Sunday, February 24, 2008

summary week #22, winter week #10

Hooray! Spellcheck is working again!!!

It's been a wacky week. Not homeschooling-wise so much -- in fact, we had our usual week. Just blogging-wise. First the computer died and needed to be replaced. After I finally got the new one configured to my liking, I realized that my old camera (the dinosaur that I can take non-blurry indoor photos with, as opposed to my camera phone which is only good for well-lit situations) was incompatible with my new computer. Minor panic ensued. And most of our week's activities are recorded and stuck on the old camera, potentially forever.

But if I had to pick a week where I lost all photographic documentation of what we did, this was the week to pick. It was school vacation week in most of the free world, so our plans kept us at home most of the week anyway, to avoid the crowds at museums, etc. (We did get out to the library one day, but otherwise our activities were home-based.) We also were all dealing with colds this week, so feeling a little punky and unmotivated to journey far from home anyway. And to top it all off, we had a massive snowstorm on Friday that kept even The Map Man at home.

In any case, we proceeded forth with our usual rhythms. Monday was a wash, as there were no homeschooling classes due to the federal holiday, and I was in Best Buy more than I was at home anyway. The rest of the week, we continued with our Bear Hunt Adventure Circle, and we read "A Busy Sleep" as our curriculum story, which is a wonderful Enki Education Nature Story about the yearly cycle of a family of bears. We painted (see the kids' results above) with our wet-on-wet watercolor method, this time using two shades of yellow and a shade of red. J pointed to a particular spot on his painting (the one on the left) and told me "this is where I dream". Cool!

More time at home means more creative time in general. Here J drew a stylized picture of a raccoon, not sure where he might have seen something in this style before, but I thought it was pretty cool. They were thrilled to see all the snow on Friday, and spent some time out there playing in it this weekend (see the first photo, they are the two dark dots in the middle of the picture, behind the pig pen. (Pig is the dark dot IN the pen, Annie and Lacy are the horse-shaped dots in the paddocks.) Not good snow for snow-man making or snow-ball fights, but very nice for snow angels and sledding.

Finally, I'm not sure I mentioned last week that our little birds have been hatching out. Here's what we ended up with -- 3 little baby parakeets! Pretty ugly, no? Pear and Pineapple are being very good parents, and they are growing like (and looking like!) little weeds. I suspect they will look more like actual birds by next week. Two of the eggs that Pear laid did not hatch -- we removed them today and candled them (looked at the inside by holding it up to a flashlight). One hadn't developed at all, and one looked like it developed for awhile before it died. But three is really enough for their first clutch.

Family Story Time books for this week were: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman (kinda goofy, but cute); In The Snow, by Huy Voun Lee (if you've not checked out the "In The" series by this author, it's a really great introduction to writing Chinese characters -- J just ADORES these books, as interested in languages as he is); and Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr. Funny, Owl Moon is one of my very favorite late winter books, and I had planned to use it as a launching pad for taking Owl calling walks for the boys this year. But they are just not into it. So we'll save that idea for next year instead.

I've also started reading them their very first chapter book -- Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. It's absolutely perfect for them. After our Family Story Time routine, with the kids in bed and the lights out, I sit on the edge of Zoo Boy's bed and read a chapter from the book. This has become the kids' favorite part of our bedtime routine, and even on nights when we've been a little late, they've begged for a chapter to be read. We've got The House At Pooh Corners to read after this one, then I'll have to start looking for a good next choice. Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

life, death, and an army of geeks

It's conventional wisdom -- there are only three things in life you can be sure of: Life, Death, and the need for a good geek when your computer runs amok.

My computer's hard-drive died a miserable death on Sunday, not long after I posted my weekly wrap-up. Poor ol' computer. Well, I didn't really consider it that old. It was only about 3 years. Maybe less. But in terms of technology, it was well dated and beyond it's life expectancy anyway. I never really liked it much -- it was a vicious monitor-eater from the start. H-P sent us no less than 3 new monitors (it may have actually been 4) over the course of the first year we owned it. But it eventually settled in and behaved itself after a serious purge of all systems including whatever was causing it to blow up monitors on a regular basis. Until the past several months, that is, when it was apt to do strange and unexpected things. Little did I realize that it was gasping it's last breath and warning me of the trouble ahead. If only I had listened closely, I would have heard the ominous words "back up your files NOW...."

