Monday, February 25, 2008

Dead Things

Thank goodness for dead things, or my kids would never learn any science!


One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the interesting natural learning experiences we can have.  The other day when we came home from somewhere, there, in the middle of the driveway, was a dead squirrel.  Now we have no shortage of squirrels around here, so it's not such a sad thing.  But what was interesting was that you could see the tracks in the snow where it had scampered for about three feet, then down the bank to the driveway, where it collapsed and died.  Do squirrels have heart attacks?


So today we watched a crow munch on it where Mr. GT had scooped it up and thrown it on a snowbank.


We also discovered, half-buried in the ice in the driveway, a squirrel tail. (different squirrel)  After examining it up close and pondering why it was just a tail, we left it.  Later, it occured to me that it is probably a part of the one that clogged Mr. GT's snowblower last weekend.  He was out blowing the heavy wet snow when it stopped blowing.  After a bit of puzzling investigation, he finally discovered he had snow blown a squirrel!   He does figure it was already dead, though, probably slipped from a tree branch covered with ice.


Other interesting things we've discovered in our yard:

A dead robin

A huge horned caterpillar marching across the driveway

Monarch caterpillars in our garden (milkweed is one weed we allow to grow!) which we bring in every summer and raise to butterflies

Swallowtail caterpillars--we successfully raised one of these

Caterpillar parasites--one year our poor monarch caterpillar developed gross-looking eggs on its back which ate away its insides once they hatched.  We let them hang out in a separate tank to see what they were.  They appeared to be regular flies.  That was gross!

A pumpkin which grew into the fence around the garden.  We watched it slowly decay over the winter into the spring.

A hawk (sharp-shinned!) which flew itself into our greenhouse window and died on the lawn.  Hawk talons and beak are cool!


Dead moles and mice are fun to look at.  Have you seen a mole's feet?!  And once we found a star-nosed mole, dead on the trail!

Bird-watching (live birds)

Feather finding--today the kids found the remains of a purple finch and last summer we had a flicker scattered all over our lawn.  Last month they found an owl feather.

Owl pellets--owls live or perch in our pine tree and cough up their stuff onto the lawn.  We've seen tiny little skeletons and skulls

Pinecones and wildflowers and lichen and moss and bark and buds and roots

And, last but not least, a deer which died in our woods.  It had been shot, ran off and made it as far as our back yard.  (We wondered why that dog kept hanging out in our woods all winter!  Blech!)  In the spring we discovered the bones, antlers and skeleton, all very interesting to examine.



Friday, February 22, 2008

Pepper Perseverance


I gave Daisy a test today on the states.  We've studied 12 so far, so I had her name them on a map, match the states and their postal abbreviations and write down their capitals.  She did fine, btw.


I didn't give Pepper anything.  I figure that at 7, if she is familiar with the names and has a vague idea of where they are, she's good.  Daisy, at age 9 should know all those things I mentioned above.


So Daisy took her test. 


Pepper, all on her own, copied from Daisy's test the state names and their capitals, counted them all and figured out their postal abbreviations (with some help) and noted them on her white board.


Now, had I assigned this, she would have pitched a glorious fit!  But because I didn't ask her to do anything, she did way more than I expected of her.


Sometimes less is more.



More Lapbook photos

Here are Daisy and Pepper's Native Lapbooks.  You already saw two of Daisy's.  She is making an individual folder for each Indian group we study.  Pepper is doing 4 in 1 and you'll see her first three.  Next week we will complete the final group and make a folder for the Northwest Coast Indians.


Daisy's is first and is orange.  Pepper's is second and is green and then blue.  I tried to make the slides longer this time so you can see what's in the folder better.


A note about Pepper's folder.  She made flap books comparing the cultures.  Each book has a section for Houses, Transportation, Food, Clothing, Toys.  We only show you one page from each.  You'll see the food page for the Woodlands and the Transportation page for the Plains.  To see the other pages, you'll have to come and visit us!


Native Lapbooks  (click the link)



Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Trip to visit the Southwest Indians

We're getting a little tired of studying the Native Americans.  Only one more group left after this.  We found it hard to find things to read about the Southwest Indians, but there were lots of crafts to do.  We made pots and kachina dolls and the girls each wove a blanket for their dolls.  We also made a button buzzer toy.  Our best reading was from Holling C. Holling's Book of Indians.  The story about Little Turtle was very exciting!



