Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

I just love love love this book!  I loved it as a kid and as I am reading it to Pepper and Daisy now I am enjoying it just as much as ever, and so are they!  At the end of every chapter they are begging for more.  Pepper said today, "Can't you read more?  It is SO exciting!"


I remember loving the magical world of the rats, knowing it was completely imaginary but believing it was entirely possible!  I applauded the courage of Mrs. Frisby and mourned the loss (or was it??) of Justin.  I disliked the shrew for her shrewiness and laughed at Jeremy for his inability to pass up anything shiny just because it was...shiny.  I marveled at the wonder that was the story of the mice and the rats.  And I smiled at how the legacy of NIMH lived on in the children of the original captives.


If you have never read this book before, I urge you to explore it with your children.  Pepper is going on 8 ("In 8 days, Mom, it will be only 3 months until my birthday") and Daisy is nearly 10.


Or if you love a great can't-put-it-down story as much as I do, just curl up in your favorite chair tonight after the kids are in bed and read it straight through.


You won't be sorry!


Here are some online links I have found for this story (but not used):

BookPunch free lesson plan (writing activities for grades 3-9)

Literature Unit made by 4th & 5th graders (typical schooly type stuff with some word searches)

Quizzes, Games and Comprehension

This blog has some interesting ideas for extensions, including using Google Earth to "experience" Mrs. Frisby's flight with Jeremy

And a nice review of Robert C. O'Brien's works



Monday, September 15, 2008

Off to the Serengeti!

We are doing an animal study, loosely based on Winter Promise's Animals and Their Worlds.  I bought the teacher's guide and a few books and doodads, but mostly we're using the public library and our own library.


Here's what we've got going. 


Last week we read from the Usborne World of Animals.  We basically whizzed through the first 32 pages which cover animal basics like carnivore/herbivore, camoflauge, hibernation, the animal kingdom, animal instincts, homes, migration...all those cool animal buzz-words one should be familiar with.  For the most part, the girls were.


We are reading about habitats, which is how WP's program is organized, so we read in Animal Habitats.


Two fun books we are using for drawing are Draw Write Now Book 8 and Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals.


We'll also be using several books to explore the habitats in greater depth.  One is Usborne Book of World Wildlife (I'm kind of an Usborne junkie--we own a lot of Usborne!) and the other is One Small Square: African Savanna.


Last week we put together some notebook pages on habitats using cool pictures from Evan-Moor's Giant Science Resource Book.  (I love Evan-Moor's website.  They have a nifty viewer that lets you look at every single page in most of their books before you buy it!  And their materials are pretty neat, too!)


Some online habitat games

Make your own habitat to keep the animal happy and healthy

Habitats Quiz  -- a little hard!


This week we are beginning a study of the grasslands, particularly African Savannas.  We'll focus on the lion as our animal of the week.  Today we read about the lion from Marvels of Creation: Magnificent Mammals.


I've also found a bunch of fun links on the web for the African Savanna.

National Geographic Kids Creature Feature: Lions

National Geographic Kids Lion Coloring Page

National Geographic Kids African Safari Game

Solve a photo jigsaw puzzle of savanna animals


For Younger Kids:  Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies

Fun Safari Game (this is really CUTE!)

Watch full episode videos of this show online and a bunch more of them here


Oh, and I bought my kids a Toob.  They had fun getting out our other animal figures and having all the lions attack all the grass-eaters.  The lions were very full!  Our light green braided rug made a great savanna because it was a) flat and b) open.  The couch was open but not flat.  Under the couch was flat but not open.  The kids set up a water hole and a few trees and bushes for the browsers.


And I forgot to take pictures.


Happy Safari!



Friday, September 12, 2008

Pepper's New School

Did I mention Pepper is doing school online?  I thought I'd share some of the cool links I've found for her.  Really, you can teach your child everything they need to know, for free, online.


There is the pattern block site I already shared.  If you go to their main page, they have lots of other interactive math manipulatives.


One she has really enjoyed is multiplication.com.  Her especial favorites are the ice cream scoop game and the fairy game.  This is a second grader who is gifted at math, but hasn't really begun multiplying yet.  Yet, for the reward of fairies, she was doing 4x9.

Number Cracker

Practicing her states.


Language Arts

Grammar Gorilla

2Bee or Nottobee

Spell Check

Spelling City  -- add your own spelling words for teaching activities, games using them and a test or choose from their lists


Tons of really cool animal and habitat stuff here.


And if your kids like Highlight Magazines Hidden Pictures, they will have a field day here!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Friday Art

We are back at art with the start of a new school year.  To keep things manageable, I'm only aiming to do it once a week on Fridays. 


Today's lesson was in pointilism and the artist was Georges Seurat.  Here are a few links:

Picture of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte to color (it's just a black and white version of the painting--a little hard to color, in my mind)

Jigsaw puzzle of the painting to put together (fun for building familiarity with famous paintings)

Did you know this?  "The painting is featured in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Ferris' friend Cameron is shown locking eyes on the little girl in the center of the painting and being transfixed. The scene portrays Cameron observing a little girl up close whereupon he realizes that, though from a distance all seems on order, there is no shape or form to her face. " Wickipedia, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

Here's an activity (the description of pointillism is better suited for older kids) called Dot to Dot Seurat using dot stickers.

Hmm, it wasn't really pointillism.  Read this.

Here are a few more activities (the color-mixing sounds fun!) and picture book suggestions.


We let Sunshine paint, too.

I think Daisy made the really great circle in the top right-hand corner of his paper, lest you be too impressed.  The rest is his own original creation though!


