May 30, 2008

Family Fishing Day

Robert got a wild hair last Sunday and decided maybe it would be fun to take us along to his "honey hole." This probably doesn't seem like any big deal, but it's not a lake where we just jump off the side of the road, park, and get out. It's a river with a changing water level controlled by our TVA dam, way back on our friends' cousin's property. Talk about over the river and through the woods? Yeah, that's about right!

So anyway, we loaded up and went along. We drove through the cattle fields as far as we could, and then parked and walked through the last field. Jacob was none too happy about this, as the grass was taller than he was! Then Robert tied a rope for us and we climbed down to the river bank where we walked along the edge for a couple hundred yards, maybe. We settled at this nice little spot of sand surrounded by trees. We had some shade and the water was about 8 inches deep for a very long ways in front of us, so it was perfect for the kids to play in! And as a bonus, it was like a butterfly garden! There were butterflies all around us the whole time we were there!

Mattie, of course, was in heaven with dirt and water all around her! She kept smearing the sand on and then rinsing off. She was quite exfoliated by the time the day was over, I'm sure!

Jacob enjoyed it too, but next time we'll take a couple of dump trucks. It was a shame to have all the nice sand and water with no trucks to enjoy it.

Robert and Jacob headed off to fish a bit.

Catch #1

My man with catch #3 (Catch #2 got to live.)

We decided to take these home and eat them so Jacob could see it all from start to finish. I took the camera out when Robert was cleaning them to take some pictures, but got all involved of finding the body parts (can't help but make it a school lesson!) that I forgot to take pictures. Not that you were really hoping for fish intestine pictures anyway, I suppose.

Robert grilled the fish, I tasted it (the grown up thing to do when one hates fish but doesn't want to spoil their children's possibility), and Jacob ate quite a bit!

This was a great family outing! Nice and relaxing, the kids were happy, and it was free! :) We'll definitely do this more this summer.

The people I live for every day.

May 27, 2008

Who needs a spelling program??

I was wondering a few months ago if Jacob was needing to begin some sort of spelling, though I had no interest in starting a program as he doesn't really like to write. But with his higher reading level, he seemed very out of balance. Anyway, I didn't do anything except buy him this Buzby (Max Lucado) movie for 5 bucks for Christmas. Buzby spells at least one word in every sentence, and it's actually quite annoying. But this is a bit of what I've heard lately:

"I'd like cashew butter and honey, C A S H E W."
"M O M! Where are you?"
"I'm sorry. S O R R Y."
"Mattie, be quiet! Q U I E T! QUIET!"

I love it when we can do without a textbook! I guess he's not so out of balance after all!

Back to blogging with a movie recommendation

After a week out of town and a holiday weekend with lots of good family time, I'm back! I have some pictures to post from our fishing day by the river, but for now I thought I'd share a movie review.

We watched P.S. I Love You last night. (There's a trailer on that link.) It was great! I would say a must see. (Robert even liked it and he's not much of a chick flick kind of guy.) Be sure to have the Kleenex handy, but I laughed out loud a lot too! It's not one I'd watch with kids, as there is some stuff you'd see on Friends, but that's not the bulk of the movie at all. Here's a content review so you can decide for yourselves.

May 09, 2008

Butterfly Week Add-ons

I forgot to add one of the coolest parts of our Butterfly week! When we were at the nursery getting our flowers, one of the Gazanias actually had a lot of nectar right on the top of it, so Jacob stuck his finger right on it and tasted it. He said it was sweet and he knew why the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds wanted to drink it!

And two of our caterpillars have made their chrysalis in the last 24 hours! We'll see what the other one decides to do.

Nature Journal Success!

We have tried multiple times to make an entry in our nature journal. It never seems successful to me. I may have the wrong idea about it, who knows? Jacob and I are both very black and white realistic people. And neither of us likes to do something without knowing all the parameters and being sure we can meet the expectations. And we both like a plan. So to head outside, fly by the seat of our pants and hope we encounter something to draw is not a very successful endeavor for us! I did read a post the other day about Nature Study vs. Nature Journaling and that you don't have the latter in order to have good nature study. The bottom line was that Nature Study is the building block, Nature Journaling is a fun component for many people. Not all people. That was very freeing for me, because Nature Study is something I was to do, but we haven't been able to find a groove. (And when I really think about it, we probably do a lot more than I give myself credit for.)

So, we normally go outside and I plan on us noticing something and drawing it, noticing the details of it. It never happens that way! We notice something, and talk about the details, but he just says "I don't know how to draw a bird/flower/tree/[insert anything I might possibly suggest here]." So I back off, since the goal is enjoyment, and he draws some random picture (from his imagination, not nature).

