Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Science Monday...and more.

I had both my niece and nephew today. Catherine and my nephew, Kyle usually head straight for the Gamecube, XBox or computers when he's up so I had to fit in some activities around that. I think it was about 11 am when I finally herded Catherine out to the kitchen for a few pages of Singapore Math. Sort of a waste sine she couldn't really concentrate anyway.

She did want to do some science though. First thing we did was a very basic worksheet from Learning Page (worksheet 1). It's probably primary level but I printed it off thinking Kyle (who's in Primary) might want to join in. He didn't so Catherine and I did them anyway. The sheet was just a short explanation of senses then a tracing exercise of the names of the sense and then a match-up to the proper organ. I used the answers I gave to mark Catherine's and she got every match-up wrong. Sheesh. She didn't know the skin was what we used to smell or the eyes were the organ of touch. And for some reason she was laughing at me too.

The nerve.

Then I brought out some really neat sheets from here. Scroll down a bit and click on, 'Lesson plans for teaching about the nature of science'. Modify your search to '3-5', 'any topic', and 'teach about nature'. Click for 'Tennis shoe detectives' then 'go to this lesson now'. Whew! Read the lesson and right-click the pictures to save to your desktop for printing. Basically, you and your child look at a series of pictures that depict a scene with tracks. For one scene you'll first put down a third of the picture, examine the tracks and make some inferrences based on what you see. You lay down the second piece of the scene, make some more observations and maybe revise your ideas. By the third you can make a rather detailed guess at what's gone on. It's observation, hypothesis, revision. Lots of fun.

After the extended family went home we made a Norse Gods family tree. It was much smaller and took a lot less time then the greek one, thank goodness. Final result...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Last Weekend in Febuary.

Sometimes Catherine hasn't got enough patience to do a 5 minute page of fractions and sometimes she can spend hours upon hours on the smallest activities. Saturday was mostly spent on one little puzzle, the IQ Block by Petoy. I picked it up several years ago in a .99 cent bin at my local drugstore and it's consistently been the puzzle that she has played with again and again. So much so that pieces got lost and I had to buy a second one (I may actually stock up on some extras since my drugstore has them in again). Now she has merged the two sets and likes to work out solutions with the combined pieces.

So she spent hours on the puzzle. When she came up with her first solution she asked for some paper and colours so she could map her solution. I suggested she use graph paper and this is the result...

I just found a site with a bunch of solutions here so I'll have to show that to her later.

Sunday was a hockey game in town for her and Shannon. The local team, the halifax Mooseheads, were losing 5-2 in the second so Catherine and Shannon didn't bother to stay for the third period. After they got back we all went down to Shannon's parents' house for supper and cards.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pattern Blocks on Friday

Today we got a bit of a late start so Catherine sat down with Key to Fractions at 10 am. For the first time she was adding fractions and as she worked away she got the right answers but I could see she wasn't quite understanding. I pulled out our bucket of pattern blocks and showed her some addition of fractions with those and then she got it.

After the fractions were done the pattern blocks stayed out. First she played with making fractions, then moved on to replicating the shapes she saw in her Key to Fractions book and then making pictures with the pattern blocks. After that I started drawing outlines for her to copy with the blocks (clown, horse, parrot) and played the part of the demanding patron ("Oh my dear, that's NOT what I wanted at all. Do it again. AGAIN!" Vamping up the act is essential for giggles) so that I could point out where her form didn't match mine or where there could be some improvement.

Then on to science. After asking for help with finding evolution information on a message board I frequent I was directed to Understanding Evolution. This is a fantastic site. Click on the graphic to the left that says "Attention Teachers" and you get lesson plans and guided presentations. The teachers section begins with a very clear explanation of science and it becomes obvious, very quickly, why creations is not a scientific idea. I haven't gotten to far. We simply went through the Nature of Science presentation (I took notes of the titles and bolded parts of each page so I could make a Wordpad printout). My daughter was a little put out to learn that science only explored the natural world and that meant dragons weren't something science could explore and support but generally seemed to enjoy it. I'm quite glad we're reading mythology at the same time because that is the arena for dragons and religion (yes, even mine) and so Catherine will hopefully get a good understanding of how mythology and science are two different tools meant for exploring very different things.

Next Catherine decided to play on Starfall.com. Harry joined her about an hour later and Maddie came in a little after that. 2 siblings and a cousin played away on that site for probably a whole nother hour, giggling and laughing the whole time.

