Polar Bears

The third week in January we continued our Antarctic/Artic animal studies  with Polar Bears.  We followed a very similar plan to Penguins.

First Molly read books and worked with a CAN/HAVE/ARE graphic organizer.  I had a really hard time finding books about Polar Bears on the iPad, and actually didn’t end up buying any at all.  We used NatGeoKids and this website.  If I had had time to go to the library I would have looked for:

Polar Bears, by Gail Gibbons

MTH Polar Bear Fact Tracker

Big Fuzzy, by Caroline Castle

Tundra Animals, by Dayton

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We chose our facts and wrote them on post-its.  (I have been using JotNotPro to make copies of these for their portfolios, since we are doing them on a jumbo notepad.)  Lucy (K4) really gets into this part.  She loves contributing facts and really retains a lot of what she hears while we do this.

Then Molly picked 4 facts and wrote her report.  This week we talked a lot about the importance of a clever title to draw your reader in. 😉

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For art we did this project from that artist woman.  Hers are definitely better than ours. 😉  We also don’t have the same tempra paints that she does, so I just watered our tempra down a bit.

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Last but not least, we did the blubber glove experiment.

You need:

2 gallon baggies

shortening (I used a block)

a bowl of ice water

Put the shortening in the first bag and squish it around.  Then put the second bag inside that and try to get some of the shortening on all sides.  Let the kids put one hand in the “blubber glove” and one hand in the ice water by itself.  They will quickly discover the bennefits of blubber!  Polar bears can have up to 10 centemeters of blubber.  of course we got out the ruler and measured on our arms how far out that would go. 😉

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Here is another experiement about how Polar Bears stay warm that we didn’t do this week (I couldn’t find it!) but we will, probably this weekend.

Penguins

Just one week into our second semester we had one of those weeks.  You know the ones.  The ones where you think you have everything under control and then somehow… you don’t.  Luckily we caught up, but our Penguin unit lacked art of any kind, which always makes me sad.  It also lacked pictures.  But not ideas!

We used Nat Geo Kids, this book and this book (but paid way way way less on iBooks) as our resources.  There are of course 100 other great penguin books out there.  These are the ones I could find on my iPad, but if I’d had time we’d have gone to the library.

We’ve started using Can/Have/Are graphic organizers (there is one here, though we just made our own), which Molly really likes a lot.  She had to work on it on the fly (hence the convenience of iBooks books…) but it really helped her pull facts from the text. (if you click to zoom in you might be able to see what she is working on…)

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We then made a big chart of all the facts we knew about penguins to use to write a penguin report.  Basically we wrote a post-it note for each fact we learned.  They then chose 4 of the post-its for their report and wrote a closing sentence.  I encouraged them to make the report their own.  My hope is this is the beginning of writing to inform… not just what she learned but also what she thinks.  This process went ultra smoothly, and we are using it again for both Polar Bears and Whales later this month. (BTW- you might notice enrollment is up at Tiny Spark Academy!  With all the “snow” (really just colder-than-bleep) days we’ve been having we’ve been lucky enough to have some of our public school friends come hang with us for school.  We all love it.  Shakes things up a bit!

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We also kept on keeping on with our regular curriculum, of course.

Frozen

Are everyone else’s children as obsessed (and I mean that in every sense of the word) with the movie Frozen?  I wouldn’t even say we are a family who gets super into Disney movies, but man… this one caputured our hearts.  I think its the sisters.  🙂  Using that obsession, we kicked off our second semester with a month of all things FROZEN.

Anyway, as a New Years resolution (of which I have one… PLAN.) I sat down and planned all of January.  And seriously?  Life is so much better when I plan.  I’ll do a little post on planning soon.  For real.  Stop laughing.  I’ll do it.  You can plan on it.  (Get it?  Plan on it…. nevermind.)

So here is the January line up:

Snow

Penguins

Polar Bears

Whales

Be Awesome.

Just kidding on that last one.  But that is pretty much how it felt to have an entire month planned, with shopping list, ready to go.  BAM!

I didn’t take many snow pictures, but we did lots of fun stuff. 🙂

We read Over and Under the Snow and talked about hibernating animals and the subnivean zone.

We made these adorable snowmen.

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And this fun snow art.  (I got this idea from someone else, but I can’t remember who…)

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We tried the Borax snow crystals but it didn’t work.  We need to try again!

We talked about symmetry and drew the owl from Draw Write Now.

We also did paper snowflakes, again talking about symmetry.