Oh, so what did we do for art?  The girls took some of our Lauri puzzles (remember those?) and traced shapes onto paper.  Lauri puzzles also make great stencils!  Then they painted with paint (red, blue and yellow) and Q-tips.


I'm not connected to my printer right now, but I'll get those scanned in for you to see.

 9/12/08  Here are the pictures I promised last week.  Pepper's is the fish, Daisy's is the butterflies:

And here is what they made after they finished the project.  They like to keep painting since they have the art materials out.  I love that Pepper made another dot picture, even tho it doesn't consist of mixed dots.  She did mix the paint to get green.  Daisy made a self-portrait, not with dots, but I love her frame!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

New School Year

Well, our homeschool year is off to a rolicking start!  I managed to get two kids off to public school, make our homeschooling schedule and actually stick to it, all with a wild 3 year old under foot.


Let's start with the three year old.


He is SO much easier to work with this year.  First of all, he is beginning to be able to do little activities for more than 30 seconds at a time.  I've started having rug time with him.  We have a big oval rug in the living room and I set out 4 different preschool activities for him.  I set the timer for 15 minutes and if he gets off the rug, I patiently steer him back "until the timer beeps."  So far so good.


He loves puzzles and is quite good with these:  Lauri Construction Puzzles  and Lauri Perception Puzzles.  He also played quite a long time one day with the Lauri Pegs.  Can you tell we're Lauri fans??


The girls are taking turns playing with him while I work one-on-one with the other.  Here he is making dinosaur tracks with Daisy.


As for Daisy & Pepper, their first day began with wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Both started out with bad attitudes and cries of "too much work!!  Too hard!"  Apparently they've gotten rusty over the summer.  After a little chat with Mr. GT (who was home because it was Labor Day) their attitudes improved and we had no more trouble the rest of the week.


As usual, their favorite subject is history and they can't wait for me to read to them each day.  We are reading Toliver's Secret and they really are enjoying this exciting story of the Revolutionary War.  Daisy is reading through our Sonlight Core 3 shelf.  She just finished The Corn Grows Ripe and is reading Vostaas.


Daisy is finishing up Singapore 3B in math and was inspired to fly through the section on capacity and completed about 8 lessons in 4 days.


She also learned this useful skill (the trick is to do it with your eyes OPEN!



Pepper reluctantly did math, Explode the Code and her states.  As I've mentioned before, she's a really good unschooler.  Workbooks give her hives.  Unfortunately, for the time being she is stuck with them.  Eventually I'd like to be able to give her more hands-on, activity-based learning.  The math games we did this summer worked really well for her.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Day of Kindergarten and Ambivalence

First of all, I can't believe I have FOUR kids who have passed the kindergarten milestone!  I don't feel that old!  My friend next door put her LAST child on the bus yesterday!  She's home all alone!


I don't have any desire to be home alone.  I'd be lonely and I'd waste time.  I'm glad to have Daisy, Pepper and Sunshine here with me.


I was surprised by how sad I was to send Banana Boy.  I know we're doing the right thing for this child, this year.  He ran off with hardly a backward glance and loved his first day.  He already has a crush on his teacher!


But it feels so strange to hear him come home sharing rules he's already internalized that I didn't teach him (why can't he internalize MY rules?) and beaming about the pattern he made (orange, yellow, blue, orange, yellow, blue, orange (stopping there because that's all the spaces there were)) and the picture he drew of he and his teacher living in a castle.


He drank milk at snack time.  He made four hoops at recess.  He met a new friend in his class and found a couple of old ones.  He surmised that it's probably illegal to go to the bathroom in the weeds on the playground (although they didn't specifically say not to!)  He unpacked all the things I told him to from his backpack and delivered them where they needed to go.


I'm so proud of him and happy for the independence and success he's experiencing.  For this child, an institutional, structured setting is perfect for him at this time.  I'm glad we have the opportunity to homeschool the ones who need it and send to public school the ones for whom that fits.


But I'm finding it feels very different to send a little person to kindergarten than it did to send him to preschool.


And I'm finding it feels very different to send my 12 year old responsible, can-handle-things-on-her-own off to middle school where I know she can rebut the ideas that don't gel with our family morals than it does to send my innocent, impressionable 5 yo away to kindergarten.  (He said the bus was scary because the other kids were saying mean words (!!).)


I'm excited for both of them and it feels fun to "play school."  But the heartbeat of time it took for my boy to step onto the bus and be whisked away was all too short for me yesterday.  I was expecting the moment to last longer, the transition between baby and big boy.  And it happened in a blink of an eye.


He and I will still be working on math and Bible and AWANA and reading at home in the afternoons.  He'll be doing lots of playing, too.  Our days will be smoother for spending a little less time together.


But this morning he didn't want to wake up.  He's not a morning person.  Of course, his fighting bedtime last night (a nightly ritual) didn't help.  He climbed into bed with me to snuggle under the warm covers this morning and I wanted to just hold him there and keep him home where he could sleep longer and take his usual sweet time beginning his day.  Instead, I had to finally get him up and fed and dressed and ready and walk him, shivering, down to the bus.


I'm an ambivalent Kindergarten Mama.  I love it and I hate it.  I want him and I need him there.  I want him and I need him home.  I'm proud of him and I'm afraid for him.  I love to see the excitement in his eyes when he comes home to tell me about his day.  I miss seeing the excitement in his eyes when he is learning something new at home.  I feel proud for sending him.  I feel guilty for sending him.


I'm glad I only have to do this once!