Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prehistory – Dinosaurs Part I

We continued on in our prehistory study and we have finally reached dinosaurs!  I decided to deviate slightly from my plan since I found that most of my resources are not divided by Period, but instead dinosaurs are all lumped together or they are divided by characteristics (meat eaters, plant eaters, crests and beaks, spikes and horns, etc.).

We started with an overview of dinosaurs.  We read though our Usborne Internet-Linked 1st Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life.    We discussed what is a dinosaur and what made them different than the animals that came before them.  We played What Is A Dinosaur game at the Canadian Museum of Nature website.  This game shows pictures of eight different prehistoric creatures.  The object is to chose the ones that are not dinosaurs.  Each right or wrong answer brings up information about the animal.  After all the non-dinosaurs are removed, questions can be answered to put dinosaurs in their place.  Both correct and incorrect answers bring up more information about dinosaurs.  Computer games are always a big hit with George so we ended up playing this a couple of times.

We then discussed the Era (Mesozoic) and three time periods (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous) that dinosaurs lived.   We added stickers to the timeline from our Magic School Bus Back in Time with the Dinosaurs kit. 


I then pulled out all the cards for those three periods from our Charlie’s Playhouse Ancient Creature Cards and mixed them all up.  I showed one card at a time to George and had him find it on the timeline.  After reading about the creature, I had him name the period it came from and place it in the correct pile.  By the time we were done, George was able to easily pronounce all three period names.


I placed our many dinosaur books into a bin and allowed the kids to pick out which book they wanted to read to finish up our day.  George chose Oh Say Can You Say Dinosaur! by Bonnie Worth from the Cat in the Hat Learning Library.  George is a big fan of the Cat in the Hat and loves the Learning Library series of books.  He was able to read most of the book himself but got tired about 3/4 of the way through so I finished reading it out loud.


We will continue with our dinosaur study for however long it takes to get through all our planned activities.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up

We had a fairly productive week with both Georgie and Vicki.  I finally set up mini-office/dividers for them.   Mini-offices are used to display useful information for the children to use while doing their schoolwork and can serve the additional purpose of providing a barrier that keeps them from “helping” each other with their work.  This was a big problem I had whenever I tried to work with Vicki while Georgie was anywhere near.

I used a foam tri-fold presentation board, cut it in half horizontally and then removed one side panel (the side where I sit to help them).  Because the cut foam board edge was ragged I temporarily covered it with masking tape.  Since the pictures were taken I have bought pink and blue/purple tie-dye duct tape. 

Vicki’s board shows her full name, the Handwriting without Tears guide sheet for the upper case alphabet, an alphabet with pictures and a number/counting sheet. 

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Georgie’s board has his full name, our address, home phone number, my cell phone number and daddy’s cell phone number, a sticker about money, the months of the year, days of the week, a hundreds chart, two number lines –  0 through 20 and 0 through 100 counting by 10’s, and the Handwriting without Tears guide sheet showing upper and lower case letters and numbers.  When he saw his board for the first time he came up and gave me a big hug and said “Thanks for my board mommy.  You’re the best.  You always know what will help me.”  Awww, so sweet.  He really appreciated the HWT sheet since he often feels like he has to flip back in his book to see how to form letters.  It also led to him writing quite a bit of his math by himself.  Having the numbers written out in front of him gave him much more confidence.

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Also on Georgie’s board is a blank area where I can pin up whatever is relevant to our current week.  Right now I have our current word list for American Sign Language.

We use two adjustable folding tables for the kids to work on now and the boards are binder clipped together and sit on the edge of the two tables.  They are sturdy enough to stand independently but clipping them together makes them a little more stable with two little kids using them.


Vicki did a few pages from Get Ready for the Code.  She’s definitely more cooperative doing written work than she was a few months ago but I still am not having her do the pages that are just tracing and writing the letters.  We are doing Handwriting without Tears for handwriting and I don’t want her getting confused with different formats.

That said, we didn’t do much Handwriting without Tears  this week.  She mainly played around with the capital letter cards and pieces.   Our next lessons will involve building Mat Man with the wood pieces and then drawing him.

She is doing well with the math sheets I printed for her from Evan Moor Teacher File Box, although there was one this week that involved cutting out bones to see if there were enough to give each dog one.  She decided she didn’t want to cut out the bones, she wanted to cut “nothing” – her term for blank pieces of paper.  Since cutting is a skill that her and Georgie both need to work on, I let her go to it. 