The rest of the day was pretty ordinary stuff for the kids. I got to run out after supper to pick up a bunch of National Geographics I found on Freecycle. I also stopped at the local bookstore where I found a Who's Who guide to Greek and Roman mythical characters and another book on classical myths that has a bit more detail of individual myth's then Edith Hamilton's book offers. When I got home, the kids were thrilled with all the magazines and the rest of the night, until bedtime, was sorting, piling and picking out doubles.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nothing much on Thursday

Today was my turn for schooling as I went into town for my Education for Ministry course. The kids went to my brother's house where they got to watch movies and play the XBox 360 on his new 50 inch plasma TV. Single people and their money. Sheesh.

After they got back it was mostly Thomas the Tank Engine for Harry and Age of Mythology for Catherine. Quiet time was the conclusion to the Nosre Gods audio books.

Age of Mythology for Wednesday

Catherine worked away on Key to Fractions and her Sing. Math. She went through it pretty quickly because we have a new computer game, Age of Mythology. It's a real-time strategy game that casts the player as a hero who goes off, originally, to fight for Agamemnon against Troy. The game also involves Norse and Egyptian mythology but so far it's been fantastic as it reinforces characters and events that Catherine's been learning about. Of course, being an RTS game it has some qualities like strategy, reading and planning that I value as a homeschooling mom. And it's just a pile of fun. After I played for a bit, Catherine went through the tutoial and started her own game.

After AofM, Catherine played Neopets.com and then moved on to Sonic the Hedgehog on our XBox. At some point during all this Harry hung a skein of wool on a chair and mentioned something about a cocoon. Catherine heard and asked if it was supposed to be a cocoon. Harry thought for a moment and then motioned towards the wool and with a big smile said, "No, it's a chrysalis!" At that moment I realized I'd been thinking of him as the baby, the boy, the slower one and I realized how wrong I was. :)

In the evening Catherine and Shannon went for a night tour of our local Wildlife park with her Brownie troop. She had a great time.

More from the Norse myths during quiet time.

The Kids Are Back on Tuesday

The kids were back by 10 am and Catherine was soon at work doing a practice page of Singapore Math.

After the math (Catherine wasn't very focused) I spread out a big piece of brown piece of paper (from a roll I have) over the kitchen table for them to paint. Instead of our standard tempera paints I pulled out some old acrylics I've had since I was a teenager and handed them all popsicle sticks. They had great fun mixing colours and playing with the texture of the undiluted paints. Harry was actually building with the paint. A couple of hours after they were done Harry went back to the table to paint with some tempera.

Catherine had a heck of a day. First she was out playing with Justin and then two other friends, Amanda and Sabrina showed up at our door. After they had to go home and things settled down Catherine started listening to Tales from the Norse Legends. Our Ancient Greece focus has sort of shifted into mythology and our history focus may take an altogether an altogether different path as I've been doing lots of googling and found some different resources.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

At the Kitchen Table on Monday

Everyone was up a little late on Monday so Catherine got to her workbooks around 10 am. She did a couple of pages of Key to Fractions and, after a taste of Singapore Math, found it a little too repetitious. Then on to the Times Creative English which went well and last, Singapore Math. She worked away for about an hour and a half and seemed to enjoy it.

Then we packed her and her brother up and sent them down to their grandparents for the night while we rented a movie. I thought not having a boy asking for water in the middle of the night would mean a full night of sleep. I forgot about the cat and his need for early morning strolls outdoors. He didn't however and so I was up at 4 am.

I love the cat. I really do.

Greek Gods family tree on Sunday

Catherine was out pretty early to play with Justin today so that left me and Harry to do some reading and playing. We read "Happy Birthday Thomas," and then had a discussion about messes when he grabbed a bar of soap from the bathroom and soaped up several trains and the coffee table. After that we pulled out his marble run kit and built a huge track.

In the afternoon Catherine started one more curricullum. This one I was iffy about. It's the Pearbles Home Economics curricullum. I happened to pick it up for free and thought it might be good for some general guidence. It is but that's about it. It's very, very christian and very, very oriented towards preparing little girls for their rightful place in the home. Blech. But even that is a learning experience and my daughter and I had a little talk about some people ideas of what women should do with their lives. Anyway, a little page tearing later and I have something that gives me a bit of structure in home economics. It's simply a weekly activity guide from what I can see but we'll see how it goes.

