Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It truly is amazing....

... how many homeschooling resources are out there for free on the web.

I'm sure most of you who homeschool know all of this already... but I'm a little slow :-)

I mentioned in a previous post my love of Librivox.org and kiddierecords.com. But I'm discovering new things almost daily.

Today I decided that although I had dropped Sequential Spelling for Clara, it wouldn't hurt to be working on a low key, basic spelling program with her. Hmmm... basic....
McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book
That's pretty basic, right? So, I went to Amazon and looked at it and even put it in my cart (for later)... but the instant gratification part of me took over and I decided to look for it on the Project Gutenberg website. Sure enough... there it was! I looked it over online and then downloaded the pdf file (which includes scans of the original book). I printed out the first lesson and hope to start using it next week. If you know me.... you know I LOVE books... so if this goes well, I will probably end up buying the book (I've requested it from the library too just because I can).

I also downloaded the McGuffey's First Eclectic Reader as well. I thought I might use that for daily reading aloud for Clara. She reads so much better than Alex did in first grade that I tend to let her read as much as she wants on her own. This reader includes short little passages that she can read aloud, that would help me keep an eye on her actual reading ability without slowing her down by having her read too much to me.

My next favorite free thing is the Dover Publications weekly free samples. Once you're signed up for their email list, you'll get an email each Friday with new sample pages to print. When I first signed up for the samples we were following the Galloping the Globe book. I knew what countries we were going to be covering and as samples came up that pertained to those countries, I would print two copies and add them the folders I had set up. I then discovered that my children are not really big fans of coloring books and coloring pages. They'll do them if there's nothing else really to do, but they rarely, if ever, want to do them at home. So, I stopped even opening the samples for a while.

Lately, I've started again. I'm much pickier about what I print now though. I print samples from their famous artists books on art paper so they can paint or color them as part of an artist study. I've been printing samples from their famous ballets books for Clara. The one I printed today was a HUGE hit. They had samples from their Mandala Stained Glass Pattern Book. I printed them on cardstock and handed them to them with all of our colored pencils to use while I read from The Secret Garden. Usually Alex does fine, but Clara gets antsy when we do read alouds. Today they both happily worked on their Mandalas while I read FOUR chapters aloud. And, much to my surprise, they were retaining so much more of the story this time. They laughed when things were funny, they looked wide-eyed and shocked at the appropriate times.... they discussed the book in great detail on our bus ride to Alex's rehearsal tonight. It's very intriguing to me how that all works.

They both took their mandala coloring sheets to their rooms with them tonight to work on in bed. I'll have to take photos of them when they're finished.... they're looking fabulous so far.

A site that I've added to my bloglines subscriptions is Homeschool Freebie of the Day. So far I've done much more downloading than actual using of anything from there.... but maybe some day I will! :-)

Okay... there's more, I'm sure of it.... but I've rambled enough for tonight and I'm heading to the couch!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

challenge #2

As per Alex's request, we went out for another nature walk this week....
(side note... what is with the boy and his striped shirt and plaid shorts???)

I decided that this would be a good opportunity to do challenge #2 on the Handbook of Nature Study blog. This challenge was "Using Your Words". We were to just observe on our walk and take in the details so we could put them into words later.

This is one of Clara's favorite sights from our walk...
Alex became intrigued with these morning glories...

(He came home to look up why they open and close.)

We found a cicada shell...
and some signs of fall...
One of the neatest things we did today was look at all of the plants that had gone to seed. Alex had taken a science class at the nature museum last winter where they talked about seed disbursement. As we found plants that had gone to seed... Alex always stopped to investigate and speculate on how that seed was supposed to travel.

The driest seeds on this plant appeared almost feathery...
... he guessed that they traveled by wind.

I know I keep saying this... but I am constantly amazed by how interesting and easy our nature study has been so far... even with being in the city. I had no clue what we would find when we walked out our back door... I definitely had no clue that not even 2 blocks from our house we would find at least half a dozen different types of seeds to study.

So... as much as the kids love the nature walks themselves... they really love their journals.

We did the questions from the challenge blog orally and then they started on their journals.

This is Clara's...
She always wants to draw/paint EVERYTHING that she saw versus focusing on just one thing. This time instead of writing about the items, I had her give me some descriptions.

This is Alex's...
He painted the morning glories. On the facing page he wrote a description of the flowers based on his observations.

Here's my attempt...
I need some help on my descriptive words :-) Actually we all do... this was a really good exercise for us!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

our nature journal entries..

This afternoon after we had finished our other stuff... we sat down to work on our nature journals. I just asked the kids to draw/paint/whatever in their journals something we saw yesterday that they would like to know more about.

