Saturday, May 31, 2008

week #34, spring #10

The kids take a break from bike riding to get a closer look at a toad.

The weather took an amazing turn this week. For the better, for the most part, although the sunny, mild weather caused the trees to celebrate by spreading pollen far and wide. So I spent most of the week gasping for breath and not sleeping much at all. Made for a bit of a sleep-deprived week, and I'm hoping that whatever is in bloom finishes up SOON!

Meanwhile, we went about homeschooling as usual. The kids participated in a museum class about frogs (where they got to examine these preserved life stages of frogs, amongst other things). This was the second week of our Planting Flowers Adventure Circle, and we supplemented the theme this week by actually planting flower seeds, here, there, and everywhere! The kids each picked flowers they wanted to see in our garden, went out and bought the seeds, and sowed them in the prepared earth. J decided to plant Morning Glory , Zoo Boy chose Forget-Me-Not -- interestingly, I did not suggest they choose a flower, I merely said that we were going to go plant some flower seeds, and they both spontaneously came up with the types they wanted.

J looking adorable in a pile of new beach towels. Both kids are chomping at the bit for summer to start -- Zoo Boy has asked me every morning since the first of April "Is it summer yet?"

This week's curriculum story was a repeat of last week's "Cluck Cluck and Little Tuppen", per request of Zoo Boy (who is usually complaining about hearing the same story again by the third time I read it, so when he requests to carry one over into the next week, I'm only more than happy to oblige!).

We happened to visit the museum at an opportune time this week -- their female corn snake had just laid eggs!! Here they are, on their way to the museum office where they are going to try incubating them. We are all excited to see if they hatch!

And last, but certainly not least, The Map Man turned 43 this week. Happy Birthday, babe, we love you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

frog fun

Yesterday afternoon found us at our favorite children's museum, where the boys participated in a class with the fabulous Ms. Nicky called "Frog Fun", where they studied the life cycle and habits of frogs, including this pair of African Water Frogs that entertained the kids by eating fish and splashing a lot.

They also got to study tadpoles (that's Zoo Boy on the right). They saw both tiny tadpoles and little froglets who had recently grown their back legs. The kids tried to count up the tadpoles, but there were too many and they kept swimming around, making counting pretty much impossible.

The class gathers around Ms Nicky's desk, where she plays songs from various frog species for them. I never really thought about it before, but it's amazing how different each species sounds -- you truly don't have to see a frog to identify it, it's totally doable on a pitch black spring night!

After all the learning, the kids colored paper squares and made origami jumping frogs out of them. Here Zoo Boy works diligently alongside his classmates to color in his frog-to-be.

J, satisfied with his coloring, works on folding his frog into it's final form.

Fun class, the kids had a blast (so did I! And so did the Map Man, who was able to join us about half way through).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

it boggles the mind

If any of you dear readers and family members out there still wonder why The Map Man and I have chosen to homeschool our kids, go check out this article about little Alex Barton, a 5 year old enrolled in a Kindergarten class in Florida, whose teacher organized a classroom coupe, encouraging her students to each take turns telling poor Alex what they didn't like about him, then arranged a vote in which his classmates "voted him out" of the class. Read the article. It's even worse than I'm making it sound.

WHO treats a child this way? ANY child?!?! The fact that Alex is a child with Special Needs makes this all that much more atrocious. What's so inclusive about that education?!?! And the fact that Alex is apparently a child on the Autism Spectrum makes it personally offensive to me as well.

If you're interested in reading a couple of other bloggers' takes on the topic that I agree wholeheartedly with, go visit MOM-NOS and/or This Mom (look for her post titled "Special Kids Need Ordinary Consideration Too. For some reason I can't seem to figure out how to link directly to that post.). They've said it all, and better than I could have, so I'll let them speak for me on this.

updated to add: As outraged as I am? Go here to sign a petition to try to force officials to make the teacher in this case accountable for her actions. It only takes a second, add your voice!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

planting flowers adventure circle

Planting Flowers is our last adventure circle for the Spring Semester. Here's how it goes:

We start with "We're going to plant a beautiful flower garden. What do we need first? Seeds! And what do seeds look like?"

We curl into balls and roll around while singing our repeating verse (from the Enki Education Movement Activity, "Mother Earth") three times:

Mother Earth, Mother Earth,
Take this seed and give it birth.

Then I say, "We're going to plant our seeds just like the farmers do," and we move into the Enki Kindergarten Activity "Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley".

Next I say "Father Sun warms the earth our seeds are planted in, and their roots begin to grow, making their own little tunnels through the soil."

The kids crawl back and forth through a tunnel while we sing our repeating verse three times:

Father Sun, gleam and glow,
Then the roots begin to grow.

Then we transition directly to the Enki Kindergarten Movement Activity "The Little Plant".