In the evening we finally made the Greek Gods Family Tree. We'd sort of given up hope and were going to settle for a printable version as most seemed to convoluted for us to reproduce on bristol board. And then we found the Family tree of the Greek gods on Wikipedia. It's chock full but still easy to understand. We printed it out and got to work. An hour and a half later, this is what we had;

The picture has a mistake that I've since fixed, namely Heracles' lineage.

After that Shannon read to Harry while I cuddled up to Catherine and read about from creation to the aparence of manking in Edith Hamilton's 'Mythology'. I thought the language might be a little advanced for Catherine but once again, not so. She loved it all.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Justin, Justin, Justin on Saturday

I barely saw Catherine for much of the day. She was outside, running around the nieghbourhood with Justin. She came back with a sore, wet bum from sliding and falling on ice but had a great time.

After a bath we all piled onto the couch to watch 'Clash of the Titans.' Yes, the one with Harry Hamlin and stop-motion special effects. Catherine, of the computer generated effects age was quite unimpressed and turned her nose up a bit at the monsters, especially a giant vulture who looked like, "lumps of clay with feathers stuck in it." It really did suck but in a good way. We got to analyse how historically accurate the costumes and sets were and how they reworked the myths to create the movie. But I sure am glad I didn't invite Justin to watch it. The first few minutes had a nice topless breastfeeding scene and then featured Danae and the toddler Perseus walking nude down a beach. My kids barely noticed (they have a mom who regularily draws nudes) but I'm sure Justin's eyes would have popped out and rolled across the floor in shock.

Singapore Math on Friday

Friday was pretty light. We spent half an hour on the Key to Fractions workbook and 45 minutes on the Singapore math text and workbook. I think I made the right picks for Catherine. Both titles offer new concepts fairly quickly and don't have an excessive amount of repetition. It's the repetition that really bores Catherine.

Other activities included watching 'Kiki's Delivery Service,' and playing outside with Justin. For quiet time she finished the Odyessy radio play.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Medusa on Thursday

Today was a pretty busy day. 9 am came and Catherine wondered if sometimes she couldn't have some input into what work she did in a day. I said of course. We're trying to find a balance of our old unschooling values and newer approach and I welcome her contributions. She decided that she wanted to play on Starfall, a website with some fantastic phonics games and activities. Simple stuff but she's been slipping lately when it comes to sounding out short vowel sounds so it was the perfect idea. That was a good hour.

Next she went to her computer to play Imaginext: Battle Castle. It's a great game that seems to be, sadly, marketed only to boys. Bah. Girls can like building things and killing their enemies too!

After she was off the computer she pulled out a wildlife puzzle book and worked away at that for over an hour and a half as she watched cartoons.

After the puzzle we sat down with a piece of paper and talked about what her goals where for learning. She wants certain skills but has been reluctant when it came to sitting down to do some work. After talking we came up with being a fluent reader and writer and she decided that doing 'big math' was important as well. Her goals are now written on a piece of bristol board hanging in plain site. I plan to revisit them occasionally so we can talk about how much progress she's making. Hopefully it will help her focus on her work a bit more.

In the late afternoon a friend of Catherine's stopped by. This friend, I was earlier shocked to learn, had never heard of the greek gods! So today we sat down with the pattern for this mask craft and got to work. I cut out the pieces for them (I used bristol board instead of paper for the face part) and then read the story of Perseus to them as they coloured and glued. I also made a mask for Harry but I'm finding with him that right now, even holding a crayon or pencil is frustrating for him so he just played with the mask and had a ball. Here's a picture of Catherine's finished (with her revisions to the original pattern) mask.

After that, my sister came over so it was pretty much all about kids screaming as she chased and tickled them.

I read to Harry a bit today and have an appointment with him after this post is finished. The cute little guy also made me a present as I was typing the post with paper, glue and stickers. :)

It's now quiet time and Catherine's in listening to the second disk of the Odessey play.

For Wedneday

Catherine's work for the morning was putting together valentine cards for her Brownie troup. I bought a 'Madagascar' kit with blank cards and stickers. She sat down and worked away for the better part of an hour, assembling the cards and writing in the names. Of course, just this instant, I realized she and I forgot to put who the cards were FROM. Oh boy.

Next she was playing with her cousin Maddie. They dressed up, played blocks, ran around with toys guns and had a great time.

