Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mardi Gras!!

George Sr., Steph and I spent most of last week visiting with friends in Mississippi and taking trips over to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.   It was crazy and fascinating at the same time.  We saw some great parades, including one where Steph caught beads thrown by Mariska Hargitay (star of L&O:SVU).  Cyndi Lauper, Harry Connick Jr. and Hillary Swank were also riding in the parade.

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We visited the St. Louis Cemetery Number One.  It was like a little city with all the above ground crypts.  The history was fascinating with some graves from the early 1800’s.

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The grave of Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans.


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We had some wonderful meals while we were there, including lunch at Bubba Gump’s.  Steph and I spent a lot of our time shopping at the French Market and all the little shops.  Steph loved the elaborate masks and bought a few to start a collection.


Pirates Alley was really cool and slightly creepy after dark.

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Everyone thought I was weird to want to take a ride on a riverboat so I settled for a ride on a streetcar.


It was a great trip and I hope to go back again sometime.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

4-H Cloverbuds – Weather

We had the first theme-based meeting for our new club – the Curious Cloverbuds.  Cloverbuds is for kids who are too young for traditional 4-H.  Instead of the long-term projects in specific areas (sewing/quilting, gardening, raising small animals, breeding livestock, shooting, etc.), Cloverbuds uses activities to introduce kids in Kindergarten through 3rd grade to a variety of a topics.  We are a homeschool group so grades are a little more flexible then they might be otherwise.   We have 4 to 9 year olds in our group.  Which does offer some challenges with finding appropriate activities but I think I have a pretty good plan going.  (More information on Cloverbuds can be found here.)


We meet in a local library’s meeting room which offers some limitations on what we can do, especially when it comes to experiments, cooking and crafts.   My plan for each topic is to have a library meeting which will include a discussion/demonstration, an active game and a craft; and on a different date, a field trip appropriate to the topic.  I was unable to arrange a field trip for our weather theme so we only have the library meeting for this particular topic.

Each meeting starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H pledge, led by one of the kids (with assistance).


We started our Weather meeting with some discussion questions. 

“Who knows what today’s weather is?” 
(cold, cloudy and windy)
“How do you know?”
(we went outside)
”What is another way to tell what the weather is or to see what the weather is going to be later today or tomorrow?”
(look at a weather report, online or on television).

At this point we looked at a print-out of the day’s weather report, discussed the various components, and decided whether our earlier assessment (cold, cloudy and windy) was correct and where that information could be found on the weather report.  We discussed the terminology used (humidity, wind speed, high temperature, low temperature, etc.)

We continued with a discussion of the people who study weather to make predictions (meteorologists) and some of the tools used (satellites, thermometers, hygrometers, barometers, anemometers, etc.).


We discussed how one of the reasons it is important to know what the weather is going to be is to avoid unsafe situations.  We played a game called Safe/Unsafe, that I found here.  I read different scenarios to the kids -
Putting on sunscreen before going outside.
Playing in deep puddles or streams after rainstorms.
Staying away from downed power lines after a storm.

If the described scenario is Safe, the kids stood up.  If it was Unsafe, they sat down.  We would then discuss why.

Rather than haul a bunch of items to the library, I printed out cards with various pictures on them to play part of the “Weather Mystery Bag” game.  Each kid drew a card showing an item associated with a different kind of weather (umbrella, sunglasses, mittens, swimsuit, etc.).  They then took turns coming up and telling everyone about their item and what kind of weather it would be used for.

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At this point I told the kids we were going to play a game in honor of the weather we ALMOST had that day (snow).  I pulled out pom-pom “snowballs” and let the kids have a brief snowball fight with them.   I made 15 yarn pom-poms for this activity.  The first two I made using two cardboard donuts wrapped with yarn and cut apart.   I used a popsicle stick to keep control of the yarn while threading it through the hole.


After I managed to stab my hand with the seam ripper I was using to cut the yarn (and realized that it was taking forever) I decided to change tactics.  I made the rest of the pom-poms by wrapping the yarn around a small book, tying off the middle and cutting the loops.  Turns out the kids actually preferred these floppier “snowballs”.


I had the kids line up with a snowball each and we did some fun relays.  They would see how far they could walk holding the snowballs different ways (under the chin, on head, bent over with it on their back, on toes walking on heels – thank you to my Facebook group for suggestions :-D). I let the kids suggest a few ideas and let them play until things deteriorated into another snowball fight.

For our next activity, we talked briefly about wind and then the kids were each given a straw.  I scattered cotton ball “clouds” on the floor and the kids blew them around using the straws.

We finished up with a craft.  Since our meeting was on Valentine’s day, I brought construction paper and foam Valentine’s stickers and let the kids make pictures. 


Our next topic is Pets and includes a field trip to a local Petco store.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekly Update: 2/6/12 – 2/10/12

We had a great week!   Lots of visible progress with both kids.  

First for the fun stuff.  I lied when I said we’d be starting our new Science, History and Geography this week.  I decided to hold off for a few weeks since Steph, Daddy and I are going to visit friends in Mississippi and take in a few Mardi Gras festivities in neighboring New Orleans, while the little guys enjoy some time with their grandparents. 

