Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Today, by the request of the kids, we got out this book again...
The New Way Things Work

So we could work on the next unit... Levers...

I even had the DVD already checked out from the library.

We also got out this kit as well...K'NEX EDUCATION Intro to Simple Machines: Levers and Pulleys-178 pcs

First we read the intro out of the book and then watched the DVD. After that the kids started to work on building the see-saw....
Once it was built... the mini figs went for a ride :-)
and then they did the experiments from the teachers' guide...
They moved the load and the fulcrum to see how the amount of force needed to do the work changed. Then they just "played" with it for quite a while... mostly using it as a balance.

This kit has a ton of different levers to build. The kids can't wait to move on to the next lever.... I think it's another first class lever, a balance scale, I think. I love how this little study we're doing using The Way Things Work book has really taken off with both kids. Alex had already read a lot of the book... but between the kits and the movies, things are really sinking in for him!

a book list for Clara

FYI: This is the first a several posts I'm working on about the changes in our "school" so far this school year... not terribly interesting reading, but I needed to document our changes since my blog seems to be where I do most of my planning record keeping. :-)

Clara is in first grade this year. My plan was rather light for her, as I felt it should be for her first grade year (well, at least compared with Alex's plan for this year). However, she has insisted on keeping pace with the amount of work I'm assigning to Alex. One thing she was adamant about was that she wanted a book list like Alex's Ambleside list. See, I had been typing each week up for him and having him manage his own reading schedule for the week. His Ambleside time was after our seat work was done and while I was fixing lunch. Clara was not content to do free reading while he worked on this, she wanted her own list.

I wasn't sure where to start. So, I ended up on Amazon in listmania and found the following lists to get me started...

Ambleside Yr 0 Fall Books List 1
Ambleside Year 0 Fall Books List 2

Next trip to the library, I located several of the books from these lists that I thought were readable for Clara (thankfully, she's a stronger reader than Alex was at this age) and supplemented them with some readers from the seasonal shelf.

Oh, and I also added a couple level 1 math readers from the Mathstart Series.

That was great, but she finished that week's list in TWO days!!! And she also specifically requested some stories to listen to on my iPod like Alex has. So, back to checking out books and looking through Librivox.

My list for her now consists of this basic formula:

Math Readers
Seasonal Books
Ready for Chapter Books Readers assigned by Chapter
A Science Related Book on iPod
A Story Book on iPod
Poetry Book assigned by poem

She is currently really enjoying having her own list and has surprised me with what she has picked up from her reading (and listening). And the thing is... this is all bonus as far as school is concerned. I had planned on this just being free reading time, but instead she's added more math, science, history, etc. to her school schedule! You've got to love it when things work out this way. :-)

So, I think we've finally hit the right number of books for Clara to comfortably read a week during our reading time.

Here's her list for this week...

Math Readers:
Circus Shapes (MathStart 1)
Mighty Maddie (MathStart 1)
Addition Annie (Rookie Readers)

Seasonal Books:
The Best Fall of All
DK Readers: The Secret Life of Trees (Level 2)
Johnny Appleseed (Ready-to-Read. Level 1)
Leaf Jumpers
Autumn Leaves

Henry and Mudge Under the Yellow Moon:
Together in the Fall
Under the Yellow Moon
Thanksgiving Guest

Reading Rainbow Readers: Scary Stories to Read When it's Dark (Reading Rainbow):
Henry's Bedtime Story
Bloody Fingers
Something at the Window

Wild Life in Woods and Fields (iPod):
Peter's Cat
The Greedy Stranger
The Mole and His Home

Birds of the Air (iPod):
Birds' Eggs
Baby Birds
Birds Feeding their Young

The House at Pooh Corner (iPod):
Side 1
Side 2
Side 3
Side 4

Where the Sidewalk Ends:
The Loser
Listen to the Mustn'ts
Jimmy Jet and His TV Set

Okay... enough rambling about this... we're off to swimming and then I'll ramble on about something else! :-)

couch schooling

I knew it was bound to happen. Alex had it, Jeff had it.... I wanted to hope, but I knew Clara and I would have to have it at some point. Well... the stomach bug finally caught up to Clara and I on Sunday. Clara got it around 3 am and I got it that afternoon. Clara had completely bounced back from it by yesterday morning, but I was not so lucky.