Fortunately, I found me a good geek. Super geek, even. Potentially Geek Of the Year, nay, Century! I spied him while standing in line at the Best Buy Geek Squad Counter. There he was in all his dorky splendor -- tall, thin, dark hair in an ancient shag cut, glasses perched on his pointy noise, face covered with an entire batallion of zits, accentuated by the few strands of hair on his chin that he probably optimistically refers to as a goatee. It was love at first sight. I surveyed the crowd, scheming a quick and devious plan to make him mine all mine. I tapped the fella in front of me on the shoulder and pointed out a robust looking geek at the end of the counter "Psst, buddy -- that guy looks open". I turned to the woman next to me, who was obviously eyeing my geek and plotting her own schemes. "Hey lady, I think you can take care of that at the service desk". The wheels were in motion, I'd efficiently removed the competition, and when my geek-supreme lifted his head from his paperwork, I made direct eye contact and flashed him a winning smile. He blushed. He shuffled his feet and look at the floor and laughed nervously. He was mine!!!! I swooped in for the kill, and thrust my crippled CPU into his waiting arms. Ahhhh, sweet victory!

David -- yes, that was really his name! I told you, he was the PERFECT GEEK, no doubt born into this world with this divine purpose already predestined! -- deftly plugged his cables into my machine (um, er, is it getting warm in here?), and was instantly rewarded with the same message of death served on a blue screen that I'd been treated to at home. Aha, he exclaimed, sneaking a peek at me above the rim of his glasses, I fear it's a hardware problem. He admitted my wounded harddrive into his ICU ward for detailed diagnostics, jotted down my address and phone number between nervous chuckles, and promised to call me when he had an answer for me. I restrained myself from throwing my arms around his neck and giving him a big smooch on his clearasil-laden forehead, and trotted off to my friend's nearby house to breathlessly await his call.

I spent an hour or so plugging away at my friend's laptop that I had quickly developed a hate-hate relationship with. It was a bit of an antique and my lightening-fast typing seemed to be too much for it to handle. Actually, truth be known, I was probably unwittingly hitting something I didn't intend to as my fingers blazed across the keys. But the result was the same either way -- my cursor would inexplicably dance about the screen, landing bits of sentences in the most awkward of places. I swore a lot, I threatened the machine a bit, and I don't think my friend was too upset when my phone finally rang.

It was my geek-in-shining-armour, reporting the grim news to me. It was dead. It was totally dead. And only through the wonder of wizardly geekdom could he retrieve my now buried files from within the belly of the beast. He made a couple of suggestions, the most attractive of which was to come back in and pick myself out a nice new computer, after which he'd wield his magic geek-wand and extract my files from the land of the dead and transfer them to the new machine.

So off I trotted back to Best Buy. He saw me arrive, quickly ditched the teenaged surfer he was helping on a colleage, and took me to one side to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Something about a sales flyer. And an upgrade. And operating systems. Or something like that. He left me, emotionally drained, in the hands of a salesperson as he dissappeared once again behind a curtain of black velvet. Or, you know, plastic. Whatever that was covering the door to the back room.

The sales dude and I got in some quality time. He was just geeky enough for my purposes and hooked me up with a sweet little Compaq laptop. I made sure that I could disable the touch pad (which was most likely what was getting me in trouble with my friend's laptop earlier), happily forked over my cash, and filled out all the paperwork I needed to for the data transfer. And then he brought me back over to my beloved David, who explained that he wasn't sure how long it would take to do the data transfer. The sales dude was pushing him to commit to having it done that night, but David nervously giggled and said there was just no way. The hard drive was dead. Dead I tell you! It wasn't even sustainable on life support. He was going to have to work for hours on it, days perhaps, probably invoking a spell at the full moon, and gathering a bat wing and an eye of newt in order to extract my files from the wretched corpse.

It did in fact take days. I called regularly for updates. I talked to a different geek each time. I'm pretty sure they were drawing straws to see who got stuck picking up my call when my number came up on caller ID. It was never David. He had forsaken me and moved on to some other damsel in distress with a less insidious problem. I suspect that some of the people I spoke with weren't even real geeks, but rather immitation geeks that they brought in to talk to annoying customers who just couldn't leave the real geeks alone long enough to do their jobs.

