Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learning Opportunities Are All Around

     Anna had an Ophthalmologist appointment today to get her eyes measured again before having surgery to correct her exotropia.  Her last appointment took about three hours of mostly waiting, so this time I stayed at home with the twins, and Hubby took her to the Dr. Not knowing if they would have to dilate her eyes, I wanted her to get as much school done while in the waiting room, as possible.    So I packed her backpack with everything she would need for school today, and was looking forward to a day off from teaching.  It turned out that the wait was not as long this time, and all she got done before coming home was her math. 
     I have to admit I was slightly disappointed at losing my teacher break, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the picture Anna had drawn while I was getting lunch made.  It's a pretty accurate drawing of an eye ball, with a very happy girl underneath. Apparently, the girl is "happy about her eyes".  Anna then told me what they were going to do with her eye muscles when they  operate on her eyes, and that her eye has six muscles.  It was a nice reminder that you don't have to sit down with the books to learn something.   

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


     I recently decided to incorporate notebooking into our schooling.  Anna is very into anything crafty, so this seemed like a good fit for her.  When I first suggested it to her she seemed uninterested in the idea, but I started going through ideas about what she could do with it, and the next thing I know she is asking if she can start on 
one right away!  She wanted to make her own "book" so we chose to use a paper binder, instead of a three ring one.  I thought it would be fun to do a notebook on The Adventures of Peter Cottontail as this is the book she is reading to get her "Book It" pizza this month.  Making the notebook helped perk up her interest in reading the book, and become more attached to the book it's self.  It has also been a great way for her to practice her growing cursive skills.  I think the next book I would like for her to do a notebook on is Our Island Story.  She has been having a hard time getting into it, and a note book might help it come to life.
     Here's a look at some of her pages.

Reddy Fox is laying in wait for Peter in a hollow log.  You have to lift the flap to see him.

Here's another lift the flap page. Reddy Fox is taking a stroll with Sammy Jay...

...and when you lift the flap you see Blacky Crow.

I suggested to Anna that she write an excerpt from the book, but she didn't like that idea and so she wrote this. For Anna, originality is very important.
     The next one is a collage, depicting Peter talking to Grandfather Frog.
     Notebooking has turned out to be more educational than I first thought that it would be, and Anna really seems to enjoy it.  I would love to see other peoples finished notebooks for more ideas on how to put it together.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday, Monday

     Well it's Monday again, after an another exhausting weekend, Monday can seem like a break.  I don't think it's suppose to be like that, but some where in the effort to do "fun" things, we end up making more work for ourselves. 
     Once in awhile when my house get too chaotic, I go on a tossing out spree.  I can sometimes be ruthless, but I have yet to miss anything I have gotten rid of, and I sure do appreciate having a few less things to pick up.  Maybe that's what I need to do with my schedule.  Go through and "toss" the activities that we don't absolutely need. It just might make things more laid back around here.
     And now this tired Mama is going to bed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I love dressing up twins!


     I've known what I wanted to dress the twins up as for months, because one of the perks of having twins is dressing them up in cute coordinating outfits for Halloween.  I don't know how many more years they will let me do this, but while they don't have a choice, I'm sure having fun! 

Last year they were baby gnomes, in the style of Rien Poortuliet and Wil Huygen's Gnomes.  I've been in love with this book since I can remember, and getting to dress my little tootles up like that was a blast.  If you aren't  familiar with the book, you should definitely check it out.

Can you see the resemblance?   This year they are going to be Raggedy Ann and Andy, another one of my favorite books.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fun Spelling Resource

     Spelling is the one subject that I am not completely happy with the way I am teaching it, so I have been changing things up lately in an attempt to find something that works well for us.  Actually, teaching spelling in First Grade isn't being a pure follower of Charlotte Mason's teachings, but since I learned to spell in a way very similar to what Charlotte Mason recommended,  yet am a horrible speller, I decided to veer off the Charlotte Mason path a bit for this one.
      Last year, and the beginning of this year, I taught spelling by having Anna go through a list of common English words, studying them ten at a time with flash cards, and then writing them on the marker board.  This seemed to be going okay in terms of ease for me and not too much grumbling from her, but she didn't seem to be retaining the words she was learning that well, so I went looking for something better. On the Internet of course.  What would I do without the Internet?  Several sites I found say that teaching spelling by memorizing lists isn't the best way, as lists are easily learned, and forgotten. (Ah-ha!) These sites recommended "wall words" as a teaching tool.  So, what are wall words?  Turns out they can be flash cards, (This made me happy, as I am rather fond of my homemade flash cards.) but instead of using them for just rote memorization, you use them to play games, sort, write sentences that use as many of them as possible, etc. 
     Now the way I teach spelling is to rack my brain every day for fun ways to use my wall words, aka flash cards.  Anna is having more fun, but what I really need is a system.  I have a tentative one forming, but was missing an activity for one day.  Now I have it.  A spelling word, word finder puzzle.  It's fun, and you really have to think about the way a word is spelled in order to find it.  The best thing is that I found a site that will put a puzzle together for you in a matter of seconds. Of course I found it right after I had already created a puzzle using a graph spread sheet, but oh well. This will really come in handy next week!
Here is the link for those who may wish to know.  puzzlemaker