Next I say "Plants need water to grow. Sister Rain provides plenty of water for our plants."

The kids jump on the bed (like splashing rain drops) while we sing our repeating verse three times:

Sister Rain, Sister Rain,
Shed thy tears to swell the grain.

Then we move right into the Enki Kindergarten Movement Activity "Rain".

I had out jars of bubbles to the kids while saying "A gentle breeze came up and our little plants swayed to and fro".

The kids blow bubbles while walking down the hall back to the living room, as we sing our repeating verse three times:

Brother Wind, breeze and blow,
Then the green blades soon will show.

We then start the Enki Kindergarten Movement Activity "Winds". Since this is a spinning activity, we need to ground it by alternating it with a grounding/proprioceptive activity, so after the first time through "Winds", we do the first verse of "Spider Web", then I say "Oh, I hear the wind picking up again!" to transition us back to another round of "Winds", then "Oh no, the wind tore apart the spider web, that spider will have to start over again", moving us back to another verse of "Spider Web". We keep alternating to get three of each activity. ("Spider Web" also works on Naval Radiation, which is one of our OT tasks for Zoo Boy.)

When we are done with the sets of verses, we review all 4 of the sensory integration activities as follows:

"We've planted our seeds in Mother Earth,"

(Kids roll like seeds while we sing, once):

Earth and Wind, Sun and Rain,
Help to grow this golden grain.

"Father sun warmed the earth and the roots grew,"

(Kids crawl through tunnel as we repeat the above verse.)

"Sister Rain brought water to our growing plants, "

(Kids jump on bed while we sing the above verse.)

"Brother Wind rocked our plants to and fro as they grew."

(Kids blow bubbles while we sing the above verse.)

"And now our flowers are ready to bloom!"

We do the Enki Kindergarten Movement Activity "Mother Earth's Secrets", then say,

"Look at all the beautiful flowers we grew with the help of Mother Earth, Father Sun, Sister Rain, and Brother Wind!"

We finish up the Adventure Circle with the Enki Kindergarten Movement Activity "Lavender's Blue".

We've also been planting flower seeds, both in our flower garden and in containers for us to monitor indoors on our nature table. Here J checks out the progress of a variety of flower seeds. Planting was unfortunately too involved an activity to get any photos of, but I'll be sure to post some pictures of our results!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

balancing act

Here are the boys zipping across our front yard on their bikes. Looks like a pretty typical kids-on-bikes photo -- until you look a little closer and realize that these bikes have no pedals on them. Several months ago we became aware of the method of teaching bike-riding that involves using a "balance bike", also known as a "running bike". Basically you let the kids learn to pedal on a tricycle, allow them to develop balance on a balance bike, then when they have both pieces mastered, toss the pedals back on the bike and voila! Bike riders! No training wheels, no fuss. It almost seemed too obvious, and too good to be true for parents like us with kids with balance issues who seemed doomed to spend eternity in training wheels. So we ripped off those pedals and the kids are going to town (or, um, pasture....) on those bikes.

J entering the front yard -- we figure it's the safest place to ride. There's a soft surface to land on for the bevy on inevitable falls, there's less obstacles to work your way around (like feed pans and piles of horse manure), and there's an ever-so-slight slope to it, just enough to pick up a very small head of steam for coasting.

And he's off and coasting!! He almost immediately began picking up his feet and coasting down the hill. He's VERY proud about this accomplishment, and the fact that the bike sports zero training wheels. He doesn't really seem to mind that it also sports zero pedals.

Zoo Boy is a bit more cautious about the experience. In fact, I really haven't seen him attempt to coast yet, he's got enough trouble maneuvering the bike around the yard WITH his feet. Which is surprising, since at the end of last year's biking season, he was the one we thought we'd be ditching the training wheels with first.

To give Zoo Boy a bit more experience and confidence, we did purchase him an actual Balance Bike (a nice wooden model, on the lower side of prices -- seems these things go for anywhere from $50 - $500!! -- this one is a small bike, so was at the bottom end of that range) to use in the house. Certainly more of an investment than the tag-sale bike we bought for $12 this weekend (which lost it's pedals the moment it got home!). But since he can use it in the house and get balance work in small spurts throughout the day, we chalked it up to therapy equipment, and I don't regret it for a minute.

Meanwhile, the pedals sit on a shelf waiting for the right time to reemerge. Although, honestly, Zoo Boy's outgrown his bike anyway, and will be inheriting J's other bike (which still has pedals), and since the one J's coasting on now is a bit small for him, we're planning on upgrading him anyway (so if you see me cruising slowly past tag sales this summer, you'll know why!). So my guess is that these models may just retire as balance bikes. Maybe we can then pass them on to some other parent looking for a less traumatic way to teach their kids to ride!