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We read Snowflake Bently and talked about the uniqueness of snowflakes, why they would be hard to photograph and their structures (all snowflakes have 6 “legs”).  We also looked at this website and watched the short movie.

We drew a big snowman on the chalkboard and filled it in with adjectives for snow.

We did the life cycle of a snow man.  I don’t think they’ll ever forget the states of matter.  (solid, liquid, gas)  They had a blast singing about Olaf from Frozen while we did this.  😉

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2013 Wrap Up

When I started this blog I knew I would need to be gentle with myself.  I know that if I don’t have to be at a computer I will avoid it at all costs.  I know that I don’t have the time to mess around with the layout to get it to look exactly as I want and that that alone will suck motivation out of me to get on here.  But, I also know that each time I write an activity in my planner or read a homeschool blog that speaks to my heart (because goodness knows I don’t mind being on my iPhone…) I am grateful that someone sat down and put the time into recording their journey so that it makes my own just a little bit easier.  Because I can’t go back and fill in all of our first semester of this year, and because I have an unhealthy love of bullet points, I’ll attempt to recap September-December of 2013.

September

We decided our first few months were going to be literature heavy.  So we took our time studying Charlotte’s Web.

After that, we did a unit on Africa.

Then, frankly, our lives started to get rocky.  Our oldest was scheduled for open heart surgery, and I’m not going to lie… some weeks we did the (very bare) minimum.  My head wasn’t in the game.  It was elsewhere.  There were lots, and lots and lots of doctors appointments.   My heart ached and I was so distracted that most days I just let them play.  Because, every time I thought about interupting them, I thought “I just want them to enjoy each other”.  And so that is what we did.

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October

Molly’s surgery was scheduled for October 8th.  Until in the last week of September she came down with a cold and it was rescheduled.  So, for a couple weeks in October I was able to pull myself together and decided we were not going to take the entire month off, and we dove into a study of insects and James and The Giant Peach.  While I wanted to get things done, I was still really looking for “crutches” and used a lot of TPT materials those weeks.  Here is what we used:

James and the Giant Peach Study – great vocab cards in this

Insect Unit – this was awesome.  I would totally, 100% buy more stuff from her.

Molly had her surgery on October 24th.  She rocked it.  We were home on October 29th.  This crazy trio was back in action within an hour of walking in the door.

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November

We took a week or two off in November.  I honestly don’t remember exactly.  But I felt like we all deserved a little time to relax.  breathe.  sleep.  smile.  laugh.  live.  Well, as much living as you can do when you aren’t allowed to leave the house.

We started back to school slowly.  We listened to/read The Secret Garden and did some math, grammar, spelling.  Nothing too crazy, but a good lovely way to ease back into life.

We got a puppy.  Because why wouldn’t you?

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We had a PARTY.  Because we could.  Because she could.  Because we needed to celebrate the people in our lives who held our hands through the last 6 months.  Because.  (It was obviously a Woodland Theme).

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After that, we studied Thanksgiving, reviewed math concepts, worked on handwriting, finished up the Grammar Bundle books.  A good short week that was closer to our normal schedule.

DECEMBER 

In November a town very near to us was quite literally demolished by a tornado.  Lives were altered forever.  Molly heard us talking about it a lot, and wanted to know more.  So our first week of December was dedicated to weather.  We did a lot of reading, but a few projects most from this unit as well.

We did rainbow mosiacs and tied in figurative language because that was our Grammar Bundle for the week.  We reviewed the water cycle, made shaving cream clouds, did the ivory in the microwave experiement, and cloud in a jar.

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(Guess what?  I’m running out of steam to want to explain these things.  Let me know if anyone needs clarification.  I think all of 0 people look at this blog anyway… unless its for the pumpkin muffin recipe.  People are loco for pumpkin!)

Lucy got to pick the next unit and she picked baby animals.  We got some books on life cycles, and one cool book of 101 baby animal facts.  Molly was required to pick one animal a day and write a few facts about it.  Lucy spent some time learning the names of baby animals.  It was a fun unit, but admitedly I was a bit lost for ideas.  Life cycles really saved me this week!  We also broke out the Hot Dots for some math review.

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We did a few Christmas activities, but now I can’t even remember what.  That’s terrible.  It was last year, people.  😉

What I Learned On My Kids’ Field Trip

I learned so much on this field trip.   So much that I decided to make a list, so you could learn too.

1) Check museum hours before planning a field trip.  They may be closed on the day you planned to drive 3 hours to get there.  Have a back up, just in case.

2) If driving 3 hours to get to said destination, feed the children in the car.  Otherwise they will want to eat as soon as you get there, wasting an hour of your visit time.