Finally, about the 297th time I called, the stout geek got on the phone and told me he was just now packaging up my laptop. It's ready to go home?? I couldn't believe my ears, it was like a dream. I don't remember the drive in, perhaps I was carried there on gossamer wings. But finally, at long last, my new baby was in my arms. I strapped it lovingly into the passenger seat, tossed the old dead beast in the back, and we drove off into the sunset to live happily ever after.

Or until something blows up.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

weekly wrap-up #21, winter #9

Winter weather has kept us indoors all week again. If it wasn't snowing, it was raining. If it wasn't raining, it was sleeting. If it wasn't doing any of those, the wind was whipping the wind chill well into the negative digits. I went out to the barn as little as I could get away with. It was just one of those weeks. My poor parents had a heck of a time with basement flooding, so we spent a bit of time up at their house bailing them out, in addition to our normal weekly stuff.

But that didn't stop us from having all sorts of fun, especially with our new Adventure Circle, "Bear Hunt", which was an outrageous success with both boys. They begged to do it every day, and on the couple of days we didn't, they did it on their own during their free play time anyway. The theme went really nicely with our curriculum story this week, which was "Masha and the Bear", a Russian fairy tale (modified by Enki Education to better meet the needs of the young child) about a little girl who tricks a bear (who was holding her hostage) into returning her to her grandparents. It was also a big hit with the kids. Contrary to our crummy rotten weather, it was one of those weeks where everything just seemed to click along nicely for us.

Since the rest of the week was going so well, I decided to finally bring wet-on-wet watercolor painting into our weekly rhythm. Another outrageous success! Both kids sunk into the artistic experience, and I felt like I overcame a major hurdle (my own lack of confidence in working with this media).

We could have named this "Our Week of the Museums". We had our usual Monday Homeschool classes, with the added bonus of a free preview for a great spring class about what goes on behind the scenes at the museum, that both kids now want to sign up for. On Thursday we hooked up with some homeschooling pals at Imagine Nation (J above in one of their play structures), and also went over to our local children's museum for J's class about Valentine's Day. And on Friday we hooked up with even more homeschooling friends at the Springfield Science Museum.

And as if that wasn't enough, we went back to the Springfield Science Museum today for a planetarium show, with The Map Man in tow. The boys had a great time both at the show, and showing their Dad around their favorite exhibits, like this one where they have to identify various native wildlife by their songs.

Family Story Time this week included In The Snow: Who's Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George; A Little House Birthday, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Doris Ettlinger (one of our favored My First Little House books); and Snowballs by Lois Ehlert.

Seymour Planetarium

We took the kids to their first planetarium show today. I've always love the planetarium. THIS planetarium, in fact. This is the Seymour Planetarium at the Springfield Science Museum, in Springfield, MA, which boasts the oldest American-built star projector (and one of the few such projectors still in operation, most planetariums have switched over to digital projectors), and which we are granted free admission to via our brand new museum membership. I attended planetarium shows in this very facility as a child. And I had the great pleasure of actually presenting planetarium shows here when I worked for the museum as a young adult. Many, many, many wonderful memories.

The kids LOVED it. I was so thrilled -- I wasn't entirely sure that Zoo Boy would be happy about the darkness or the loudness (why DO they have to have those speakers turned up so loud?), so I wanted to make sure The Map Man was with us the first time we went so that one of us could step out with The Boy if he couldn't take it. Not only did he hang in there, he was absolutely mesmerized by the whole thing. We chose a program directed at kids ages 3-7 for their first time, and it was a great fit. The kids can't wait to go back, and would even love to see the same program again.

Before the show, Zoo Boy showed great interest in the display of meteorites outside the planetarium. He made The Map Man and I read him the description of each and every one, while he examined them under magnification.

The kids were also thrilled to show The Map Man around their new favorite museum. And The Map Man was happy for the tour -- he hasn't been there since we were dating! (And that was, um, a few years ago....)

The Map Man and Zoo Boy check out the Native American exhibit. They listened to a few of the facts presented on tape loops, while I read about the climate when these original settlers to our area of the country first took up residence. Did you know that maple trees didn't move north into New England until 9,000 years ago? No? Neither did I! Fascinating, I say!