I’m keeping the workbooks pretty light for her so far.  She does one page from Get Ready for the Code, one activity from Handwriting without Tears which will only sometimes be a workbook page and one page of math from Evan Moor.  The rest is fully hands-on games and activities. 

This week she played with our Tag US map.  She liked playing the music from different parts of the country and dancing along.



HANDWRITING: George just completed one 2 page lesson in HWT this week.  Things went much easier once I set up the mini-office board with the guide sheet.  Unfortunately it was almost the end of the week before I had them ready.

PHONICS/READING:  We didn’t do any OPGTR or ETC this week.

MATH:  George did get through 3 pages of Math Mammoth this week including completely writing out two pages for himself. 

GRAMMAR:  He did two lessons from our Scholastic GUM and McMillian Treasure grammar programs.  I think he’s getting bored with deciding if something is a question or an exclamation so I may skip ahead if there is much more of that.  So far all the grammar ideas are coming very easy to him.

SPELLING:  We finished our review of Steps 12 through 15 of AAS this week.  Next week we will start new lessons with Step 16.

Also this week, we took a nice walk looking for signs of Autumn (but didn’t really find any) which can be seen here…..


we cheered for Steph as she cheered for her high school football team….


and we finally moved on to the Permian Period in our prehistory study, including a visit to our local museum, which can be seen here.

Prehistory – Permian Period and a visit to the museum

We continued our prehistory study with the Permian period.  This was the age of the first reptiles.

We started by discussing our Charlie’s Playhouse Ancient Creature Cards and matching them up to our timeline.  The kids love doing this and Georgie really stretches his reading skills trying to read the captions.

We also read the appropriate pages in our Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History and followed one of the link to see what it looks like inside a reptile egg. 

Since we will next be entering the Age of the Dinosaurs – the Mesozoic Era consisting of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods – we took the opportunity to finally go and check out the new dinosaur exhibit at our local museum.

For some reason I thought the museum opened at 10am so we arrived around 10:30.  Turns out they didn’t open until 11 but the person working the front desk allowed us to hang out in the lobby while we waited.  Very nice of him considering there was torrential rain going outside but the lobby is a cavernous space where every sound echoes and my kids are not known for being quiet. 

The lobby of the museum has images of various dinosaur skeletons printed on the floor.  The kids had fun pretending to search for the bones and excavate them.  Here they are using their pretend brushes to clear the dirt away from their specimen.


Once 11:00 rolled around we went right upstairs to the dinosaur exhibit.  There’s was a lot of interactive stuff for the kids to do.  A lot of the exhibits centered around fossils and dinosaurs that were found in New Jersey, especially the official state dinosaur – the hadrosaurus.   A hadrosaurus found in Haddonfield New Jersey was one of the first reasonably intact dinosaur skeletons ever found and was also one of the first ever put on display.  Hadrosaurus was a duck-billed, bipedal, herbivorous dinosaur.

The first exhibit we saw was a replica of a maiasaurus nest.  Maiasaurus was a duck-billed dinosaur belonging to the hadrosaurus family.  These dinosaurs raised young in nesting colonies and there is evidence that the adult dinosaurs bought food to the newly hatched younglings.  The kids were able to climb into the nest and play with puppets of hatching dinosaurs.


After climbing out of the nest, the kids were able to feel a real fossilized dinosaur egg and see what it would look like inside the egg.



There were a couple of exhibit cases that showed the different movements of hand claws versus foot/heel claws.


They were able to simulate the noise that would be heard by sound being amplified through the hadrosaurus’ large nasal passages.

The wall of the exhibit was a beautiful mural of what New Jersey would likely have looked like during the Cretaceous period.  There were also microscopes hooked up to a television screen that could be used to get close-up views of fossils and an assortment of larger fossils to look at.  The new exhibit was a lot of fun and I’m sure we’ll return again as we progress through our dinosaur study.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall Fun

We had a few beautiful Fall days last week and took a walk to look for signs of the changing season.   We didn’t find too many other than some dried out leaves on the ground, lots of acorns and squirrels going nuts.   I thought the kids were old enough now for us to take our dog Zappa along for the walk and the dog ended up being the best behaved of them all.

They did get the chance to pose all together on their favorite rock.