3) Have migraine medication with you at all times.  (My poor friend got one right before our OmniMax movie… torture…)

4) Check museum hours of back up.  They may close a mere 4 hours after your arrival.  If you spend 1 hour eating lunch, 1 hour watching an OmniMax movie and 20 more minutes eating snack… It doesn’t leave much time for, you know, field tripping.  😉

Ha.  We did learn really cool actual information too.  We learned all about monarch butterflies and their annual 3-generation cycle and migration.  We got to see a real life palentologist working on a real life dinosaur fossil.  He gave Molly a good piece of advice:  get a trust fund.  😉   We learned that they use a solution comparable to super glue mixed with water to stabalize weakened fossils.  They had fun exploring and learning, but I really, really wish we had more time!  I was also bummed that our first choice museum was closed.  I’m hoping that we’ll be able to make the trip again, very soon, so we can see that one, too.

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This trip also inspired me to order some new “fun” for our classroom, especially more logic/puzzle based activities for my Lucy girl.  That girl could play Tangrams all day!  I’m also on the look out for Tetrominos.  Its like real-life tetris.  Hit me up if you’ve seen them anywhere… The ones the museum had were little foam magnetic pieces.

All in all a fun day, and lots of lessons learned!

It’s Bloody Good Fun

Our science lab this week was all about blood (this lab can be found in our science curriculum, R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey).  Molly has been eagerly anticipating this one for 2 weeks, while I kept forgetting to pick up lentils so we could complete it.  Finally, this week, we had all the supplies… it. was. on.

First, we discussed the 4 main blood parts:  Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, Plasma and Platelets, and their jobs:  carry oxygen to the body, eat bacteria/fight infection, carries food and keeps things moving, and clots blood to stop bleeding.  There are lab pages with the curriculum that include a drop of blood drawing, with clues for the student to use to identify each part in the drawing.  She then colored it and labeled it.

Now it is time to mix up the blood!  Supplies needed:

1/2 karo syrup

1/2 c red hot candies

5 lima beans

1 tablespoon lentils

wide mouth jar, spoon

First measure and pour the karo syrup into a wide mouth jar and idetify it as the plasma part of the blood.  This is what keeps blood viscous.  Next add the red hots, which are representing the red blood cells (RBC).  Then the lima beans, which represent white blood cells (WBC), and the lentils, which are acting as our platelets.  Stir!

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Molly really enjoyed this and learned the 4 parts, no questions asked (I know because I told her I was writing this and forgot them… thank goodness for her help.  😉 )  While the model doesn’t do anything exciting, I think the hands on experience and reviewing what each thing was as we dumped it in really provided a fun way to learn.  Afterwards there was a lab sheet to fill in and also a space for her to draw the lab.  She has since made me promise we could keep the model until my birthday.  I’m calling this one a success!

 

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Molly’s Curriculum

This question is honestly the reason I decided to start this little blog.  I spend a lot of time sending out links to people who want to know about “my” ideas.  And lets be clear, next to none of them are mine, and I will always do my very very best to give credit where credit is due.  I love to share, but nothing drives me more crazy than people who take credit when it isn’t theirs to take.  So, I promise to always link back to things I’ve seen elsewhere- so expect a lot of links.  🙂

The biggest reason I love homeschooling is the ability to choose curriculum that makes sense to my kids.  What works for my kid, may not work for any other kid.  Some people love “boxed” curriculums.  I love picking and choosing.  I also love that when we get a bit run down with these selections we can take a week to explore something they are interested in, a holiday, something that coorelates with a field trip and then come back to this with fresh attitudes.  Some people may think my kids are too young for science and history and fine arts… but thats what they love to learn about.  So that is what we do.

Last summer I spent a good deal of time investigating and researching and asking opinions on curriculum.  At the time I had two friends who homeschooled (coincidentally both named Summer) who helped me greatly in sorting out all the choices.  I couldn’t ever express enough gratitude to them for listenting to be weigh out my options.  Curriculum is pricey, and I was terrified of hating everything I picked.  Luckily, that isn’t the case, for the most part.  🙂

Math:  Math U See  We really are loving this program.  It is based on manipulatives you can order from the website and a DVD that introduces each lesson.  We started Molly with Primer, though more than half of it was too easy for her, it was an excellent base, introduced skip counting, telling time and the manipulatives, which would be very important later.  She started Alpha just a few weeks after the start of school and we couldn’t be happier with it.  Lucy started Primer at the begining of the year, and really enjoys it.  In the interest of being honest, Molly is at the point where we need to practice math facts, which isn’t all that fun for anyone.  Thanks to Summer, we’ve begun using Math Drills which is amazing.  You can specify which drills you need the kids to practice and when they finish a “test” it gives them a speed in MPH, and a certificate that they can email to friends and family.  Its brilliant.  Seriously.

