Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer School

I have been planning to homeschool year round to account for the frequent breaks we take but so far we haven't achieved much.  Between all the year-end stuff we have to do for Stephanie's school and dance, camping trips and preparing to go to South Carolina for Nationals, things have been chaotic.  But, I did manage to pull out a couple of things for the kids to do.

I recently purchased the Crayola Dry Erase Activity Center for each of the kids.  These come with a set of templates but you can also use in your own, which makes it a very versatile tool.

Georgie started by tracing his letters.  This is a sheet I printed out for him to practice lower case letters.  After tracing the letters he wrote his name at the top and a few random words at the bottom.
He was having a lot of fun with the wipe-off board so he wanted to continue playing with it.  Using one of the templates that came with the Activity Center, he thought of words that began with each letter of the alphabet.  He was able to think of words on his own but couldn’t spell many of them so I would spell them for him to write.
After the word hunt, he decided to write a story.  The picture at the top is a clock (his current fascination) which has nothing to do with the story itself.  This is another one of the templates that came with the activity center.  The story is “The dog with polka dots plays with the cat.  The End.”
The kids played with our balance scale and Unifix cubes for a little while….
and then I was brave enough to pull out our rice bin again.  I finally managed to color some rice which made a nice pretty rainbow…
which lasted about 10 seconds.  About how long it took for rice to get off the towel I laid down and onto the carpet.
I’m still going to try and get in the occasional school activities during the summer but I’m letting go a little bit so we can enjoy ourselves as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Working Together

It's always nice when you see your children work together toward a common goal. 

There are many things that we are not ready for Vicki and George to use without supervision.  Many of these things are kept up on shelves out of their reach.  Due to the habit of climbing on anything and everything they can carry, push or drag where they need it I have removed all plastic bins, drawers and crates, all toys that can be used to stand on, and I make sure no folding tables are left up, no laundry baskets left lying around, etc.   And, it seems to be working.  It's probably been a whole week since I last had to take away something they had managed to get down on their own. 

Then I walked into the living room to see this:

I could hear Vicki saying, "Can you reach it yet?  Can you reach it, Gorgie?"

Now what do I do?

preschool corner

Father's Day Craft

I bought a handprint kit for the kids to make gifts for Father's Day.   The kit came with individual packages of clay, plastic molds and letter stamps.  The Party Pack has enough to make 10 handprint plaques.  The kids have three grandfathers plus Daddy, so I thought 10 should be enough for us to get some decent handprints.
I followed the instructions on kneading the clay and putting it in the plastic molds.  This would have been too hard for the kids since I found it tricky getting it to the edges and smoothing it out.    The clay was not very soft and when the kids went to make their handprints, they were unable to push down hard enough, even with my help, to make a noticable handprint.  So, we had to come up with a Plan B.

I had seen a post about clay mosaics at Shannon's Tot School and had wanted to try it for a while so I figured this was the perfect time (since I had a big lump of clay just drying out on my counter).  I used a heart and a star cookie cutter and let the kids fill them in with beads and stick-on gems. Vicki insisted on pulling the paper backing off the gems even though it wasn't necessary when squishing them into clay.
They came out pretty cute but I wasn't sure what to do with them next.  I decided to flatten out another package of clay into a plaque and put our mosaics on it.   I also used the stamps to write #1 Grandpa on the plaque.

The kids had fun doing this but it was a lot of work (for me) putting it together, it's very heavy and probably fairly delicate so I decided to do something a little different for the other two grandpas (both of whom go by Pop-Pop).

I laid the clay out in the molds, wrote "#1 Pop-Pop" and "Best Pop-Pop" on them, made a slight impression of the heart and star cookie cutters and gave them to the kids with more beads and gems, with instructions to not put too many over the words.  Notice this time the beads and gems are in a bowl, not just scattered on the table.  I learned something from our first attempt.

