Friday, March 30, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up

Georgie had a very good week while Vicki was not interested in doing much school.  Which worked out fine since Georgie took the California Achievement Test this week.  I still have to send it in for scoring but he did very well on the Reading and Math sections and not as well on the Language sections, especially punctuation and capitalization.  Not surprising since we have just begun working on those.

Vicki did a few pages in Handwriting without Tears and some Reading Eggs this week.  The rest of the time she played Toon Town or Webkinz on the computer or playing.   She has completed through Lesson 9 on Reading Eggs.

Georgie completed Book 3 in Explode the Code and we moved on to Book 4.  So far he says it’s easy but I often see talk about 4 being a big jump with it’s syllabication work.  We already have Book 5 so we can skip ahead and return to Book 4 if that happens. 

He is continuing along with Handwriting without Tears and with copywork.   He definitely prefers the HWT workbook to the copywork, and has returned to doing a random mix of upper and lower case letters with the copywork.  I may have to increase his copywork and have him redo it when he does it wrong.

We’ve switched from the Scholastic Grammar and Reading Comprehension to Spectrum workbooks.  We’ve just started these so it’s early to know how well they are going to work.

We are on Step 21 of All About Spelling Level 1.  I ordered Level 2 which we will start after doing a review of all the words in Level 1.

Math continues to be Georgie’s favorite and I’m continuing to try to find new interesting things for him to do.  He loves the lessons from Scholastic Algebra Readiness Made Easy: Grade 2 and I’m sure I’ll buy the Grade 3 book when he finishes this one.  I LOVE the Scholastic dollar sales.    At the latest sale, I bought a book of Solve-the-Riddle Math Practice: Addition and Subtraction to give him more practice with memorizing his math facts.  He’s very good with figuring out word problems and new concepts but doesn’t have all his fact memorized.  The pages consist of about 12 math problems with each answer associated with a letter.  The letters are then filled in blanks at the bottom with the numbers underneath them.  Each is the answer to a simple riddle like “What do frogs eat with their hamburgers?   - French Flies”.  Georgie loves riddles so I thought he would enjoy these and so far he does.

We did a lot of bird watching this week.  Most of the pictures were taken through the screen door and from quite a distance but we were able to identify quite a few of the birds.


We saw a red-bellied woodpecker…


our usual cardinals, bluejays, mourning doves, what I think was a tufted titmouse and some chickadees.

Earlier in the week we had the field trip for our 4-H Cloverbud bug unit.  More about that can be seen here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

4-H Cloverbuds – Bugs Part 1

We had the field trip portion of our next Cloverbud unit today.  Our current topic is Bugs, so we took a trip to Insectropolis – The Bugseum of New Jersey.  We had a large enough group to get a guided tour and I’m very glad we did.  Our tour guide, Jesse, was great with the kids and they learned so much.  Each room of the museum had a different theme and a different colored floor so it was easy to tell the kids to stay on the green floor or move on to the orange floor.

Georgie took a lot of interest in the metamorphosis display in the introductory room.


The first thing the kids were able to touch was a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.  These are very popular at zoos and museums so we’ve seen these before. 


In addition to live bugs, there were also some great mounted specimens.  It’s amazing how big some bugs get around the world. (and kind of creepy).


Jesse pulled out a millipede for the kids to touch.  I kept my distance from this one since millipedes and centipedes really give me the creeps.


In the jail room there were displays of bugs that were detrimental to food crops or harmful to people.

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The kids were able to touch a scorpion next.  


A display of iridescent butterflies.


We finished up with a discussion about spiders and the chance to touch a tarantula.IMG_7792

Georgie didn’t want to touch the tarantula so he hid under the bench.


I thought it was funny that the Bug Museum was located behind an exterminator.


In two weeks, we’ll do Part 2 of our Bug unit with a Bug Hunt and craft.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up

Most of what we did this week involved enjoying the absolutely BEAUTIFUL Spring weather. 