So, my day was spent "couch schooling" :-)

Thankfully we have a routine for our core items and the kids work very independently. They would do their work and bring it to me to look over... and when they did they would throw a couple more saltines in my bowl or refill my ginger ale (they were being very sweet yesterday).

After lunch, they asked if they could hang out with me and watch school movies. Well... since it didn't involve me leaving the couch... why not? :-)

So, we finally sat down to watch this movie...

The Story of 1

I had requested it from Netflix about a month ago and we had just never sat down to watch it. It was recommended in the parents' resource section of the Living Math lesson plan I had purchased. I was afraid that it would be boring for the kids and over their heads. I'm so glad we watched it! I'm not saying that the kids got it all... but they got a lot out of it and it was very entertaining! I learned a lot about the history of numbers from this DVD. I learned math in school... but I don't remember learning anything about where numbers came from and how counting began. It's been fascinating.

After that we watched a couple of Magic School Bus shows that we had recorded.

It was nice to know that we could get so much accomplished without me ever leaving the couch. Thankfully, I'm feeling much better today so we're back to a regular school day today!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

some body scream!

Today we took a trip to the Old Town School of Folk Music to take part in one of their "field trips" they put on for schools... as a homeschooler you can purchase tickets as well.

The one we saw today was Some Body Scream! Not so scary stories with Oba Williams King...
(I know... the photo has a magenta cast... I got frustrated with editing it and this is as good as it's getting for now... lol)

The kids had a fabulous time! They laughed, screamed and sang along. Fun stuff!

We've purchased tickets for several other field trips at the Old Town School. I love that so much of this type of stuff is available to homeschoolers here in the city!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

maple trees

Okay... so we're jumping all around with the Handbook of Nature Study Blog's challenges! Today we started on challenge #34... Maple Trees.

After picking the Norway Maple in front of our house as the subject of our year long tree study, we have noticed different kinds of maples around our neighborhood. This helped us to decide to jump to this challenge next.

We had barely made it out our backdoor before the kids found this...

After consulting the guidebook, we determined that it was a Silver Maple leaf (from three yards over).

We found another maple tree on the corner...
Apparently my daughter is a tree-hugger and I honestly have no clue what Alex is doing.

(sidenote on Clara's hair.... she came upstairs this morning and asked if we had any classes today... I told her no and she said... good, then I don't need to comb my hair.. sigh)

We thought this tree...
... was smiling at us.

Clara was enjoying being outside and took off skipping...
This isn't from a maple tree...
... but we thought we would bring it home (along with a leaf from the tree) to identify.

When we got home the kids got out all of their leaves from our walk and their guidebooks. They worked on identifying them for quite a while and then did their entries in their journals (still need to photograph those).

Besides the benefits I've mentioned before... today I realized that another great benefit of these challenges is that we get outside. I know that sounds simple enough but today, after having a sick day yesterday and no classes to go to, we might have stayed in all day.

rainy day to sick day... sigh

But all in all... it was a good school day.

Yesterday we were supposed to go see the Midnight Circus with some homeschool friends... but it was a rainy day here so we stayed home instead.

A quiet day at home was nice after our crazy week last week.

We had finished reading The Secret Garden last week so we curled up in front of the TV to watch the movie.

This is the version I got from Netflix...
The Secret Garden
I have to say that I was not impressed with this version. It might have been okay if you hadn't read the book... but if you had, it was troubling. All kinds of odd stuff went on in the movie that wasn't in the book. One odd thing was that Colin wants to marry Mary and gets jealous of her and Dickon. Seriously? They're 10 years old. Why in the world was that a good idea to add to this story? Anyway... one good thing about movies like this is that I really see how well the kids had listened when I read to them as they were yelling out what should have been going on throughout the movie. :-)

After the movie we watched The Way Things Work - Inclined Planes DVD I had gotten from the library. I will say that it was a bit odd... but it was short and the kids seemed to enjoy it. So, we'll probably keep getting the DVD's as we work our way through the book.

Once we were done with the DVD, the kids and I read some more of The New Way Things Workand built the splitting wedge with the K'NEX EDUCATION Intro to Simple Machines: Wheels, Axels and Inclined Planes kit...