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nature Study with Little Ones

      One of the challenging things about homeschool is doing school projects with all of your "students", even when some might be years away from being ready for any structured learning.  Here, where the little ones out number the big ones, it can some times be particularly challenging to come up with something that can interest end educate Anna, but will keep the twins busy. 

For this weeks nature study I wanted to do something "fallish", so I thought it would be interesting to explore bulbs in more depth, as we had just planted some in order to observe and enjoy next spring.  I had some extra daffodil bulbs that I had gotten through propagation, for Anna to examine; but.... what to do about the babies?  Well, bulbs and dirt go together, so I filled a few of their stacking cups up with dirt and tucked a few bulbs in for them to find, and they were thrilled.  Thankfully we were able to do this nature study out side! 

Abriel is intently poking her dirt, while Samuel seems more interested in broadcasting it around.  I don't think either of them noticed the bulbs hidden in the dirt, so I probably should have hidden something like acorns, which they might have had some intrest in.


Anna was thrilled to see the new leaves of the daffodil already formed inside the bulb.

Samuel, fascinated by any tool, seems to be gazing with wonder through the lens.  In reality he has piled cut up bits of bulb on top of the magnifying glass. Well, I guess the point of the glass is to see things closer...

Ah yes, my budding scientist.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Looking for Signs of Autumn

      For this weeks nature walk, I didn't feel like loading every one up to go somewhere, so we did a nature walk in our yard.  It's not very big, so to make it a little more fun, I had Anna look for signs of Autumn in our yard.  We had fun taking pictures of what we saw.

The seed discs of Lunaria.

Ripening Poke berries

Leaves changing color.


Butterflies on Autumn Joy.

Leaves on the ground, and us looking at them. 

I love this beautiful fall weather we've been having. I could live outside if it wasn't for having to come in to blog occasionally.  Happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fostering a Love of Reading

          I have always believed that if you teach your children to love books, you have already done half the work in teaching them to read.  The best way, if not the only way to teach children to love books, is to love them yourself. 
    When I was four years old, more than anything else, I wanted to learn to read.  The reason wasn't because I was a little budding intellectual, (which I wasn't) but because I saw my parents and older siblings reading and loving it.  Every night my two oldest siblings would read some from whatever book they were on, and I just couldn't wait to do the same.  When I finally achieved enough reading prowess to be able to read Don and Peggy, I read a "chapter" of it every night to my self.  I wasn't able to read silently yet, so I would whisper as quietly as I could just so that I could be like the people I looked up to. 
     I will never forget the pure enjoyment my father expressed when reading books like Winnie the Pooh to us.  He always laughed so hard at the funny parts, that I couldn't understand what he was reading, but it didn't matter.  And no one can do "voices" better than Daddy.  My mother would read more "school like" books to us, but I always enjoyed these too.  When I was about six, Mama read War and Peace to my older siblings; since I was too young to really understand it, I wasn't required to listen, but I did anyway.  A lot of it was over my head, but I liked listening to her read. When I read War and Peace to my self, I was surprised at how much I remembered almost word for word, thirteen years later!
     I started reading Anna a bed time story every night when she was two,and it soon got to be where she wouldn't go to sleep unless I read to her for bed time and nap time.  I love reading to her, and snuggling up in bed with a book and your child is the best thing there is. Even when Anna was going through her Green Eggs and Ham stage. I read that book two times a day, every day for weeks!
  The twins are starting to get really into books now.  It wont be long before they want to have a bedtime story.  The only problem with reading to two one year olds, is that they fight over who gets to turn the pages, and with two babies turning the pages, the book gets read really fast!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Exploring Mediums in Art

    Along with doing picture study for art, I have also been giving Anna a chance to explore different art mediums.  Anna loves to paint, but many time the mess factor makes me reluctant to let her use paint when crayons and colored pencils are so much tidier.  However, since art is now part of her school work, I've decided that the mess is worth putting up with, and it really has been enjoyable for me.  Of course Anna loves it, and has made less mess than I origanally anticipated.   

Oil pastels, being so similar to crayons, were naturally first. The new painting technique I emphasized was was blending colors by layering.

Next was water colors.  I taught her how to do a wash for big areas like the sky.  Her painting is very high key, almost ethereal.  I particularly like the shadows; maybe one day we will do a lesson on how light creates the direction of shadows, but maybe this is a gentle, multi sunned planet.