We decided to have some Valentine’s Day fun instead.  We participated in a Valentine exchange through the Secular Homeschool forums.  The kids were very excited as their Valentines came in the mail and eagerly looked for the right state (and one from Canada) to mark on our map.


Georgie made Valentine cards for his special cousin Jade and some other friends, while Vicki just made decorations to put up all over the house.


Vicki had a real break-through this week.  I’ve been periodically trying different phonics reading programs with her including Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, the sample pages from All About Reading Level 1 and Progressive Phonics.  But she just hasn’t been ready for blending.  She knows all her letter sounds (thanks to Leap Frog videos) but she’s been working on the pre-level book Get Ready for the Code for extra reinforcement (and because she wanted to “do school”).  We are almost ready to move on to Get Set for the Code and she’s been doing very well and enjoys the work.   This past week I pulled out an old copy of The Reading Lesson which was the first thing I bought for Georgie to homeschool with when he was 4.  He hated it but Vicki loves it and it worked!  She was able to do the blends in one of the initial lessons (a t, c a, c o, t a, s a) without any problems. 

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She has been continuing along with Handwriting without Tears and has shown more willingness to carefully trace the letters and taking her time coloring the pictures.   She hasn’t wanted to do the name tracing pages I prepared for her but I continue to bring it out everyday and just put it away if she doesn’t want to do it.

Georgie spent a lot of time this week reading a couple of the encyclopedias we have.  He says he likes reading the books with “lots of different little informations in them”.   His favorite was A Scholastic Kid’s Encyclopedia: Science but he also enjoyed the Little Kid’s First Big Book of Why.   He had no trouble with the vocabulary in either of these and just started at the beginning and read them through in order.

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I’m continuing to alternate Georgie’s Handwriting without Tears with some short copywork.  I made the mistake one day of putting his HWT workbook out at the same time as his binder.  He ended up writing a word in HWT, then doing a problem in the binder, then back to his HWT workbook, then back to his binder.  Probably not the most efficient way for him to be working.


He has almost completed Explode the Code Book 3.  Many people recommend postponing Book 4 since it is a big jump in difficulty.  We will probably start with Book 4 and if it proves too difficult, switch to Book 5.

Georgie is also almost finished with Math Mammoth 1st grade.  We will be working completely within 2A and 2B by the end of next week.  He still enjoys being able to mix up topics.

He’s continuing with the free Scholastic GUM and McMillian/McGraw Treasures Grammar.  We are currently working on adjectives and Georgie loves making things more complicated than they need to be.  He had to pick an adjective for the sentence “The sheep ran down the _________ hill.”  He had to think about this for a few minutes and then stated “well, sheep aren’t very good climbers so I’m going to go with small for the hill”.   He also had to write other answers to fit the word – “red” was written in red, “pink” in pink, “big” was written BIG and “pretty” had to be written in pink and purple because “they are pretty colors even though I don’t like them”.  Once we finish the first grade level of these we will be switching to Spectrum Grade 2 workbooks.

He is also almost finished with Level 1 All About Spelling.  I’m taking some time to review all the past lessons to make sure everything has been mastered up to this point before we move to Level 2.

Next week we have 4-H Cloverbuds on Tuesday (topic for the day is Weather), Homeschool Bowling on Wednesday and Homeschool Gymnastics on Friday so we’re going to concentrate on our core subjects along with some more Valentine’s Day activities.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A couple weeks update

After a really good start getting back to school right after the holidays, things pretty much fell apart.   Between continuing improvement projects around the house, the resumption of homeschool bowling and gymnastics, the start of our 4-H Cloverbud club, and some absolutely gorgeous weather – formal schooling has taken a bit of a backseat. 

It looks like we are going to have a great group for our 4-H Cloverbud Club.   15 children were enrolled ranging from 4 to 8 years old.  I’m very excited at the possibilities for field trips and group activities.  Vicki spent some time studying our Pledge of Allegiance and 4-H Pledge board, although she seemed to think it was a story about aliens and monsters.


The kids had fun playing grocery store with the cash register they received for Christmas.  According to Georgie, the hat (from an old dance costume of Steph’s) is completely necessary for the cashier to be official.


We spent one day without power and without a car, thanks to a large tree falling across the road and on power lines.  The kids spend the day camping in front of the fire and setting up tents all over the house.


We enjoyed some of the absolutely gorgeous, Spring-like weather outside preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse with the Nerf guns the kids also got for Christmas.   Those bright orange darts showed up real well against the blue sky.  I drew a target on a large box with chalk so they would have something to aim for and I wouldn’t have to spend so much time searching for darts in the neighbor’s yard.

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Both kids did progress a little bit in their regular school work.  Vicki insisted on doing “the duck page” in her Handwriting without Tears book so we ended up jumping ahead by about 10 pages. 


After she worked in some of her wipe-off books while I worked with Georgie, which included coloring her toe nails blue and some face painting.

Next week we will be back to full days of school.  We will be alternating topics in History (US starting with Native Americans), Geography (US starting with our home state of New Jersey) and Science (rocks and minerals).