Just before lunch she pulled out a dinosaur dig kit she got for christmas and set to work excavating the triceratops 'fossil' in the plaster. She's been plugging away since christmas and has been very careful and meticulous. It's going to take her forever but I'm glad she's not discouraged and stays patient and cautious with it.

Shannon took Harry to the grocery store. When they got back he checked the mailbox and there was the parcel card for the curricullum I ordered! Poor guy. Shannon brought the groceries in and I turned him right around and sent him to the post office. He came back with the books and a big potted Azalea for me for Valentine's day. What a guy.

We opened up the package and this is what we now have; Easy Grammar 3 (teacher's guide and workbook), Key to Fractions and Singapore Math 3A (textbook and workbook). Catherine saw the fraction book and her eyes lit up. She sat down with it but only lasted a couple of pages. I think she has to approach her work early in the morning or later in the evening. Afternoon for her, like me, is a draggy time where energy is low. We'll see how she does tommorrow.

Catherine was off to Brownies and had a great time there. It was her first time making a valentine card bag and getting a bunch of cards. Looking over them I was a bit disapointed though. I remember a lot of variety when I was a kid and these ones all seemed to be licensed character cards with the exact same design - folded in half with a little sticker to hold them closed. Ah well...She was thrilled.

For quiet time she listened to the first part of a BBC radio play of the Odessey. I had listened to a bit of it and didn't think she'd care for it as it seemed a little...advanced or maybe beyond her. But I was wrong. She loves it!

We al went to bed last night sort of hoping the storm the weather channel had been warning us about would cancel school. If school was canceled, my bible/lay ministry/christian history course would be canceled too and that meant the sour cream chocolate bundt cake with pink vanilla glaze I'd made for the course would be breakfast. :)

Seeing as I'm writing this Thursday morning I can tell you that school was indeed cancelled and my bundt cake is absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

For Tuesday

At 9 am sharp Catherine sat down at the kitchen table to work her way through 4 pages of 'Times Creative English for Primary Schools'. This is a workbook my mother brought back from Thailand where she and Dad lived for a couple of years. Mom volunteered to teach english in a local school while she was there and so picked up resources for the school. Most were left there for the students but this book and a few others made the trip back. I'm not sure what grade it's supposed to be for but it's a great mix of the familiar and new challenges. A nice surprise was when I googled the publisher and realized it was the same publisher that is responsible for all the 'Singapore' titles. I like it so much we're scanning it and printing sheets for Catherine rather then use the book. I do have Harry to thnk of in a few years!

After that she played with Harry and her 3 year old niece who I look after. Then on to building Lego creations with her father (no work today). After that he took her and Harry down for a visit to his parents leaving me and Maddie (my neice) to watch movies and have some popcorn.

They're still not back so I'm guessing nothing else will be done tonight. Maybe Catherine will have time to listen to the concluding CD of 'Charlotte's Web' but I'm not counting on it.

My on-the-go Unit Study system (for this month anyway).

This is my current unit study organizational tool. It's just a piece of bristol board with the unit's title in one top corner and a couple of maps in the other top corner. One map is Greece and one is Greece in relation to other countries in the area. The middle clothespin holds odd sheets I don't want to have to search for in a folder because we use them frequently, like 'Resources Used' and 'Glossary of Terms'. The other clothespin hold a 'To Do' list of projects and crafts we want to complete ('sew Barbie himation', 'make clay pot'). The two folders are for worksheets and paper activities to do and those done. As I check the internet for resources I print off what looks useful and stick it in the right folder. When it's completed it gets put in the left folder.

The system is complimented by a folder in my browser's bookmarks containing related websites and a folder on my desktop containg related media like audio books and documentaries.

This is really simple and really doesn't need any of the day-to-day details I've seen some methods require. I simply need to keep the right folder and to-do list full of stuff for us to pull out when we need it or want to do it. It seems to work really well so far. For example, in yesterday's blog I pointed out that while reading about the gods and goddesses I remembered a related sheet I had printed off and stuck in the right folder. I was on the couch beside the poster so I simply pulled it out and we had our activity for the evening.

It's got enough organization that I don't feel directionless but is free enough that we can approach stuff when we choose.

Monday, February 12, 2007

For Monday

Today was a pretty good day for getting some stuff done.