Kachina Dolls--Daisy's on the left, Pepper's on the right

Daisy's Coil Pot

Pepper's "Navajo" Blanket (Daisy helped with some of the weaving, then made her own)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A little brag on Rose Bud

Since I am sharing the things the girls and little boys do all the time, I thought I ought to share Rose Bud's report card.  It's a brag, but it's also a little shout-out to how proud of her I am.  She works VERY hard at public school and puts a lot of time into her projects.  She maintains a great attitude toward her teachers and about her schoolwork.  Her teachers report that she is ever helpful and kind to her peers.  And of course, my dear firstborn follows all the rules (just like her mama did).


So anyway, here is her semester report card.  The two grades are Quarter 1 and Quarter 2.

Math A A  2nd quarter has focused on challenging decimal computation and applications.  Keep up the Outstanding work!

Science B+ A  Nice progress this quarter

Social Studies A A Northwest Europe point projects were outstanding! (editorial mom comment:  She put a lot of work and time into these and really had fun.  My non-hands-on girl!)

Language Arts A A Editorial essay was very well done!

Reading A A Another super quarter; great comprehension supported with quality written work!

FACE (Home Ec) A Nice student to have in class.

Music A

Foreign Language A+

Typing A+ Rose Bud is typing 28 words per minute.  She was a real joy to have in class.


I guess it is always a relief, although I feel it shouldn't be, to know that our homeschooling has been successful.  I feel like she's a bit of a poster child.  I always hear ps teachers tell how this or that homeschooled kid came into public school and completely flopped.  I'm glad she's showing how well homeschooling can work.  I knew she was doing just fine in homeschool.  Now everyone knows, I guess.


Anyway, great job, Rose Bud!  Dad and I are so proud of you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Why I chose a literature-based, no-craft curriculum

For years we have used Sonlight Curriculum and loved it. And I still call myself a Sonlighter. But we have deviated so far from the SL Instructor's Guide (to the point we aren't even using it) that I feel a little fraudulent.

SL chooses all the best books for you, sells them to you in a complete, reasonably-priced package and provides math, language arts, science and some other extras should you choose to use them. Their booklists are top-notch and Rose Bud and I have enjoyed almost all of those we've read.

But this year (and to some extent last year, too) I have felt the need to reinvent the wheel. Maybe it's because the girls are a bit young for SL's Core 3 (American History, Part 1). Maybe it's because they are such different animals than Rose Bud.

Rose Bud THRIVED on SL's heavy schedule of reading and read-alouds (the books I read to her). Whenever I had the brilliant idea to toss in some hands-on craft or learning experiences, she balked and fussed and it was generally a poor experience for both of us.

Daisy and Pepper also love the reading, but they NEED hands-on like they need air to breathe. So this year I have put together my own American History curriculum based on their desires (Native Americans), a website with some great "younger" resources, and my library and a slew of craft books and kits.

So now my formerly pretty-messy house is most days taken over by crafts. We no longer eat at our dining room table because it is always covered in school.

Anyway, to relate back to today's blog title, here is why I initially chose a literature-based, no-craft curriculum:

Southwest Indian Clay MessSouthwest Indian Coil Pot Mess

I had the red Mexican air-drying pottery clay on hand (remnant of an expensive and little-used art curriculum I once had to have) only it was mostly hardened. So into a bucket of warm water it went and I stroked and caressed it back into softness. Or rather gloop. Because once I got enough clay off the block and retrieved it from the bottom of the bucket, it was a slithery mess. So I kneaded it (while the girls did math) and I squished it (while they did geography) and I scraped it off my counter and off my hands (while they ran off to play). Every half hour I poked it to see if it was dry enough to roll into snakes and then scraped it off my hands again.

Eventually, it was dry enough and the girls rolled out their snakes and made their pots, which are beautiful.

And then Daisy had a half-hour crying jag because I said her pot might fall apart if she didn't smooth the coils together, but she thought it was just right the way it was and hadn't I said it was beautiful, but yes, I also said it might fall apart and she didn't want it any more if it was going to fall apart but no-way was she making another one because she was tired of clay and I hurt her feelings by stating a simple fact. sigh.