The kids had a lot of fun with this project.  It was easy enough for Vicki to do and I think the results were pretty cute.
After we cleaned up our clay and left them to dry (it's been two days and they're still not completely hard) we made cards.  As usual, Vicki had to do some body art as well.
preschool corner

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vicki tells a story

Georgie has loved to tell stories for a long time.  They are often extremely entertaining if a little off-beat.  He especially loves when we drive some of Stephanie's friends home from school and he has a new, captive audience.   A couple of them still laugh about the time he started his story with, "This is a story about a dog and an alligator.....Once there was a donkey...."

Today Vicki told her first story.  We were driving Steph's friend Alyssa home and George decided we needed to all take turns telling stories. 

Vicki's story..."There was a horse on a rainbow.  She slid down the rainbow and stood on the ground.  THE END"  Not bad for an almost 3 year old.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gearing up for School (again)

The past few weeks have been heavy on the experiences (camping, rafting, nature walks) but light on the school work.  With all the packing and clean-up from camping trips, paperwork to prepare for the new house and some changes to our curriculum, things have been pretty loose. 

But, all that is going to change (sort of - I'm never all that strict).   I’ve finished setting up a modified workbox system to keep organized, set up creativity boxes for free times and prepared our plans for the next few months.  We are schooling year round because of the pretty random weeks we take off here and there.  If we took three months off for the summer in addition to the 2-3 weeks at Christmas, the random weeks when Georgie vacations with Granny Franny, weeks for family vacations, weeks with a lot of outside activities, and doing 4 day weeks we’d never get anything done.

I always liked the idea of workboxes but knew I didn’t have the time to fill them every night.  We don’t have a lot of space for bins or drawers so I decided to do a combination of magazine holders and drawers and organize a week’s worth of work at a time.

Our core subjects are in magazine holders.   Except for Math, most of these we just proceed to the next pages in the book so only one holder was needed for each subject. Georgie’s Explode the Code book stands up on the shelf next to the magazine holders. 

The holders contain:

-Handwriting Worksheets (although I may change this since we will be doing a lot of this using our Crayola Dry-Erase Activity Center).
-Phonetic/Emergent Readers
-All About Spelling
-Letter and Number dabber/sticker pages for Vicki to do while Georgie’s doing his work if she doesn't want to do her Tot Trays. (these are from Confessions of a Homeschooler, Making Learning Fun and itsy bitsy learners. They are usually called magnet pages).
-Fine Motor Skills – Kumon Cutting book and books of Mazes.
-Monday’s Math – we are going to alternate doing Time (using a Leap Frog wipe off book and geared clock) and Money (using workbooks and real money).
-Tuesday’s Math – MEP.  All supplies needed to do a lesson – teacher pages, student pages and accessories will be in the holder.
-Wednesday’s Math – RS Abacus and Activity book.
-Thursday’s Math – MEP.
The magazine holders sit on a shelf out of reach of little hands.  I know this kind of defeats the original purpose of workboxes which is to promote independent work, but with Vicki around it’s necessary.  Very little of Georgie’s work is truly independent at this point anyway.

Our History and Science activities are in three drawers of a plastic drawer system.  I’m planning/gathering materials for three topics at a time.  Each drawer contains the printouts, craft/activity supplies and lesson plan for a topic.

I plan to do the core subjects in the morning with Georgie doing his Reading, Writing and Math while Vicki plays with her Tot trays or does dabber pages.  This would probably take an hour or two at most.  Once we are done the kids will get a chance to do the Tot trays together (since I don’t think Georgie will be able to resist them), have creative time, outside play or we’ll play games until lunch.  After lunch we will do our History or Science lesson.  I plan to spend an entire week (or however long it takes) doing a History or Science lesson and alternating between them, rather than trying to do both in the same week.  I think completing a topic will make more sense to the kids and provide continuity.