By about 9 am Catherine was out at the table colouring some pictures of the Canadian provinces and territories from Crayola colouring pages. Catherine had done a few while she was up at my parents a few days ago but had neglected to read the labels and so I played the offended and outraged teacher as I pointed out her White Trillium (Ontario's offical flower) or Purple Violet (New Brunswick's) were red and blue. The horror! Lots of giggles from Catherine.

She didn't finish them but likely will tommorrow when we'll label a map I got here with the names of all the territories and provinces, find a printable Canadian flag to colour and then staple the whole mess together to make a book.

While at the table she also did a couple of pages of very simple addition. Nothing that would stretch her but it's what she wanted to do and sometimes it's reassuring to go back to familiar stuff. Especially since we're expecting the arrival of the Singapore Math 3A workbook any day now.

Luck was with us in the afternoon as Animal Planet had a two hour special on insects on. It was 'Life in the Underbrush' with David Attenborough and it was fantastic. One of the first shots was the scene of a snail's eye folding out of it's stalk and it's the first thing I've seen on our old floor model TV that made me ache for a huge plasma or LCD TV.

The evenings are often very productive for us and tonight was no different. As my husband took Harry (his day was all about Thomas. Enough said) out with him to get groceries, Catherine and I sat down with 'Mythology' by Edith Hamilton (a used book store find), and read about the 12 great Olympians. Let's see...Zeus, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Hephestus, Hesta, Athena (my fav), Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares and Hermes. Remembered them all!

I had earlier printed off this worksheet and stuffed it in a file folder on our 'Ancient Greece' poster so I simply pulled it out and we filled it out as we read. The worksheet simply wants three facts on each god or goddesses (Well, pictures too but we'll have to wait until I buy more ink for the printer). But if anyone prints it out, be warned! Hestia isn't on it, we had to pencil her in at the end. As one of the 12, she certainly deserves a spot. It was about an hour of reading and filling in the sheet and lots of fun.

After that it was Catherine's quiet time (an hour or so before bedtime she goes to her room to have some time for herself). I have a real problem with staying committed to reading chapter books to her so thanks to the wonderful world of P2P filesharing (legal, in certain respects, here in Canada for the meantime) I've been getting audio books for Catherine to listen to. It's come in handy with our 'Ancient Greece' month as she's already listened to a retelling of the Illiad and some Greek myths but tonight it's disk 2 (of 3) of Charlotte's Web. We'd started it last fall and, true to form, never finished it but now she can play in her room and listen as E.B. White himself narrates. I DO so love the internet.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Changing styles

It's been forever since I last posted and I apologize. I've let some family matters, holidays and a rejiggering of our approach to homeschooling keep me away from my blogging duties. On to that rejiggering...

All of my family's homeschooling experience so far has been radical unschooling. No lessons, no curricullum, lots of learning from everyday experiences. It's been a joy and given us a real freedom in how we approach learning. Lately though, probably for the last six months or more, I've been more talk then walk and our homelife has been getting more mundane, boring and uninspiring. Not the fault of the radical unschooling but the fault of a mom who didn't feel inspired to help her kids pursue their passions anymore.

So we thought maybe it would be good to shake things up a bit and take a step into the ecclectic approach to homeschooling. I purchased an actual math curricullum for my daughter. She really does enjoy some sit down time with workbooks so I thought I'd give it a try. She has a particular love of fractions so I also ordered up a fractions workbook from the Key To... series. And Easy Grammar. She's telling stories and starting to want to write them down so I thought that might be a good way to help her get some tools she needs to do that.

Other subjects, along with more math and language arts, are probably going to be approached by a sort of on-the-go unit studies approach. Catherine loves Greek myths and ancient Greece so I set out to find resources related to that. I'll detail those in a later post.

Since I'm fairly hopeless at organization I got a piece of bristol board and stuck a couple of file folders along the bottom. One is for worksheets and activities to do, one is for the finished worksheets and activities. Above those there's a title ('Ancient Greece'), a map of ancient Greece (blank so we can fill in the city states as we study them) and I also attached a clothespin to hold a 'Resources Used' sheet and a 'Glossary of Terms' sheet. I'll post a picture in a later post.

What works for me about this approach is that I can make up the poster to fit the theme of the month ('King Arthur' in March and April may be 'The Human Body'. There's no rhyme or reason.) and then stick stuff in the to-do folder as I go. No need to pre-plan stuff and just enough organization so that I keep motivated without getting bogged down. We'll see how it goes but it's been fun so far.

This month is half done but I'll still link to some of the resources I used later and report what we do from now on.