Monday, May 26, 2008

week #33, spring #9

It was another week of coldish rainy-ish weather for us (The Map Man captured this rainbow over our pasture from our deck). But things have suddenly changed up around here, and we're experiencing typical late spring weather -- sometimes seasonable, sometimes far too warm. It's nice to be wanting to be outdoors again!

J's Spring chorus performance was on Monday (he's in the white shirt, third from the right). The performance was an ambitious adaptation of "They Called Her Moses", about the life of Harriet Tubman. During the course of the semester, in addition to learning the music, the kids learned about African-American history and the underground railroad. The performance was just terrific, the kids each had solo singing and speaking lines as well as plenty of group numbers. It was a great wrap-up to our Monday Homeschool Classes year, and the audience was quite large.

The kids both had museum classes on Turtles on Friday. (Here Zoo Boy is checking out a Green Turtle shell.)

This was the first week of our brand new Planting Flowers Adventure Circle (photos and write-up to come!) -- it was the first original (as in, not from a familiar picture book) adventure circle I've tried since my first struggled attempts at it earlier this year. But this time I was armed with the understanding of how to keep Zoo Boy interested and participating -- build the circle around a repeating verse (for familiarity and comfort), and include a lot of heavy Sensory Integration activities. It was an instant success, and the kids have been pulling the verses and songs in their play all week. Our curriculum story was "Cluck Cluck and Little Tuppen", a nesting folk tale from the Enki Kindergarten library. Zoo Boy was particularly taken by this story of a mother hen trying to barter for a glass of water for her coughing chick.

On Saturday we all went letterboxing at Penwood State Park in Bloomfield, CT. We had a fantastic time gallivanting about the woods and fields, following the clues and discovering wildlife as we searched for the boxes.

Unfortunately, upon arriving home from our fun family outing on Saturday, we discovered that a tragedy had happened while we were away. Lemon, our sweet little lutino (yellow) Budgie hen, had somehow escaped her cage and was missing. We tore the bird room apart looking for her, and sadly discovered her behind a piece of furniture, not far from her cage, dead. We'll never know what happened, or how she got out of that cage, and we are all so sad at her sudden, unexpected death. Although we've lost animals before, this was the first that the kids have been really attached to and had daily interaction with, so it hit them hard. J immediately ran to bed crying and didn't want anything to do with her body or burial. Zoo Boy held her and petted her and talked to her, helped me pick out a nice cloth to wrap her in, and selected a special rock to place over her grave. He said a few words at the graveside in our flower garden and laid her gently in the hole, sighing heavily and saying goodbye as The Map Man covered her up, then gently laying the rock over it. He was deeply saddened but didn't cry. I let J have his space while this was all going on, then went in to dig him out from beneath all his covers to give him a hug. We talked about feeling sad and crying and missing those who pass, then he got up, dried his eyes, and he and Zoo Boy got back to their usual evening play and bedtime activities. Both have been checking on the birds more frequently to make sure all are accounted for and well. Zoo Boy wants another mate for Apple, and I'll help him select one soon. Lemon had been sitting on eggs, and we are doubly sad that we never got any babies from her.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Penwood State Park

We had a fun family day of letterboxing yesterday at Penwood State Park, in Bloomfield, CT. The old farmland that makes up this park was donated to the state by a local conservationist. It's a beautiful park, with fields, ponds, and lots of woodland trails to explore. We set out to find 4 different letterboxes, and after over 2 miles of hiking and an afternoon of exciting discoveries, we were successful in finding all 4.

Zoo Boy checks out a bridge across the outlet of a pond before starting off on our adventure. The weather was just gorgeous -- mostly sunny but not too warm (and not too cold -- a big change from the weather the past couple of weeks!). He ditched that over-sized sweatshirt pretty quickly once we got hiking.

An old spring house along one of the old woodland roads we hiked. There were several springs in that vicinity, all lined with old field stones. Obviously they've become a good habitat for frogs, as evidenced in the next photo:

I'm sort of glad The Map Man didn't take a picture of what I had to do to reach this frog in one of the springs! It was ENORMOUS! And only one of some really wonderful wild critters we ran into at the park. At one point, while working on stamping at a letterbox, a deer came out of the woods right towards us. She was very curious about what we were up to, and hung around for quite awhile, despite the fact that we were talking and trying to take her picture (nothing came out clear enough to post). Eventually she melted back into the forest, and we headed down the trail to our next destination. We also saw a flying squirrel, which The Map Man made pop out of it's hole in a dead tree by lobbing a rock at the trunk. It stuck it's head out as if to say "what the...?" then quickly dashed back inside. The kids got a real kick out that! We were also entertained by about a million chipmunks (my gosh, they were EVERYWHERE!) and various squirrels and song birds.

The Map Man and the boys at our 3rd letterbox find of the day, stamping the note pads.