J works on a dinosaur puzzle in the Exploration Center. Both kids were thrilled to get to visit the museum again so soon after our first visit on Friday. While I doubt we'll be getting there with this sort of frequency on a regular basis, it's great to find another nearby educational spot that the kids find as interesting and exciting as I do.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Springfield Science Museum

This is my 3rd post today -- I know, I know, but it's been a busy couple of days! So keep scrolling down after this one to see what else we've been up to.

Friday brought us to the Springfield Science Museum, in Springfield, MA. It was a bit of a surreal visit for me, as I actually worked at this museum awhile back (like, um, over 20 years ago....). It's funny how much some things have changed, and how some things have stayed EXACTLY the same. (Some of those things are excatly the same as when I was a child and visited there, which was considerably even MORE time ago!)

(See if you can find Zoo Boy in that first photo. He's there, amongst the animals in his favorite exhibit, the African Hall.)

The boys working on putting Pangea back together (although one of our party told us that the latest theory is that there really wasn't one mass of continent to begin with. Humph. So much for ancient history as I know it!). The boys weren't so sure they were going to like visiting a museum that wasn't specifically a children's museum, but it's fair to say that they both fell in love with the place. It's so much fun to take your kids places that you were in love with as a child, and re-experience all that wonder and excitement again through their eyes!

There's just enough hands-on type activities to keep a kid really interested in exploring the various nooks and crannies throughout the museum. Here, the boys huddle in a wigwam, planning an attack on a neighboring tribe. Or the museum gift shop. Whichever they come across first.

Our merry band of homeschool pals, enjoying a snack together. We were there for a few hours, but there is so much more to explore and do, that we decided to buy a membership so we can come back as often as we like. We're looking forward to checking out the cool dinosaur exhibit and the planetarium, hopefully soon.

The boys have a chat with Dr. Seuss. Or a statue of him, anyway, in the garden dedicated to him on the green between the museums.

Our membership includes admission to both of the art museums and the history museum on the complex as well, so I expect we'll be spending a lot of time in Springfield this year!


I thought I'd publish some of the kids' Valentine's Day artwork. See the post below this one for what we actually did on Valentine's Day (which had absolutely nothing to do with the holiday, but was a bunch of fun anyway!).

This first photo is of the cards the kids made me. Zoo Boy's is to the left, and I'm pretty impressed with how extensive his coloring/drawing is on it. He told me it's a picture of a giraffe and a...oh shoot, some other animals, I can't remember which... in a tornado. I think it's a darned good depiction of what it looks like in a tornado!! J's card is to the right, I loved how he cut out the heart shape to use the negative space as the illustration. My creative kids!

Here's another Valentine's Day card that J made for me, during his Heart Class last week. Wish you could see the front -- there's a realistic drawing of his heart (as opposed to a valentine) on the cover.

The cards the boys made for The Map Man. They used my watercolor painting from earlier in the week to cut out their cards. (Zoo Boy wanted to cut up his own painting, but I wouldn't let him, I want to keep his first painting!) Zoo Boy's in the traditional card-shape to the left (he's not much on a lot of words inside!), and J's is the cut-out heart shape on the right.

J also took at class at the local children's museum about Valentine's Day. They got to meet a dove (which rhymes with love, by the way) and picked out a museum animal to make a card for (J chose the chinchillas -- I didn't get a good shot of his card, unfortunately). They also made gifts for one other person -- I scored a totally rockin' pipe-cleaner-and-bead bracelet. His friend B made him a pipe-cleaner sculpture (which he really loved, because it was from B), and another boy in the class, also named J, made him a set of bug antennae.

As for my hunka-hunka-hubby, he surprised me by dropping off a lovely rose at the local restaurant where my teaching assistant and I stop after teaching classes each week. Imagine my shock when a florist's package was delivered along with our nachos and drinks! What a sweetie.... For his efforts, I brought him home a delicious piece of strawberry shortcake.

Hope everyone had a LOVE-ly Valentine's Day!

Imagine Nation

On Thursday we hooked up with some Homeschooling friends over at a children's museum called Imagine Nation in Bristol, CT. This is a much larger children's museum than our local favorite, and a bit less museum-like -- pretty much it's just a huge play space. And play the kids did -- here Zoo Boy plays a fishing game with another boy.

J and his favorite toddler buddy, little J, dress up like soccer and basketball players in the sports exhibit. Apparently this is a virtual reality type exhibit that puts you into various sports clips shown on a big screen, but the camera functions weren't working on this particular day. Didn't stop J and little J from running around the exhibit and having a great time pretending they were sports players anyway!