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This was the first curriculum she “completed” and she was outrageously excited to be starting Alpha.

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Both girls working on their math and sharing the blocks. They do each have their own set. The case is from Container Store (thank you, Summer!). You can also see Molly’s planner in this picture, which is the main part of our “calendar” time for her. It is very important to me to teach her executive skills. If you don’t know about them, check out the book Smart But Scattered. Its not one I would recommend buying, but it is a good read.

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Lucy *loves* math. I think it makes her feel like a big girl. 🙂

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Lucy watching Mr. Demme

Spelling:  We use All About Spelling.  I can’t say teaching spelling is my favorite thing… I just find it a little boring to teach, but so exciting to see the lessons sink in and to see her apply them at other times of the day.  This program heavily relies on manipulatives, which for some kids is great, but for others is… dangerous.  😉  After some looking around and another great suggestion from my app guru Summer, we found iSpeak Word which we now use for the most part, during the manipulative portion of the lessons.   Then, on KinderTown (A friend recommeded this and it has been so helpful.)  I found Spelling City .  This has several great free spelling practice games, as well as a test feature.  We did go ahead and subscribe for a year, and I have to say we use it a lot, not only for the spelling features (which are great, Molly loves Hang Mouse) but also for the record keeping and vocabulary portions.  I also love that its all set up for when Lucy begins spelling.  We began with Level 1, which she finished at the end of the first semester and is rocking Level 2.  The whole thing has become much less frustrating since we’ve begun using the iPad as our “manipulative”.

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iSpeak Word… I turn the sound off, or she will make it say the word each time she moves a letter and spelling will take an hour. We mostly just use this in place of the letter tiles that come with All About Spelling.

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Working on Spelling City, which we love.

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Proud to have finished Level 1!

Reading/ Language Arts:  Because Molly already knows how to read, this threw me for a bit of a loop.  I started with Explode the Code and Beyond the Code, both of which she enjoyed.  While doing some research over break we switched to First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease.  Both of which we enjoy very much.  She really has a love of literature (which I share), so these are both right up her/our alley.

Science:  Here was my one big curriculum fail.  I went with Science Fusion.  There isn’t anything wrong with it per se, but Molly couldn’t get in to it.  Nothing was hands on, the worksheets were lame and the topics were dry.  Over winter break I spent a lot of time looking for something different and finally decided on R.E.A.L. Science Odessey.

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Learning about cells and the difference between animal and plant cells

History:  As I was looking around on the Pandia Press website I came across their History program, which we’ve begun.  We’re only on the second lesson, but so far Molly is enamoured with the book A Child’s History of The World .  She loves hearing about how people long ago lived.  So far her interest in “dinos” is rivaled only by her interest in the people who first lived after them.  She loves telling people that she learned that cave people drank blood like milk.  I think she likes the shock value.  😉  We are also using some materials, readings and ideas from Story of the World.

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The main text for history is the Usbourn Internet Linked Encyclopedia of World History. Here she is looking to see what color to use for the Mayan Ruins.

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What may have been their favorite project yet: the archeology dig. A shoe box filled with coffee grinds, small things from around the house, and an archeological map. This has been requested several more times.

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Our version of Geography. Each time we come across a character or friend or relative or person of interest in history/art we add a star to our maps, which we review every day. The love it. Molly especially likes being the “teacher” and asking the questions. 🙂

Art/Music:  We’re loosely following Confession of A Homeschooler’s Greatest Artists and Greatest Composers.  We’ve enjoyed both!  Both rely on the Greatist Artist and Greatest Composers series, which you can find on Amazon.    They also love doing puzzles with Jigzo.  A friend recommended it when I was bummed that an art puzzle app that I purchased didn’t have many of the paintings I was hoping it would.  Basically I Google a work of art, screen shot it, crop it and then you can use this app to create a puzzle for it.  I do wish it would store the photos in the app so the girls could use it without me having to get the photos for them, but it works.

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Learning about Picasso with a friend

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Learning about Picasso’s blue period with Nana, our favorite art teacher.

Other ideas of course come from Pinterest.  Everyone knows I love me some Pinterest.  I hope someone finds this helpful!

Clearly we love our iPad and it is a huge part of our schooling experience.  Next I’ll do a list of our favorite apps. 🙂