The other day I had a thought. I decided to combine our nature study/journaling with an informal "How to Draw" lesson. I took out sketchbooks and crayons for both of us. We sat down to talk about all the stages of a dandelion (we have enough in one area that Jacob calls it the "dandelion garden"). I didn't tell him what he should do, but as I was drawing my dandelions, I talked through my observations. We decided together if the stem was purple or pink (combined with a bit of green), what the little curly Qs are at the bottom of the head, how the pappas (fluffy part) was really made, etc. Then I made my picture available so he could copy it if he wanted to. It was so much better! His anxiety was relieved, I think, and he had great pictures! He attended to it much longer than ever before and actually made many observations he would not otherwise have made. I really enjoyed it as well! (And I learned a lot about dandelions that I never knew!)

Here are our journal entries:



This was definitely a success for us and something we'll do again!

May 05, 2008

Our Butterfly Unit

Last week we finished a unit on butterflies. Because we have terrible Spring Fever, we did it slowly and spent a lot of time outside looking for butterflies! We based the unit on this lapbook and added some books to go along with it.

So what did we do? We did several of the componenets of the lapbook, like I said. With those and books, we learned about caterpillars, the life cycle, the difference between moths and butterflies, what preys on butterflies and how they defend themselves, and how to attract them. The one thing that was not part of the lapbook, but fit in perfectly was a lesson on symmetry. Jacob colored a butterfly symmetrically and then we folded some laundry using this concept too! (Actually it was a great way to teach him how to fold pants!)

Jacob's symmetrical butterfly he named "Buttercup" (plus a little washout from a drop or two of water)

The most fun thing we did during this unit was plant flowers in our front yard! Jacob made a little book on the flowers that attract butterflies. We took that book to the local greenhouse, found the owner. Jacob showed her his book and asked her if she had any of those flowers or others that might attract butterflies. She was very helpful! She only had a couple of the flowers in the book, but she had other replacement suggestions. Here is some of what we planted:

Beautiful snapdragons!

These flowers are called Gazanias. Aren't they beautiful? These are by far my favorites that we planted. They close up each day and just have a unique look about them.

All I remember of this one is "castle mix." Not sure if there are more words to it's name or not!

These three (the top two are the same mix) are nameless for now. I don't remember what they are and don't have time to find them! (Feel free to let me know if you know their names.)

A few shots from our planting day

Mattie loving a worm she found (Poor worm got carried around for more than 15 minutes! And that's peanut butter cracker on her dirty face, not dirt like the other day.)

Jacob helping plant our flowers

Mattie helping plant

We had Will over the day we planted, and he helped Grandmama a bit!

And of course, the kids were extra aware of caterpillars this week! We have several tents of Eastern Tent Moth caterpillars in trees on our property, so the kids have found quite a few. We have three at this point. They are eating, eating, eating, and pooping. (Caterpillars poop a lot more than I realized!!) Jacob was bummed that these were moth caterpillars, but then we spent a day learning about moths. They have a few pretty cool characteristics, so then it wasn't so bad. I haven't had the heart to tell him this wasn't one of those cool ones... But we'll see if we can keep them alive through metamorphosis. Right now we're just getting fresh leaves every day for them and have them housed in our butterfly house. We'll see what happens!

This was our first experience with lapbooking, which I suppose we did not technically do. (Jacob completed many of the pieces of it, but they will just go in his notebook like everything else we've done.) It definitely won't go down as our favorite unit yet. The lapbooking components were kind of fun individually, but it was a lot of stuff "to do" for us that wasn't needed to retain/learn the information. The books were more than enough for that. That said, there were a few components that I would not have chosen otherwise, but proved to be very good. This was our first experience with a Venn diagram that I wouldn't have done otherwise, I don't think, but really provided Jacob a great visual for comparing/contrasting the moths and caterpillars. But overall with Jacob, who does not enjoy cutting/pasting, the lapbook was just busy work. So, how's that for a wishy washy review? We'll give it another try I'm sure, but probably not anytime soon. I definitely see how these would be a great learning tool for some children, though! Actually, I fully expect Mattie to love them when she's older!

May 03, 2008

Second Grade

I can't believe we're almost starting second grade! Two years of homeschooling have absolutely flown by! And with second grade comes a bit more "stuff" we're going to be exploring. Here's what we'll be doing for second grade around here:

These are things we'll keep using:

Five in a Row, Volumes 1-3

Of Course we're sticking with this! This is our core program. Sometimes we take a detour to do a theme based unit study, but I'm always so glad the next week when we get back to our Five in a Row manual! It's just what fits. We use this for Science, Social Studies, Applied Math, Art, and Language Arts. I am still thrilled and amazed with how much Jacob comprehends when we school this way. We don't go in any particular order like a school system or textbook approach, but there is certainly no lack of information in his brain! And more importantly, he has a love for literature and learning new things about the world around him.