Later that night we took a ride out to see Steph cheer on our football team as one of the Co-Captains of the squad again this year.  This was a special game for Steph because it was at the high school she would be attending if we didn’t switch her after 8th grade.  This was the school district she attended from 2nd through 8th grade so she still has lots of friends that go to school there, including her boyfriend who is a captain of the opposing football team.    He played a great game and almost scored his teams only touchdown but we still won 28 to 0.


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Georgie showed how unsocialized he is by going up to every person arriving, introducing himself and Vicki and showing them to their seats.  He made friends with a bunch of teenage boys (his “gang”)  and charmed one mother into giving him some pom-poms to play with. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Starting a New Year

Looks like we’re getting ready to start a new school year!  

I finally got around to putting away the last couple of months of Georgie’s completed work into his Core Subject binder.   The fullness of the binder had me looking at where it started (last September) and reminded me that despite schooling year round, my intention was for our “school year” to run September through August. 

We took an unscheduled 2 week break thanks to a Hurricane Irene-induced power outage and the subsequent clean-up so this seems like a good a time as any to start fresh.  Of course, none of our curriculum is actually changing since everything Georgie’s been using has been going very well and we move on to the next level whenever he finishes the previous one.   But for record keeping purposes , it makes sense to have an ending and a new beginning.  It will also help us keep track of his grade level.  We are going by what grade he’d be in school if he started at 5 years old (even though they didn’t want him until he was 6) so he is currently beginning 1st Grade.

One thing that has changed is I am doing more structured work with Vicki.  This is by necessity since she has been demanding to “do school” and she’s no longer satisfied with the wide variety of independent activities I have available to her.  I’m choosing to start our day by sitting down with her, hoping that after a little mommy time, she’ll be happy to play more independently.  To keep Georgie in school mode while I work with Vicki, I set up a basket of activities for him to do independently.  This includes things like word searches, mazes, Mad Libs, graphing activities, word dice, cutting pages,  magnetic words to build sentences and books to read.


Our first week back wasn’t a full week since we still had some interruptions thanks to the hurricane (we had a new fridge delivered since ours was fried from the power outage, which necessitated a lot of rearranging and organizing), but we had a pretty good week regardless.

I started each morning with Vicki, hoping that a little one-on-one time would lead to her playing nicely by herself afterwards (it mostly worked).   She did a few pages from Get Ready for the Code, a few math sheets from Evan Moor Teacher File Box – one on counting and one on big/little.  Those went very well.  I printed off a modified Domino Parking Lot for her with spots for the numbers 1 to 5 and pulled out the appropriate dominos for her to work with.  She had a lot of fun doing this for a little while, using her purple pen to count the dots….


but it didn’t take long for Georgie to join her in building with the dominos.


We also used her Capital Letter pieces and cards to work on some phonics.  I pulled out the cards for A through E and asked her to build the letter that makes the sound at the beginning of a word.  We did B, C and D before she balked and told me “Let me build what I want to build!”

Still, not a bad start.

Georgie enjoyed his independent work but was a little resistant to the rest of his work this week.  We still managed to get done quite a bit of math.  I usually do a lot of the writing for him, especially in math since his ability to do the problems far exceeds his ability to write that many numbers.  He was giving me a hard time about answering the problems, randomly yelling out numbers for things I knew he could do, so I handed him the pencil, told him that if he was going to play games he could do it on his own.  And I walked away (but not too far).  He did two pages, including one with a fairly tricky puzzle on it, on his own before he decided he wanted to cooperate better.

We had the most fun getting back into AAS.  I took this week (and probably next week) to review all the words from Lessons 12 to 15 to make sure he knows them well before we start with new lessons.  We had the usual playing around with the tiles but he was doing well spelling the words.  Then I offered him the option of using dry-erase markers to write out the words.    I’m thinking a nice little list of words.  Instead I got bubble letters…..IMG_6865

and pictures.

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Other than “ribbit”, which isn’t on any of our lists, he spelled all the words correctly so I guess I can overlook the adornment.

He did draw me a nice picture on our first day home when the power came back.


We should have less interruptions next week so I’m hoping to have a more productive week and get back into our Prehistory study.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekly Update

Very little going on this week.  We still have no power at our house after Hurricane Irene.  Evidently the local electric company is having trouble figuring out why we have no power, which is kind of delaying getting it turned back on again.   We spent a couple days in a local hotel and are now staying with family.  Between that and Daddy not being able to go to work since the town he works in is shut down due to flooding, we haven't done much in the way of school. 

I hope we'll get back to it soon.