Here's Clara's entry...
Clara is a little unclear on the whole concept.... but I let it slide. The title of her page is "Clara's Nature Stuff". :-)

Here's Alex's...
I was surprised to see his entry. I had totally forgotten that we had even seen the milkweed bugs! (That's possibly because I didn't photograph them.) He enjoyed drawing them and painting the ground and sky. Afterward, he got out a couple of our field guides to read more about milkweed and the bugs. He wrote a brief little sentence about each.

Here's mine (don't laugh)....
I decided to play along today. I had bought myself a journal to use along with the kids, but I had forgotten all about it last week when the kids did journal entries.

The kids both really enjoyed this.... Alex especially. He has asked if we could do this more often. I think we'll shoot for another nature walk tomorrow. :-)

I'm thinking I may put together a nature study backpack that we can just grab as we go out the door. I've seen them advertised on different sites, but we have so many of the individual pieces already, it would be nice to have them all in one place, ready to go.

Okay... we're out of here... Alex has rehearsal and as usual, I've lost track of time!

Monday, September 22, 2008

the first official day of fall...

... and our nature study officially begins!

I've mentioned before that we were going to incorporate more nature study into our school this year. We even started one of the challenges from the Handbook of Nature Study blog. But we had started with challenge #29.... today we went back to the beginning and started with challenge #1.

Thankfully my friend had invited us and another family to join them in celebrating the first day of fall at the North Park Village Nature Center here in Chicago. Our trip today created the perfect opportunity to kick off our nature study. The weather here was GORGEOUS... an absolutely perfect day.

Here Clara and "M" get started on the nature scavenger hunt that my friend had put together for the kids...
Following the instructions on the challenge blog... we took note of a few things we wanted to investigate further once we were at home.

Alex wants to look into what makes these patterns on this leaf...
Another shot of the kids working on the scavenger hunt...
Alex climbing...
Checking out the toad we found...
Another research project... what causes these leaves to be rolled up like this...
and this...
One of the moms brought paper and glue for the kids to make nature collages...
Alex, "K" and Clara posing...
"K" and Clara head into the pond to see what they can find....
"M" and Alex spent a lot of time trying to find this bird in their field guides... we're still not completely sure so we will probably check out our field guides here at home tomorrow....
"M" caught a tadpole...
"M" and Clara decide to go in a little deeper to see what else they could find...
(thank goodness I had brought dry clothes for her... I had anticipated something like this happening.... lol!)

In the woods we saw the toad, deer and squirrels... in the pond we found frogs, turtles, tadpoles, damselfly nymphs, and dragonfly nymphs. I'm sure there are other creatures that I am forgetting.

The kids had a fabulous 4 1/2 hours there this afternoon. I bet they explored the pond for nearly half of that time. My friend took home water samples to investigate under their microscope... how cool is that? I'm thinking I may have to look into investing in a microscope soon! :-)

Well... the washer just beeped... off to see if Clara's clothes actually came clean! :-)

Friday, September 19, 2008

more sunflowers...

Yesterday while the kids and I were out and about we passed an amazing garden of sunflowers. Thankfully I had my camera so I could take some photos to go along with our sunflower study.

I am just mesmerized by the spirals in the center of the sunflower head...

Needless to say, we were late to the class we were on our way too. There was just too much to take in.... we looked at the spirals, the florets, the seeds that were forming.... we even took a close look at the big ol' bees buzzing around and the little birds who were flitting about among the leaves. It's amazing how much "nature" is here in the city, if you just look.

Monday, September 15, 2008

my new favorite school supply

Seriously... we use it a lot this year.

I've always loved the idea of the Ambleside Online curriculum but I was never sure how to pull it off with both kids. This year I decided that I was just going to give it serious consideration. The first step was deciding that it would be Alex's curriculum, not a shared curriculum between the two of them. The next concern was the amount of reading. There is a lot of reading. I didn't want to burn him out, nor, with it being just his curriculum, could I spend much time reading aloud to him.

Enter Librivox.org. Most of the Ambleside Online books for year one are on Librivox as free audio downloads. I downloaded Our Island Story, Burgess Bird Book for Children, Just So Stories (there are two versions on Librivox, the one I linked to is my favorite reader) and Fifty Famous Stories Retold and then loaded them onto my iPod. Other year one books are there too... Aesop's Fables and the Blue Fairy Book... but I didn't want to overdo the iPod thing and he should do some actual reading :-)

The many of the books are found free online, so I read them on my computer when I have time so we can discuss what Alex has listened to. So far the whole thing is working quite well. It's also very portable. I can throw my iPod into my purse as we head out the door and he can listen to his stories while waiting for Clara while she's in class.

Another free audio download resourse is Kiddie Records. There are a lot of fun stories but I also downloaded a bunch of educational files as well. I haven't listened to them all yet, but here are some that I have for us to listen to...