Bristol is the home of ESPN, and my kids were immediately drawn to the realistic sports-casting desk exhibit, and wound up spending most of their time there. The kids were able to read sports scores from a prepared script and see themselves on the TV screen (Zoo Boy is pointing out just where that is).

We adults were able to watch them too, from a TV monitor outside the broadcast booth. J's in there reading the scores, while Zoo Boy provides some commentary. I thought they looked pretty good in there! A future career in Broadcasting for one of them, perhaps??

After all the playing, the group settled in the cafe area for some ice cream. They have a great old-fashioned soda counter set up, complete with a player piano!

Fun place, we shall return at some point!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

bear hunt

The kids in the "bear cave".

We started a new Adventure Circle this week, based extensively on the book "We're Going On A Bear Hunt", by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. So extensively in fact that I don't feel comfortable posting the entire text of our Adventure Circle, as my guess is it would infringe on copyright laws (or something similar). So I'll summarize what we're doing instead!

The story line follows the book, we recite verses about going on a bear hunt, and we visit stations I've set up along the way -- long, wavy grass (jump ropes), a deep, cold river (a blue sheet), thick, oozy mud (pillows), a big, dark forest (some upright cloth tunnels), a swirling, whirling snowstorm (the bed in the master bedroom), and of course the narrow, gloomy cave (the kids beds, with J's loft being the ceiling and a quilt and pillows creating the outer walls, with an entrance through the rungs of the loft ladder). Throughout the story I've interwoven Enki Kindergarten Movement activities and songs/verses, as well as more traditional Sensory Integration exercises.

We start our bear hunt by having to go through the long, wavy grass, which I explain is growing in a field that is covered by snow. We then do the Enki activity "Recorder Song -- Winter". I've modified another Enki tune, "Trip, trip, trap" to fit our adventure, and we sing that at each activity station as we do the activity. In the grass's case, I move jump ropes back and forth across the ground (like snakes) while the kids jump over them to avoid them. We sing the song 3 times while they do that, then get right back to the "we're going on a bear hunt" verse and move on to the next station.

Next comes the deep, cold river. We do the Enki activity "Waters". When we're done, I wave the sheet up and down while the kids run/walk/jump/crawl across it as we're singing our modified "Trip, trip, trap" song. Both the grass and the river are in the living room where there's enough room for jumping and running.

The next station is the thick, oozy mud. I point out a snail crawling through the mud, and we do the Enki activity "Snail". Then the kids hop from pillow to pillow and back again while we sing our song. We do this down the hallway.

Also in the hallway is the big, dark forest. I point out that some of the trees are Evergreen trees, and we do the Enki "Oh, Evergreen" song and activity. Then they weave their way through the forest of tree trunks (upright tunnels) as quickly as they can while we sing.

Next come the swirling, whirling snowstorm, which happens on the bed in the master bedroom. We do the Enki activity "Winter White" on the bed, then jump on the bed while we sing our song.

At last we arrive at the bear cave in the kids' room. We discover two little cubs playing at the entrance to the cave, and do the Enki "Bear Cubs" activity. Then the kids squeeze themselves into the cave and explore it while we sing our song. But, oh no! What do you think is IN that cave??? Yup, a Mama bear, and she's MAD. So out we come as quick as we can, back through the snowstorm, the forest, the mud, the river, the grass, into our house, and under the cover in bed, vowing that we're NOT going on a bear hunt again. (Well, until the next day, anyway.)

This Adventure Circle has been an outrageous success with the boys. I've been needing to find a way to get Zoo Boy more active during circle -- most of the Enki activities are still a bit beyond him and he tends to sit down and watch during most of them (although he's really enjoying "Snail" and "Bear Cubs", which is great as both work on Naval Radiation, which we really need to work on with him). Back when J was in formal Sensory Integration Therapy, we used to set up obstacle courses (basically just circuits of Sensory Integration activities), and Zoo Boy loved to join in on that. So I was looking to combine that sort of activity with the Enki Adventure Circle. I'm very pleased with the results.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

we painted!

At long last, I shoved my inexplicable fear of painting aside, and broke out the paint boards, water color paper and brushes, got the kids smocked-up, and got us painting!