Coming up:

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Lesson D-1 – Gravity and Horizontal/Vertical

BFSU – Lesson D-2 – Day, Night and the Earth’s Rotation

BFSU – Lesson D-3 – Reading and Drawing Maps, Lesson D-3a – North, East, South and West, and Evan Moor Beginning Geography

A brief overview of US History

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

preschool corner

Encouraging Creativity

*This is my first post using Windows Live Writer.  (Thank you to Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations for the suggestion).  I’m still getting the hang of it but I definitely think its a much easier way to write blog posts.*
During our camping trips, Georgie had a great time coloring and doing activity books.  It made me realize that I don’t bring out art supplies for them to just play around with often enough.  Having to keep things locked up makes them harder to get to so I tend to just forget about them.  So I set up two bins.  The idea was to have some things I could pull out for the kids to do on their own that didn’t need constant supervision.  I wouldn’t leave them alone for more than a minute or two but these are things that they couldn’t make too much of a mess too quickly.  The first one is a general art bin except for no paints (since paint can make a BIG mess very quickly).  Included in this bin (all washable) are markers, crayons, colored pencils, regular pencils, stampers, stencils, scissors, Cricut cut-outs and glue.   They were also provided with a bin of various colors of paper.  I made the separate cubbies by taping together plastic cups which I then stuck in a plastic tote.
Of course, messes are relative.  As usual when Vicki gets a hold of markers and stampers, she likes to color herself.
But they did manage to do some nice pictures as well.
The second bin I set up was for stickers.  This is for when I have something to do that may keep me from checking up on them quite as often (think dishes and laundry) or when I really don’t want any mess but still want to give them a chance to be creative.  I set up cubbies with all different kinds of stickers.   To start we have: paper stickers and an assortment of foam stickers – patriotic, Easter eggs, alphabet, shapes, glittery butterflies and general shapes (moons, suns, dinosaurs).   Each in their own individual cups (I don’t expect them to stay that way).
The kids had a great time with these.   Notice the paper bag I taped to the side for the garbage?  Notice the little pile of sticker backing paper on the floor?  Vicki didn’t quite get the idea.  But, picking up sticker paper is a lot easier than scrubbing marker and crayon off walls and furniture.
I am planning to pull out our paints more often as well.  I printed off a bunch of magnet pages for Vicki to do with our dabber paints (or stickers) while Georgie is working on his work.  Many of our planned History and Science projects will also involve lots of painting, molding and gluing.  I just can’t wait.
To see what others are doing visit Preschool Corner & 5K too at Homeschool Creations.

preschool corner

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rafting on the Delaware

We took another camping trip over Memorial Day weekend.  This time we were right on the Delaware River and we decided to take the kids on a rafting trip down the river.  They don't recommend these trips for children under 5 but our kids have their own life jackets and are used to going out on the ocean in Daddy's boat, so we thought they would do fine.  We did take the shorter 4 mile trip which ended up taking us about 2 1/2 hours since we went nice and slow and stopped along the way.  This section of the Delaware is very slow and easy with no rapids and only a couple of faster moving areas.

Both kids liked paddling.  Vicki only lost her paddle twice.  Both times were on the down river side of the raft so the current brought it right back to us.

We stopped for a picnic of potato chips and pretzels (at 10:30 in the morning) at a little clearing.  Stepping out of the boat was very muddy and twice I almost lost one of my (fairly expensive) sandals. 

Vicki liked looking over the side of the boat for fish.  In a lot of places it was shallow enough to see moss growing on submerged rocks.  We also saw a couple of painted turtles, a hawk and a pretty little waterfall.

Despite our stop the kids couldn't make it back without another snack.  Vicki must be in the middle of a growth spurt.  In one afternoon, in the course of about 4 hours she ate:  a turkey cheddar brat, macaroni & cheese, spaghettios, 1/2 a nectarine, 1/2 an apple, a few handfuls of blueberries and a bowl of Fruit Loops. 

Both kids said they enjoyed the ride.  I don't think the longer (8 mile) trip would have worked out as well - 2 1/2 hours definitely seems to be their limit for sitting in a raft.   Being able to paddle, lean over and touch the water, jump up and down and see how much they could rock the raft all helped to make the trip interesting for them.  My kids are definitely not the "sit still and listen" type but it was still a very pleasant journey.

To see what others have been doing this week, visit Preschool Corner and 5K too at Homeschool Creations.

preschool corner