After that we got on our rain gear and got ready to head out the door for Clara's dance... however, Alex rushed back and threw up (lovely)... so Clara went to dance with a friend and Alex and I stayed home.

The funny thing about homeschooling is that school never really ends, does it? Alex settled himself on the couch and wanted to watch some of our backlog of Ancient Egypt shows we had recorded off of the History Channel. One was on the excavation of a tomb and the other was about the 10 greatest discoveries. Then he watched a couple of Cyberchases we had recorded as well.

Today he's feeling much better and the weather is much better so we're heading outdoors after lunch to tackle another nature challenge!

(Kelly... I haven't forgotten about your photography questions... I'll post about that soon!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

rethinking our activities

Today was our gymnastics day... but we did not go.

As a homeschooler I fell into the trap of scheduling my kids for every activity they wanted to do... just because I could. We had our days free from a school schedule and our evenings free from homework. Why not fill our afternoons and evenings with activities that provided social opportunities? Well... because this type of schedule left no time for play. At least no time for play without having to cut a playdate short because we had a class to get to.

The kids asked to skip gymnastics again today.... so I figured it was time for a sit down talk. I asked them why they didn't want to go... they loved gymnastics and enjoyed their instructors. Why did they not want to go? They wanted to play, that's why.

We have been very fortunate to have made several friends here who homeschool and have time to play during the day. We have also been very fortunate to have made friends with several families who don't and would like to play in the afternoon/evening. In order to cultivate those friendships, we have got to have time to play. If a friend calls and wants to set up a playdate but we can't find a day that works because we have classes everyday... they'll stop calling. I'm finding that being available for our friends is definitely more important than many of the classes the kids are in.

So, after a discussion tonight with Jeff... going forward, each child will have one "special" activity and a music lesson. Right now Alex's special activity is swim and Clara's is dance. They will be allowed to choose one other activity that is convenient to the other's special activity to do once a week. For example, Alex does martial arts one day while Clara is in dance because it is just on the next block from her dance class and it runs at approximately the same time. Clara will also do swim class on one of Alex's swim days because her level was available at the same time.

So far this week we've had three playdates. Those hours spent playing had greater benefit than any of our miscellaneous activities we run around to. I can't even compare the hour and a half they would have spent in gymnastics to the 3 hours they spent outside with their friends riding their bikes and scooters.

We signed up for a lot of activities after moving here in order to make friends. But now that we have them... I think our focus should be keeping them.

Okay... sorry about that rambling... I just had an epiphany this afternoon and decided to share it! :-)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

the way things work

This year I decided to forgo any formal curriculum for science and just follow my kids' interests (with some sort of a plan... not total randomness...lol). Clara loves nature so our participation in the nature study challenges are for her. Alex loves all things engineering, so here's what I got for him...
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay

I knew I had made the right choice when he insisted on taking the book to bed with him the first night we got it. He read it every night at bedtime until he had at least skimmed the entire book.

Today we decided to start working our way through the book, so we got out this kit that I had ordered to go with the book...
K'Nex Education: Wheels, Axles and Inclined Planes

We also own the other K'Nex Simple Machines Sets that we'll be using as we work our way through this book:
K'Nex Education: Levers and Pulleys
K'Nex Education: Gears

We got everything spread out onto the floor this afternoon and got started...
First we read the pages on inclined planes in the book and then the kids got busy building the steep slide and long ramp from the K'nex kit.

One of these would have come in real handy today...
Spring Scale
But... sigh... we don't have one (something to add to my next amazon order though).

After looking at our inclined planes for a while and talking about what we had read... Alex had an idea. He wanted to get out his stop watch and time cars as they sent them down the ramps.

Here's Clara trying a plastic car...
And Alex trying his big yellow taxi...
They experimented for quite a while longer, trying cars of different sizes and weights. They charted them all out on the white board on Clara's easel.

I'm really enjoying watching them getting into our more open ended science that we're doing this year. They've taken some things so much further than they would have if we were following more of a curriculum as we had done in the past.

Alex seriously cannot wait to do more from this book. We have a splitting wedge to build out the K'nex next.

Oh... there's also a set of DVD's based on this book available from the library. A friend of mine has watched one of them and wasn't all that keen on it.... but given that it doesn't cost us anything, I've reserved the inclined planes one at the library to see what we think of it.