From the 2006 list:
Peter and the Wolf - for a music appreciation study
Pan the Piper - possible music appreciation study (not sure, haven't listened to it yet)
Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book - a good story to listen to
The Twelve Dancing Princesses - because Clara loves that story
By Rocket to the Moon - astronomy
What are Stars - astronomy
The House at Pooh Corner - because Alex still loves Winnie the Pooh stories (shhh... don't tell)
The Nutcracker Suite for Children - to go with Clara's ballet study I haven't talked about yet

From the 2007 list:
Leoncavallo's Pagliacci - music appreciation, opera study
Walt Disney's Adventures in Music: Melody - music appreciation
Capitol Music Appreciation Singles:
Peer Gynt's Adventures in the Hall of the Mountain King - music appreciation
The Three Cornered Hat - music appreciation
Swan Lake - Clara's ballet study
Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker Suite - Clara's ballet study
Lincoln Records Singles - just realized I missed these, should probably download the following
Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore
Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado
Adventures Beyond the Sky - astronomy

From the Bonus list:
Fun with Instruments - music appreciation
The Barber of Seville - music apprecation - opera
Stories of the Ballets: Tyl and his Merry Pranks - Clara's ballet study
The Little Fiddle - music apprecation

I'm not sure how much we will use these as actual "school" stuff and how much will just be nice audio stories to have on hand to pass the time while waiting for a doctor's appointment or the like.

Between Alex's Ambleside books and the Kiddie Records... my iPod is my surprise favorite school supply so far this year!

Friday, September 12, 2008

sunflowers and sequences

Our sketchbooks finally arrived on Wednesday, so we were ready to start our nature study! I'm very excited about taking on a nature study here in the city. It will be a challenge and I think that's part of the fun... we'll be discovering new parts of the city with each outing!

Today we started our first challenge from the Handbook of Nature Study blog. I had planned all along to just start at challenge #1, but when I saw the latest challenge, I decided that we would do that one first. It was the Sunflower challenge.

We started by reading a bit in this book...

Handbook of Nature Study

Then, because I had just picked up a bunch of living math books from the library, I decided to throw a little math into our study. Thursday night I had been skimming this book...
Go Figure! A Totally Cool Book About Numbers

and came across the section about the Fibonacci Sequence and it's occurrence in nature. Given that the numbers of the spirals of florets are Fibonacci numbers, I thought it worked to add this in. We also read that the number of petals in a flower is often a number from the Fibonacci sequence. So we decided to take a peek at many of the other flowers we passed.

Here the kids are counting petals...
The impatiens had 5 petals... a Fibonacci number.

Alex counted the petals on this flower on this tree...
five petals again...
Then we arrived at the sunflower patch around the corner.

It was cool to see the spirals on this one...
This one was a bit droopy, so Alex held it up for me to photograph it...
and then I held it up for them so they could get a better look.

There was a flower bed there too so we couldn't help ourselves but to start counting petals again.

This one...
... had 34 petals, another number from the Fibonacci Sequence.

This one...
... had 8, yes, another Fibonacci number!

It's oddly addicting to keep counting flower petals. At first I was sad that we didn't read about this during the summer when everything was in full bloom... but then I realized that we would never make it anywhere because we would be constantly counting petals. (I did stop twice to count petals on our way home from dinner.)

It was raining the whole time we were out, so we didn't last too long.

When we got home, I got out their new sketchbooks and let them draw whatever they wanted from our walk.

This is Clara's...
and this is Alex's...
(he was much more enthralled with counting the petals on these flowers than he was with the sunflowers... sigh)

To begin with, I'm not requiring anything when it comes to their journals. I just want them to enjoy doing them and the rest will come eventually. :-)

I think we'll do a bit more work with sunflowers next week... but I wanted to get started before the flowers around the corner were gone.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

another outing...

I know last week I mentioned how much I love homeschooling in Chicago because of all of the amazing learning opportunities. Well.... today was another one of those days! :-)

Today we headed down to Daley Plaza with a couple other homeschooling families to see a preview concert of this weekend's Celtic Fest.

The concert was by the amazing Willis Clan, which had the added bonus of being a homeschooling family!

All of the kids that were with us today are either are ready taking music class, or are just starting classes (3 violin, one piano and one guitar.... I think that's the breakdown). They were all just blown away watching the children in this family play, not just one instrument well... but several instruments incredibly well....

The also performed some Irish dances...

The kids were so inspired by the Willis Clan's performance. It was so much fun to show them how patience and practice pays off.

I'm hoping we can continue to go to performances such as this one and the one last week. We could listen to CD's and watch DVD's of performances, but there's nothing as inspiring as seeing them live.... and getting to chat with the performers afterward.

Okay... Alex had his play rehearsal (I don't think I mentioned it here, but he got the role of Moses is our church's fall musical) tonight so everything is running late and it is past my bedtime! :-)