We love letterboxing!

world turtle day

I'm playing catch-up again with the blog, so be sure to tune back in soon for more posts!

Friday was World Turtle Day, and the kids celebrated by each having a class at our favorite children's museum on, what else, Turtles! In this photo, Zoo Boy excitedly shows J the turtle he made in his class.

The wonderful Ms Sarah invited another museum employee in to show off her two pet Russian Tortoises to Zoo Boy's class.

Zoo Boy assembles the turtle shell puzzle he made in class.

The wonderful Ms. Sarah shows J's class the museum's Box Turtles. J created a giant spotted turtle during class, and both classes got to handle turtle shells. Ms Sarah also read a book about turtles to each, as well as discussing in depth the different types of turtles there are in the world.

The boys compare what they learned in their respective classes with each other while showing me the turtle shells. Zoo Boy's got his hands on a Green Turtle (a species of sea turtle) shell (which also happens to fit him very well -- he's just about the size of a sea turtle!). A Snapping Turtle's shell is next to J's left hand. Further down the table are a Painted Turtle's shell, and a Spotted Turtle's shell.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

summary week #32, spring #8

Only four weeks to go in our Spring Semester!! And our "school year", although we are going to probably work right through the summer. We'll slow down a lot of our field tripping and museum/nature center classes, since it just makes more sense to do those things when most kids are in school. I prefer to avoid big crowds! But we're still sure to have some nice adventures this summer.

Anyway, last week we had our usual busy, running around sort of week. The kids got to meet this albino hedgehog, plus many other museum residents, during their last Museum Explorers class for the semester on Monday. That was also the last day of Zoo Boy's Monday Munchkins class. On Tuesday we had their Speech Therapy appointments, and Zoo Boy got to meet his new Occupational Therapist -- the SLP and OT are joining forces to better compliment working on his clarity of speech. (His difficulties lie in the muscle tone and usage of structure in his mouth, all wrapped into his sensory issues, so a team approach makes the most sense.)

They also each participated in their own theatrical class based on the musical The Lion King. (Here's J taking a bow -- on the end to the right -- after his class's performance.) Both boys really enjoy the performance-based classes, and we're hoping to be able to do more of those with them next year.

Here are the boys working on a lacing project at home during our "lesson time". This was the last week of our Five Little Ducks Adventure Circle. I adapted it a bit to target the areas that Zoo Boy's OT wanted us to work on, so we substituted in Snail (an Enki Kindergarten activity that works on Naval Radiation) for one of the activities, and changed the main characters from ducks to mink (so that we were doing a lot of crawling around on our hands and knees rather than waddling like ducks). One day we were cats instead, so we got to lie on our backs batting at the clouds" (parachute). Our curriculum story this week was "Three Billy Goats Gruff", which was a big hit with Zoo Boy in particular.

The week wrapped up with a letterboxing adventure in a state forest with The Map Man. The weather has been really weird lately -- cold and rainy, not very spring-like, but they did manage to eek out a nice couple of hours to have their fun in the woods. Here J takes a rest on a tree stump.

And Zoo Boy find a big rock that he enjoys climbing all over.

Family Story Time books for this week were: The Lamb and the Butterfly, by Arnold Sundgaand, illustrated by Eric Carle; The Giant Jam Sandwich, by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway (silly, just plain silly....); and The Great Kapok Tree, a Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest, by Lynne Cherry (which was a bit of a disappointment in regards to storyline, but the illustrations were just gorgeous and the kids seemed to like it OK).

letterboxing at Salmon River

I'm so far behind in my posting, my apologies to all!

The Map Man took the boys letterboxing over the weekend (while I was working) at Salmon River State Forest in Colchester, CT. Here's some photos of the fun - they had a nice day and a fantastic time!

The boys navigate a puddle on the trail.

They found two letterboxes and left our stamp inside the pad, and stamped our pad with the boxes' stamps.

Then they spent some time chucking rocks in the river.

The boys pose by the Comstock Bridge. Looks like a great place for hiking (and fishing!! The Salmon River is famous as a trout stream!). I'm sure that won't be our only visit to that spot.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

little kingly lions

This week the kids each participated in dramatic classes that focused on the musical The Lion King. Here's a photo of the props the kids used on the stage at our local children's museum. The classes included a short performance for parents at the end.

J works on his lion costume under the direction of the amazing Ms Anne, during his Thursday class.

J's class performance. This class seemed really into the instruments and props.

Zoo Boy, in costume and make-up prior to his class performance on Friday.

All the little lions in Zoo Boy's class, doing a choreographed dance to "Just Can't Wait to be King". (That's Zoo Boy on the end to the right.) The kids had a blast, and they all looked really adorable on stage.

Cute classes! We wish more of the drama classes that the museum offers would run. We sign up for all of them, but they unfortunately are often canceled due to poor registration.