On a positive note, all that clay has removed any dead skin that ever existed on my hands. Sort of like a free spa treatment, only with Sunshine dipping his fingers into the slurry and smearing red clay everywhere and the girls asking every 30 seconds if it was ready and Banana Boy demanding to "make one too!" So just like a spa only not relaxing. At all.

And this is why I chose Sonlight in the first place.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Another Art Project

Hidden Tools Abstract

Daisy made a Hidden Tools Abstract painting.  Can you find all the tools?  There are 4, plus two screws.


We are reading about the Southwest Indians this week and learning about the Mid-Atlantic states.  Daisy began her Singapore Math 3A book today.


We got 9 new inches of snow, so Rose Bud had a snow day and hung out reading Garfield books.

Monday, February 4, 2008

American Indian Lapbooks

Here are Daisy's completed lapbooks--the first two.  If you click on the link below, it will take you to a slide show of the insides.  You might have to watch it twice to catch it.  I can't slow down the slideshow on Photobucket and I'm too tired to redo it somewhere else.


I'll post pictures of Peppers when she is finished.  She's still working on hers.Plains Indian LapbookWoodland Indian Lapbook


American Indian Lapbooks  click the link to watch the slideshow (I hope)


Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Useful Invention

Play Tray Crib

Here is Rose Bud's invention for the Invention Fair on Feb. 28.  She and her friend MoJo have built a crib with play trays (think exersaucer)  They are using our toy pack N play.  One end is open so the parent can get the baby out.

Friday, February 1, 2008

My favorite math manipulative

I have to say I could really throw out all my other math manipulatives except for my base ten blocks.

I use these more than anything else I own and they are great for teaching so many concepts.

I love the wooden blocks!  They have become difficult to find as most homeschool suppliers sell the plastic sets now. :(

Today Mr. GT had the day off from work, so he and Sunshine spent the WHOLE day out running errands!  Isn't he sweet?

I've been meaning to play the "trading" game with Pepper for weeks now, but it is impossible with the little man around.  So we got out the base ten blocks and two dice.  We took turns shaking the dice and taking as many unit blocks as the dice scored.  When we had collected 10 unit blocks, we got to trade them in for a ten stick. Then, you guessed it!  When we had 10 ten sticks, we traded them in for a hundred-flat.

I love this game as a basis for building the ideas we'll need to begin two-digit addition and subtraction with borrowing and carrying.  And strangely, my kids have all LOVED this game.  It is so simple, yet it's fun.  I remember one night (long ago!) Rose Bud and I played to 1000!

Even Banana Boy got to play.  He started out as my partner, shaking the dice for us and counting out the blocks.  But as soon as I showed him how to trade, he caught on and soon wanted to play by himself.  He worked on simple counting, the trading and practicing his counting by 10s to find his score.

It's even a good spatial toy because the blocks only fit into the Rubbermaid container one way:  You have to put the 1000 block in first, then all the hundred-flats, then the ten-sticks and unit cubes.  Any other way (like just dumping them) and it's a no-go.

We also got a bunch done on the lapbooks.  Daisy is making a separate folder for each of the 4 Indian groups, so she is working on her Plains folder right now.  Pepper is making one double folder containing all four groups.

For geography, we are doing a couple of things this year.  We are using the Trail Guide to U.S Geography and doing the Geography Trails each day.  We are also pulling together a state summary sheet from a couple of different map books I've collected.  Daisy keeps track of the state, capital, date of statehood, motto, nickname, and area.  Pepper just writes out the state name, capital, year of statehood and nickname.  They both have stickers I made with the state bird, tree and flower to stick on their sheets.Daisy's Connecticut Page

Usually on Monday, we do the Geography Trails from TGtUSG for a state.  Tuesday we fill out the state sheet.  Wed. and Thurs. repeat, so we are covering two states a week.  We are memorizing the states and capitals.  On her own, Daisy is making a game to match the two.  And the girls have taught Sunshine the capital of Maine.  "Gusta!" he says.

Fridays we are using the Geography from A to Z and the Geo-Terms pages from History Scribe to study a geographical feature.  Today we learned about atolls and last week, archipelagos.  Pepper's Atoll Page