Other than being entirely out of my element (I mean, we're using REAL professional-quality materials -- and what do I know about art?? Like, um, NOTHING), I was also worried about all the imaginary problems I could see crop up. Like my kids' find motor skills not being where they needed to be to handle the washing and care of the brush. Or them following my lead too closely, or actually painting pictures of something. Enki wet-on-wet watercolor painting at the Kindergarten level is about experiencing the colors and the way they move on the paper. I fully expected that J would sit down and paint a flower rather than sinking into the experience the way we want kids to. And that thought right there caused me to almost hyperventilate whenever I even thought about pulling out the paints (which I of course bought last summer and have since sat neatly wrapped on a shelf).

Imagine my surpise when both of my kids instantly settled in and began experimenting with color and movement! I painted slowly nearby on my own paper, reading a few paragraphs from an Enki story written to help children with the care of their paintbrush. The white bird in the story dips her tail (dip, dip, dip) into the magic water, picks up a color, flies through the sky with it, painting all below her with that color, then flies to a plain pool and swish, swish, swish, washes her tail clean. Zoo Boy dipped his brush into the paint. "Dip, dip, dip" he said softly to himself. He moved the brush across the paper leaving yellow streaks. "Swish, swish, swish" he chanted softly as he swirled his brush in the water to clean it off, then wiped it dry on his cloth before dipping it back into the paint for more color. He accidentally splattered a drop of paint onto his paper, and squealed with delight "Mommy, come look! The color is moving!" He purposefully splatter on more drops, then cleaned his brush before picking up a different color to try the splattering. "Oooh, look now!" he whispered, having laid the brush bristles against the paper and held them there, watching the color bleed out. "Can you pass me the blue paint, please?"

And here's Zoo Boy's final painting. This child, the same one who thinks a drawing is one crayon line in the middle of a page, filled nearly 75% of his paper with color. And was really pleased with the results, he couldn't wait to show The Map Man. "I never painted before, " he sighed contentedly after he was finished and was working at unbottoning his smock. I suggested that maybe we could do it again next week. "Oh, yes!" he smiled. "Oh, yes."

As for J, the child who has been doing representational drawing ever since he first picked up a crayon at 18 mos of age, the child who has never scribbled or made a disorganized mark on any surface, the child who just last week sculpted a to-scale model of the human digestive system out of playdoh, today created this masterpiece of color and abstractedness. He never once tried to "make something" out of it. He painted for the pure experience of the color and rhythm of his brush on the paper. It was truly one of those magical childhood moments -- something I'll never forget as long as I live. At one point, he looked over at what I was doing, and I had a momentary flash of panic that maybe he was thinking he should be copying what I was doing. It passed quickly when he smiled and said "that's really beautiful, Mommy!" and went back to his own discovery process.

And, just because I know some wiseguy in the comments section is going to ask where my painting is if I don't include it, here's my creation. Compared to my kids' free romp through the rainbow, mine is a bit conservative. I felt "done" with mine a half hour before the kids started wrapping up theirs. And in the end, I like theirs better. But for a woman who long ago was convinced she needed a class or formal lessons in order to be able to even try anything new, I was pretty proud at my first attempt at painting. And I was even prouder that I overcame my fear of trying, so that (hopefully) my children are never paralyzed by that same fear.

Oh yeah, we are definitely painting again next week!

Monday, February 11, 2008

native education

The kids and I attended a really cool class today, a free demonstration class to promote a spring-semester joint venture between the Monday Homeschool Class group and the children's museum where the classes are held. The class, called "Museum Explorers" will allow the kids access to materials and archives that are not on display to the general public. Today's demo class was about the native people of the area the museum is located, the Podunk tribe, and how they used the native wildlife.

Here, the Humanities Curator of the museum shows how the Podunks used deer antlers (in her left hand) to make a "flaking tool" (in her right hand). Basically they just cut off one of the antler tynes (those pointy things that stick up on the antler), and then they used it to shape...

...a piece of quartz (being a very common type of rock in this area), or other rock, into an arrowhead. She passed the antler, the flaking tool, the quartz, and a display of arrowheads found locally (many of them quartz) around the room so the kids (and us adults!) could get a close-up view and touch them.

Then she showed us some of the other objects the Podunks made from native materials -- a rattle made from a Box Turtle shell and decorated with fur and feathers, and a drum made from animal hides (deer, I assume) stretched over wood.