We did finish up a Pets unit with our 4-H Cloverbud group that can be seen here.

We took a walk down to the river at the bottom of our property for the first time since last fall.  We don’t do this often since the kids still need a lot of help getting down the steep, over-grown slope.   A lot of the smaller brush still hasn’t started growing after the winter but there were a lot of limbs down from Hurricane Irene.   Once we made it down to the river, the cleared area was actually larger than normal since much of the brush washed away with the flooding after Irene.


The long walk back up.   

Georgie spent some time reading in my hammock.


And we did some bird watching.  I started putting out seed for the birds again.  We stopped when a bear bent our metal shepherds hook in order to get to our old bird feeder.   Instead of a feeder, we are just scattering seed along the top of the old stone fireplace in our backyard, in the hope that it won’t attract the bear again.  The kids love using my binoculars to get a closer look at the birds.


My father and my grandparents were always avid bird watchers so I can identify some of the most common birds.  We have blue jays, a pair of cardinals, sparrows, a titmouse and lots of mourning doves.  Mourning doves are the only birds I can recognize by sound.  Georgie is a big fan of cardinals.


I’ve been trying to find inexpensive ways to encourage the kids to spend more time outside.  We have a small trampoline, a small slide/climber that the kids use as a fort, sidewalk chalk, Nerf guns and bubbles but no swings and no sandbox.  After seeing a picture on Pinterest of a toddler garden, I decided to set up something similar for the kids.

We don’t exactly have a lawn so there was no concern for preserving grass.  When Spring gets here for real, our lawn will consist mostly of ground cover and wild flowers.  There was an area that Vicki had already spent some time digging in so I decided to put the “garden” there.


First we dug up and raked the dirt to loosen it up.   It was fairly rocky and had a lot of roots throughout so we didn’t dig down very far.  Basically just loosened up the top few inches.  

We used some large rocks to build a border around the outside edges and Vicki added some old fish tank gravel to the inside.


We finished it up with some wind spinners, fake flowers, a decorative rock and some small flower pots from the dollar store.  Vicki enjoyed “planting” her flowers and arranging her garden.


It looks like our Spring weather may be here to stay so we will be spending a lot of time outside.  I’ve preparing materials to start doing the Outdoor Hour Challenges to bring more purpose and learning to our time spent outdoors.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

4-H Cloverbuds – Pets

We finished up our second theme with Cloverbuds today.

We began our Pet unit two weeks ago with a field trip to a local Petco.  None of the pet stores in our area do guided tours anymore but Petco provides materials on their website for self-guided and virtual field trips. 

As we looked at the various animals I emphasized what would make an animal a good pet versus a bad pet and why some may be good pets but not right for a given family.   Some examples would be the space needed for large dogs or large reptiles (iguanas can be 6 feet nose to tip of the tail when full grown), the longevity of an animal (some parrots and reptiles can live 50 years or longer) and being able to provide the proper food (live crickets or mice for some reptiles) and atmosphere (heat lamps needed for many fish, reptiles and amphibians). It was a good tour.  The hamsters were running on their wheels, the ferrets were awake and curious, the birds were chirping.   This particular store had mostly canaries and parakeets but did have some cockatiels as well.


One of the employees took out a ball python for the kids to get a closer look.


The kids all loved the tropical fish and were surprised that you could have a shark in a fish tank.

Today we held the business portion of our meeting.  As always we started with the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H Pledge (which I still don’t know and really need to memorize).   At our last meeting I felt like some of the kids were disappointed that they weren’t picked for their turn quickly enough so I decided to stop the raising hands for turns.  I put each kids name on a popsicle stick and put them in an opaque cup.  I picked the first kid, then each kid picked the next one as they finished up their turn.

The kids were all asked to bring in a stuffed animal that would represent a good pet and be prepared to tell the group about it and why it made a good pet.  Alternatively, they could bring in an animal that would make a bad pet and tell why.  We had a mix of good and bad pets but the kids were very good about telling the group the proper information.  We definitely have some kids who LOVE speaking in front of a group and some that are more hesitant but everyone did a great job.