Now it's time for the really messy stuff; acrylic paint. Not quite as bad as oils, but getting there.  For this one I had her pick a painting by Mary Cassatt (Our artist this semester) to copy.  She chose "Pattycake" which I thought was an ambitious choice.  Acrylics are very different than anything else she had used before, and they took some time getting familiar with the feel of them.  It took three weeks to finish, which also taught some patients.

Here is her painting finally all finished, side by side with the original.  She wont be forging paintings any time soon, but not bad for a first time with a difficult medium.  Now, do I dare oils?  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Atmosphere Is One Third of Education

    Charlotte Mason believed that as much as one third of education is atmosphere.  I believe this to be true, but at times it can be a bit daunting when your house is a mess, there's not enough space, house projects are in various stages of  completion, etc., etc.  However, even though my home is often far from an idyllic atmosphere, I do have some measure of control over it, unlike if I were to send my children off to a school or day care where I would have no control over what kind of atmosphere they would be in for most of their waking hours.  Atmosphere is more than just a beautiful home, it is also controlled by the spirits of the people who dwell in the home.  If you are at odds with your husband and irritated by your children, the negative atmosphere of your home will affect your children's education.  I know if I am in a bad mood every thing starts to fall apart, and no learning can be done when there is chaos and strife. 
    I try very hard to control my mood, as this is the biggest determining factor as to how our day goes.  Some other things I have done to help the atmosphere in my home is to paint the rooms colors that make me feel happy. Most of my house is yellow, and the bedrooms are different shades of blue and green.  Whenever we get around to remodeling our kitchen, I would like it to be peach, which is to me the ultimate happy color.  Music also helps.  The twins (particularly Samuel) are terrified of thunder, so when ever we have a thunder storm, I turn on some upbeat music really loud, and we all dance, sing, and just be silly.
     I  am currently on a mission to eliminate clutter in my house.  It makes me feel claustrophobic when there is so many little ones under foot.  They're all the clutter I need!  I like making things for the house.  In a world where things are quickly bought, consumed, and discarded, there is something very comforting in spending time to make something with your own hands.  Making good food from scratch can also be rewarding.  There is nothing better than the smell of an apple pie in the oven.  In fact, maybe I'll make one this weekend.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recipe of the Week

I've decided to start doing a recipe of the week, because I know I am always on the look out for simple recipes that I can throw together on a week night.  I made this the other night, and liked it because it was easy to make and only used one dish. You could have sides, but I thought it was enough with just bread.  The kids liked it too.

Chicken Cacciatore with Green Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion
1 green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 15oz can stewed tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1 cup frozen green beans
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

In a 10 inch skillet heat oil over med. heat; add onion, green pepper' and garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add chicken to skillet and continue to saute until chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, green beans and seasonings. Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is thoroughly cooked; 8 to 10 minutes.  It makes about 4 servings. 

This picture may not convince you to try and make this dish, but it tasted good!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Co-op Conundrum

Me, wearing my very bright co-op shirt
     A recent conversation with my sister in law prompted me to write this post.   She mentioned to me that she doesn't think that she will ever put her daughter (who is about the same age as Anna) in a  homeschool co-op, the reason being that  her local co-op (which meets three times a week) seems to have the same negative social dynamics between some of the girls, such as cliques, that you commonly see in public school.  My sister-in-law is homeschooling to avoid this negative socialization, and rightly questions the need to join a co-op that has the same thing going on that she has chosen to avoid. 
     I am a part of a homeschool co-op that meets once a week, and although there are many aspects that I find beneficial for us, I regularly wonder "is it worth it".  For me it's primarily a matter of time.  Even though we only meet once a week, I teach two classes, and so a lot of time is spent every week planning for that, and it really takes it out of us on Friday.  By the time we get home we are all exhausted, and nothing else gets done that day. 
     So I wonder, what makes a homeschool co-op worth it, and what aspects make it a bad investment of your time and money.   For me personally, I would not want to be a part of a co-op that met multiple times a week.  I think that would take away from what we are doing at home.  I really enjoy teaching my children, and wouldn't like to farm that out.  I might change my mind come middle school, but for right now that would be a deal breaker.  I also would need it to be a positive social experience for my children.  There is some "girl stuff" that I have seen in my co-op, but it is usually very mild and easily dealt with. 
    No co-op is worth putting yourself in  a financial bind for, especially if it is only for extracurricular activities, and if a co-op is teaching core curriculum, make sure it's what you want taught.  I think most importantly, you should never feel pressured to join or continue with a particular co-op if it isn't working for your family; even if the pressure is coming from your kids.  
    What are your co-op deal breakers, and what do you think makes a good co-op?