Zoo Boy gives the turtle shell rattle a shake. We also got to meet two live box turtles that live at the museum, and we got to compare their shells to those of other native turtle species.

I'm signing both the kids up for the class, and am excited that parents are welcome to attend as well. Zoo Boy gave the thumbs-up to the idea, saying "I think that would be a good class for me."

Me, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

summary -- week #20, winter #8

(The boys investigate a book about insects at the nature center at our favorite park.)

We're back, baby! Back in the swing of our homeschooling rhythms. The only think I regret about our slower pace in January was not just taking the whole month off to start with! Next year I'll know what to do!

We started the week with our Monday Homeschool Classes, where J participated in chorus, as usual, and Zoo Boy participated in exploring the museum with his preschool cronies, as usual. And I held a pow-wow with another mom, who I'm joining forces with to present a preschool program during the Spring Semester of classes. Zoo Boy says that now that he's turning 5 soon, it's time for him to start taking classes too, and I figured what better way to introduce him to the fun to be had in programs than to put something together with him in mind!
(The kids molding with playdoh.)

I already posted about the curriculum story we used this week, and what a success it was for my boys. We were back to our Adventure Circle (with a couple new songs/activities) again, but Zoo Boy played the non-compliance card and refused to participate. I'm going to need to rethink our circle yet again if I want to include him (and I do! He needs the sensory integration activities even more than J does!). I'm going to go back to what was working prior to this school year (a sensory activity circuit, which Zoo Boy loved to do), and try to mesh that with the Enki verses to come up with something that both meets The Boy's sensory needs and is something he'll actually participate in.

In addition to attending homeschool Open Gym on Thursday and meeting up with our friends at the park on Friday, J (in the front in red) took a really cool museum class about the heart. I actually got some great pictures, of the graphic chart the teacher used in her lesson, and of the real cow heart they got to dissect, but then decided not to post them for fear of offending squeamish readers. But J will be more than happy to enthusiastically tell you that he touched a cow heart, and how it was "almost a little icky".

While J was busy lub-dubbing, Zoo Boy, as usual, was busy making friends with the museum volunteer who was working with the animals that day. As he told her all that he knows about Sabrina, the giant bunny, she said "Wow, you know everything!" His response was, "Well, I don't know EVERYTHING. I don't know how to read." I rolled my eyes, and she reassurred him "That's OK, you'll learn how to read eventually". I muttered "He DOES read, he just won't admit it." (Typical Zoo Boy!) He cast me a sideways glance, then seriously said to her "Well, I DO know how to read SOME things. But not everything." Then gave me a smug look as he turned his back on me to help her clean the rabbit cage.

Speaking of Zoo Boy, I feel the need to update you curious folks on our sticker chart. (Those of you who don't want to hear about the potty training adventures of a nearly-5-year-old, please skip down to the last paragraph!) As you can see, we've successfully filled the upper chart (aka, the pooping chart) with stickers, and he earned his final Sticker Book on Wednesday (which he picked out himself from the store, which we visited on Wednesday evening). I then created a new sticker chart for him -- this one requires 10 stickers for the prize -- a pack of Pokemon cards (which I bought a healthy supply of when we were out at that store on Wednesday). He can still earn a sticker by pooping on the potty (although he's been 100% with that, I'm doing that to keep him thinking that putting his poop in an appropriate place is a good thing), but he can also earn a sticker for having a dry pull-up when he goes to use the potty. Those few stickers already on the chart were hard-earned -- he really has a problem not just letting urine dribble out of himself, and I'm a little worried about him getting discouraged. But I want to make a real effort to get potty training accomplished by his 5 yr check-up, as if he's still not been able to figure out how to hold his urine by then, I'm going to seek a referal to a pediatric urologist to make sure there's not something amiss physically. Perosnally, I still think it's all wrapped up in the sensory integration issues. At least he's becoming aware now when he's peed in his pull-up, that in itself is a pretty huge step.

Ok, enough potty talk!! Family Story Time books this week were The Little Penguin, by A.J. Wood, illustrated by Stephanie Boey; Dance at Grandpa's, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Renee Graef (another of the simply terrific My First Little House series); and Arctic Son, by Jean Craighead George (which I can reccomend to anyone wanting to introduce the eskimo cultures into their household).