After the kids did their presentations we talked a little bit more about whether certain animals would make good pets or not.  We discussed a few unusual situations – like that pet turtles in NJ need a permit and cannot be wild caught.

The first of our active games was Rover Says.  We played it just like Simon Says but all the activities were things animals would do like roll over, beg like a dog, purr like a cat, hop like a bunny, slither like a snake, jump like a frog, climb like a lizard, etc.   The kids were really good at this and it took me a few tries to catch them.

We then played freeze dance but using animal movements.  Some chose to dance with their stuffed animals, or make them dance.  I used my I-Touch with animal themed songs on it like Walk the Dinosaur, Diggity Dog, Itsy Bitsy Spider (a very peppy upbeat version), Tiki Tiki Tiki Room, Ladybug Picnic, Scooby Doo (a hip-hop version of the theme song), and Purple People Eater (I know, not exactly a pet).

After the kids had the chance to work out the wiggles, we set up for our crafts.  They had the choice to make a paper bag puppet or a paper plate mask of a pet.  Or both.   We had some wonderful pets made.

4H craft3 4-h crafts4

A few of the boys weren’t interested in anything termed a “craft” so I may need to think of some alternative activities for future meetings.  Many of the girls, on the other hand, made multiple and varied projects.

We meet in the library so there is some limitation to what we can do for crafts.  No paint, no loose glitter, nothing that will cause a major mess.  Fifteen kids can make a pretty good mess anyway but the materials we use have to be easy to just pick up, nothing that needs to be scrubbed out of the floor.  The worst I had to deal with this time was loose feathers and a couple of blobs of glue on the tables.

In two weeks we will be taking a field trip to the Bug Museum of New Jersey for our Creepy Crawly unit.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up

We jumped back into school this week with some fun and challenging additions to our workload. 

I signed up for Reading Eggs using some discount codes that were circulating a few weeks ago.  Vicki has continued to struggle with blending but insists she wants to learn to read.  She’s not as into the computer as Georgie is but she did enjoy Reading Eggs and completed the first 4 lessons this week.  She played at the table wearing headphones while I worked with Georgie on his work.


Georgie, on the other hand, LOVES the computer and really enjoyed Reading Eggs.  He started at Lesson 70, which seemed to be slightly lower than his true reading level but there were still some things that were new to him.  In three days, he played enough to move up to Lesson 107.  He did this completely in his free time after we finished the rest of school.  As long as he continues to enjoy Reading Eggs and progresses well, I’m going to stop OPGTR but continue Explode the Code.  He should be starting ETC 4 next week.

As part of school this week, I did the San Diego Quick Assessment of Reading Ability with Georgie.  I didn’t present is as a test, I just replaced the sheet we would normally do for OPGTR with the list of words from the Assessment.   One error indicates Independent level, two errors Instructional level.  Reading level is the highest level where 8 or more were read correctly.  Georgie read all the words through the 1st grade level, had one wrong each in 2nd grade and 3rd grade.  In 4th grade, he had only 4 correct but on the 5th grade list he had 6 correct.  Which appears to place him at a 3rd grade reading level.

Georgie seems to prefer reading non-fiction encyclopedia-type books when picking his own selections.  This week he spent a lot of time looking through our First Field Guide to Mammals.   We have four or five similar field guides and probably a couple dozen encyclopedias, so he has lots to keep his interest if he continues to prefer reading these.


Vicki didn’t do much else in the way of school this week.   We did another two pages in The Reading Lesson but are still working at the beginning of Lesson 1.   She did two pages in HWT, a couple pages from Get Ready for the Code, which she insisted in doing with a pen, and a decent tracing of her name for the first time.  The rest of the time she played with her wipe-off boards, the unifix blocks or the Tag maps.   She will be finished with GRC and moving on to Get Set for the Code in the next couple of weeks.


