish up our plant unit and do our Earth Day/recycling unit.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lunch at Cracker Barrel

Stephanie was on Spring Break last week so we were able to meet Grandpa Charlie for lunch at Cracker Barrel.  While we were waiting for them I was able to get some pictures of the kids.  It's a rare occasion when I can get all three kids together for a picture so I had to take full advantage of it.   It was a beautiful warm day so we waited outside.
Vicki had to bring all the drinks for her baby dolls.

the kids playing Checkers while we waited outside.

My charming children.

It's hard to believe my baby is going to be 16!

There were a group of women at the Cracker Barrel that day who worked as clowns and came every six weeks or so to practice their balloon animals. We were lucky enough to be there on that day. Georgie was given a fishing pole complete with fish and Vicki was given a mermaid. Of course, they both fought over them and they were a little bit in the way while eating but very cool still.

Vicki's mermaid.
Georgie playing with his fish outside after lunch.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Homeschool Nature Walk

We went on a Homeschool Nature Walk at one of our local County parks.  The theme for this walk was Nesting Time.   This was the first time we had been to this particular location so the kids had a lot of fun exploring the Visitors Center before the walk started.  They had a series of buttons you could push to hear the sounds various local animals make, then lift up a wooden flap to see a picture and read details about the animal.  Both kids had fun with this and Vicki loved imitating the sounds.  They were also both pretty good at guessing the animal from the sound.

The Walk started with a discussion on what animals make nests and what materials they use.  My kids are definitely not shy so they spoke up often even though they usually didn't know the answer.  George had a little trouble sitting still for this part and ended up running back and forth behind the seats.

Once the walk started George found some friends to hang out with.  There were two older boys (around 10 or 11) and one girl (9 years old) who he alternated between.  The boys were running ahead of everyone else but the girl would walk with him and hold his hand.   Vicki alternated between trying to catch up with George and riding piggy back.   There were a lot of parts where the "trail" was very overgrown and rocky but for the most part the kids managed well. 

We visited a beaver dam and saw the difference one animal can make to a habitat.  The blocking of a small stream resulted in a swampy, flooded area where many of the trees died off since they were not type that thrived with very wet roots.  We discussed how this was now the new natural habitat for the area and whether it was a good location for birds to build their nests.  We discussed if it would provide shelter, food and protection and decided that the many dead trees and many (many, many) small insects made this a good bird habitat.  We saw a red bellied woodpecker (we also have one of these in our backyard occasionally), a turkey vulture, lots of swallows, a brown creeper (discussed how well he blended in with the bark of the tree), and a tufted titmouse.

the beaver dam

the resulting swampland

There were many things to look at along the way.   There were some ferns growing that were in various life stages that we were able to get a real close look at - perfect for our Plant study.  We also saw tadpoles and frogs in the stream below the beaver dam.

The walk was fun, but exhausting.  George was very energetic and kept wanting to run ahead while Vicki needed to ride piggy-back about half the time.  We will be doing two more of these walks - one in May on Migration and one in June on Bones.   

Once we returned to the Visitors Center we played a really fun game that I'm trying to figure out how to adapt for fewer people.

Two hula hoops were set up about 3 feet apart - these were the bird nests.  Cups filled with snacks (pretzels in this case) were set up about 10 feet away from each hula hoop - one cup was designated for each nest.  The group was divided into two groups (one for each nest), then each group was divided into babies and parents.  The babies sat in the nest (hula hoop) with an empty cup each and chirped for food.  The parents had to go one at a time to retrieve a piece of food, bring it back to the nest and give it to the baby chirping the loudest.  They also had to remember to eat themselves.  At first, the babies were very young and one parent had to stay at the nest at all times so they had to alternate going.  After a little while we stopped and counted how much food each baby had and if the parents had remembered to feed themselves.  In our "nest", the parents forgot to feed themselves, I was the loudest baby but Vicki kept taking the pretzels so we had a bully in our nest.  :-)

For the next run, both parents could go together but they had to be quick so that the babies were safe.  This time they remembered to feed themselves but one of our "babies" (Vicki - who didn't blink an eye at some strange lady picking her up and walking away with her) was taken from the nest.   The guide tried to steal George from his nest but he went and ran back to it on his own.

The game was a lot of fun and definitely made it clear (especially to the older kids) how much work it was for birds to keep their babies fed and safe.

To see what others are doing this week, visit Preschool Corner & 5K too at Homeschool Creations.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Plants - Part 1

We started our Plants unit today with a study of Seeds.  We read the section of What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know that discussed plants and seeds.  George really does not like this book.  For some reason, he resists and acts up everytime we pull this book out.  I ended up letting them do some coloring pages from the Giant Science Resource Book while I read the sections.   We read a few other books on seeds (see list below) and began our experiments.

Our first experiment was to look closely at seeds and break open a seed to look inside.  First I took an assortment of seeds that we had just bought to start our vegetable garden for the year and allowed the kids to explore them using their magnifying glasses.  George mainly used the edge of his magnifier to break the seeds but I did manage to get him to examine some of them.

Using an experiment sheet from Science Experiments for Young Learners I had soaked lima bean seeds in water overnight.  We broke them open and examined the parts of the seed and viewed the tiny little plant that was starting to grow.
After examining our seeds and doing a record sheet we set up a series of experiments that will take a week or more to see results.  All the experiments are from Science Experiments for Young Learners although many of them are variations of things I have seen in many other places.

First we rolled up seeds in a moist paper towel - 5 rows of 5 seeds each.  After it was completely rolled up, we placed rubber bands around it to hold it closed and placed it in a jar with a small amount of water (about enough to cover the first row or two of seeds).  In about a week, we will unroll the paper towel and see which seeds germinated.
This didn't need to be placed in a window but this was the only shelf I had cleared off that I could keep the kids from disturbing.

For our next experiment, we set up two plastic bags with paper towels and seeds in them.  One will be kept moist while the other will remain dry.  We will view them each day to see any changes.

For our last seed experiment, we planted seeds in two different bowls of dirt.  One will be kept in the sun, the other in the dark.  We will observe these in a week and compare them.

George seems to know what the results are going to be already but I keep telling him we just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter and Spring

We haven't done a lot of school stuff for the past week since we were celebrating Easter and studying Spring.  To me, the best way to study Spring is to experience it.  So we spent lots of time outside.
We blew bubbles....
played T-ball....
We took a Nature Run...
and hung out on our favorite rock.

And, just to make it look more like school, we brought along our magnifying glasses to check out some dirt.

We celebrated Easter by decorating some foam eggs using dabber paints and roller paints.

We colored Easter Eggs.  I found the idea to use whisks to hold the eggs in Family Fun magazine.

We did an Easter Egg hunt at home.....
and another one at the park with Mom's Club.

I tried really hard to get a nice picture of the kids in their Easter outfits.  All I wanted was them both looking at the camera with no funny faces or poses.

Oh Well, maybe next year.

To see what others are doing, check out Preschool Corner and 5K too at Homeschool Creations.