This is a great website that has many free unit studies and other resources. The unit studies are written by home schoolers who are willing to share their work with others. Sometimes there is a great book we want to study, but it isn't a Five in a Row book. More often than not, someone else has already written a unit to share that I find here and we use those to supplement our Five in a Row core.

We're sticking with this Math program, because it's working well. Jacob likes it, he's learning well, and it has enough repetition that I can even cross some out if it's a skill he's mastered. Because it's a spiral based learning program, it provides good review as well. We tried a different program this year that was more "out of the box" and it did not work for us. It was way out of my "box" just to try it! And I spent a lot of time trying to correlate the "out of the box" concept to one that was already in his "box." Wayyyyy too much work! We like our Horizons!

Here's what will be new this year:

Leading Little Ones to God is a great book, but it is, uuumm, not so exciting. I think we're both glad to be almost done with it! It has provided Jacob with a very good doctrinal foundation, and has been the springboard of many good conversations this year, including the conversation regarding his prayer for salvation! So, it is not to be overlooked. That said, I'm really excited about the book we'll be doing next! It is based on a brother and sister making their own discoveries about Jesus and has some clue searching/finding as a big part of it. (I think that part will motivate Jacob to want to find the answers.) Then they take the answer and apply it to daily life. Anyway, not a great description, but you can go look at Amazon and CBD for theirs! If we like it well enough, we'll do Discovering Jesus in Exodus as well.

I'm really looking forward to this program. I feel like Jacob really needs some structure in the Language Arts area. He needs some introduction to basic grammar concepts, some copywork practice, opportunities to write, and things like that. We've only done a very small amount of this stuff thus far. This is a consumable book that provides a gentle introduction to written language arts and picture study. It has short lessons and was developed following a Charlotte Mason style. After looking through the book, it looks like it's just what I was searching for. Hopefully I'll feel the same after a few weeks of using it! (This curriculum is available for all ages.)

Jacob really enjoys drawing things when he has directions on how best to do so. Then he remembers how he did it when he learned it, and uses it later. I thought this would be a good opportunity for some more drawing and writing practice combined.

We tried this one last year, but it didn't really stick. It was a bit over Jacob's head and he wasn't very motivated to be responsible! He "gets it" a lot better now, so we're going to try again. It's just a once a week lesson. He could really use some success, so I'm hoping it will provide an opportunity for us to praise him for things he is choosing to work on. We have a lot of opportunities, but Jacob does very well with something being structured like this.

Music For Little Mozarts

Jacob loves to sing his own songs. He sings much of his communication through the day. And he loves to "sing" the stories he's reading. Oftentimes he'll say a simple phrase, and immediately begins a rap or rhythmic song that he repeats until I answer him. He also enjoys a couple of his computer games that involve basic music composition skills. So, all these things combined, I asked him if he was interested in learning some more about music and piano. He was, so we're going to do this program. I've seen the books, and I hope we enjoy it as much as I think we will! It has a very unique way of teaching basic concepts. (I can't explain it well because I don't own the books yet, but the website has a lot more info.) I'm going to let Mattie participate in the lessons as much as I can too. You don't have to be around her for long to know how much she loves music!! (It has animals too as the main characters, so she'll be thrilled!)

And finally, we kind of dabble in some disorganized sort of nature study. I can't seem to find a groove that feels natural, so I just go with the flow when we're outside. Maybe that's what it's supposed to be! Sometimes we go outside with a specific purpose, but for the most part we just enjoy playing outdoors. If we find a worm, so be it! If not, we enjoy the wind and sunshine. He gives credit to God regularly for our beautiful days, flowers, clouds, birds, or gorgeous sunsets, and I suppose that's the most important part of it all. We'll find our groove eventually, I suppose. And I suppose it's possible that I'm doing it a lot more than I realize.

Overall, I'm really looking forward to another year! I can't believe we have two years behind us already. We're going to officially start June 1. (We school year round, so we only have to do 16 days per month. It's a lot more manageable for our relaxed schedule.) We are done a month early, but have had Spring Fever big time this year! Next year, I'd like to be almost finished so we can enjoy the beautiful spring. (And I'm also leaving some time hoping I'll need to take a month off to move.) We have two weeks left of this year, two weeks off, and then...

Second grade, here we come!