Georgie did Lesson 20 of All About Spelling this week.  I let him do the words on the Magna Doodle and after the first couple of words, he realized they all ended with –ng, so he began erasing only the beginning of the word and leaving the –ng.  At that point, I switched to having him write some of the phrases so he would have to actually think about how to spell the words.  We will be starting AAS 2 shortly.

I’m continuing to have him alternate copywork with pages in his Handwriting without Tears book in order to give him more practice before trying the 2nd grade book with smaller lines.  This week he did '”Look before you leap” and “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  I’m picking the quotes from the kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade levels of What your x grader needs to know books.  Whenever he does this copywork, I also have him write his full name and the date.

We are continuing with Math Mammoth 2 doing 3 to 4 pages each day.  Georgie likes math so at the last Scholastic Dollar Days I picked up some books with various math puzzles in them.   We added in some from Algebra Readiness Made Easy: Grade 2 this week.  These were logic puzzles where clues are given to determine the ages of 4 different animals.  I was planning to go through the first one with him but he found it while I was still working with Vicki so I waited to see what he would do.  He had no problem figuring out the solution and enjoyed doing it so I will continue to add them to his independent work each day.

Through Pinterest I found a link to an addition game that I thought Georgie would like and would serve as a way to drill on math facts.   The original was set up to use with a regular 6-sided die.  Since Georgie is past that point in addition, I made up my own board that had addition and subtraction problems with answers up to 12, and used a 12-sided die to play.  Each player rolls the die and then moves forward to the next equation that has that number as a solution.  Georgie basically had to solve every problem on the board to find the correct ones.  I uploaded my file to Google Docs here if anyone is interested in trying it out.


Georgie is still working out of his binder with a few things that can be done independently coming first (usually HWT or copywork, ETC, Reading Comprehension and his Algebra readiness) which he does while I work with Vicki.  Previously, If he finished before Vicki and I did, I felt like he wound up wasting time and if he slipped away to the computer it was very hard to get him back.  So, a new addition this week was this page:


Next to him on the kitchen nook bench were a few books for him to chose from -a few Level 2 or 3 readers and one harder chapter book he can try if he wants to, his Draw Write Now books with paper, and a small white board with a set of magnetic words that I printed off months ago.    This gives him something productive to do while keeping him close by.  This week he mostly played around with the magnetic words.  He took them off the board and played with them on the table.  At least he did until Vicki joined him while I made lunch and put a bunch of them in the cracks between the nook benches.


Even though I didn’t put it on his list, I did have his Mad Libs Jr. book available as well and that was his second choice this week.  (You can see the magnetic words in the background.  They are color coded by part of speech.)


Thursday was a gorgeous Spring-like day.  Very unusual for NJ in March, so the kids and I took a walk to the mailboxes.  In order to convince Georgie that a walk was a good idea, I printed off a Nature Scavenger Hunt list for them to check-off.  Since it was early in the year and I knew they wouldn’t find some things (no dandelions or butterflies right now) I only made one sheet and told them we would just do it for fun.  Each of them had their own crayon and my insistence that it wasn’t contest didn’t stop Georgie from periodically announcing that he was winning.  I taped the list to a clipboard since it was very windy outside and we started right in our backyard where we found a purple flower (crocuses that are confused by the weather), tree bark, pine needles and pine cones.


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Other things that were on our list that we found were acorns, a y-shaped stick, smooth and jagged edged leaves, round and triangular shaped rocks and birds.  We weren’t able to find clovers, dandelions or a spider web.  I was also very surprised that we saw no squirrels or chipmunks – both of which are usually very prolific around here.

There are many versions of nature hunts around the web.  I made up my own to make it more relevant to what is around here but it looks like I may need to make them seasonal as well.

Next week we have a 4-H Cloverbud meeting with the topic of discussion being pets.  We will also start US History with a study of Native Americans and/or Science with Rocks and Minerals.  We have out of the house activities four afternoons next week (YIKES!!) so it may be a light week otherwise.