Monday, September 29, 2008

week #3, block #1 summary

Wow, but this seemed like a long week. Our rhythms seemed a little out of whack, due to this, that, and seemingly everything else. We had a bunch of rain and not much nice weather for morning walks, and butterflies hatching, and a couple of late nights (which translated into late starts to our mornings), which found us only doing our Harvest Adventure Circle a couple of times. (One day because we were practicing the Community Circle I was leading at our homeschooling classes.) The good news is that the kids are still enthusiastic about the circle, so we'll for sure get one more week out of it.

This first photo shows the kids playing with cuisenairre rods during their practice time this past week. We'll be working more with the rods as time goes by, but we let the kids just get familiar with them this week. They also did their usual reading -- J finishing up Frog and Toad All Year, by Arnold Lobel, and Zoo Boy reading Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough for most of the week, until he insisted on us purchasing "Hop on Pop" by Dr. Suess at a museum gift shop, after which he read that instead. And we got rolling with our handwriting practice, which I still owe you all a post about (coming! soon! just too much else to post about this past week).

Monday was the first day of the fall semester of our Homeschool Classes. This semester I am leading a community circle and teaching a preschool level class about animals. Being the first Monday, I didn't know how many families to expect for circle, and was overwhelmed when there was about 100 kids. Out of necessity we held the circle outdoors. Not all of the kids wanted to participate, and this caused a great big distraction for those that did, and by the end of circle (which I cut approximately in half, as it just wasn't working), I had about 5 adults and 8 kids who had stuck through the whole thing and seemed somewhat interested. I thanked them and promised them a less chaotic circle next week (we decided to keep the circle folks indoors from now on, that way the screaming mass of playing children wouldn't be such an attractive distraction). Afterwards Zoo Boy told me that he really liked the circle, so it couldn't have been that bad (especially since he really is not a formal circle fan).

Next came Folk Dancing -- Zoo Boy opted out in favor of running around with the dozens of other boys, so J and I learned a fun dance together. Then he went off to soccer, while I corralled Zoo Boy to come indoors with me for the preschool class. The preschool class was cute, my theme was Opossums, and I'd arranged for the kids to meet the museum's resident Opossum as well as the other activities I'd planned. We made the cute (if I do say so myself, given that it's my design) hanging 'possum craft pictured above, we did some movements to an original Opossum poem (what can I say, I was feeling creative), and we read the book Possum's Harvest Moon, by Anne Hunter. Everyone seemed to enjoy the class. Afterwards the kids played with the other kids for awhile, then we called it a LONG day.

For curriculum stories this week, we worked with "Rapunzel" and "The Little White Dove". Almost the entire day on Tuesday was consumed by our butterfly debacle. Instead of painting, we had some playdoh play (I needed a little time to do some of my own work, so an unsupervised art activity was in order). And our science story for the week was "Busy Wings", as we wrapped up our study of Monarch Butterflies' life cycle and migration.

On Friday we joined our friends Kyra and Fluffy at the Springfield Science Museum, where we hung out for the entire afternoon, checking out the special dinosaur egg exhibit, participating in plenty of space talk, and exploring the museum at large. It was a perfect place to hang out on a torrentially rainy afternoon. Likewise for the Dinosaur State Park museum the next day, where our family adventure for the week took us. It was pretty much all about the fossils this weekend.

We also stopped at Cabela's huge store in East Hartford, CT. The kids were wowed by all the taxidermy (here shown in the Africa section). We checked out canoes (yikes, there's an item that inflation has not been kind to!) and other water transport options (we saw a really cute pedal-power boat that piqued our interest).

For Family Story Time this week, we read Little Beaver and the Echo, by Amy MacDonald and Sarah Fox-Davies; In the Woods: Who's Been Here?, by Lindsay Barrett George; and Home at Last, A Song of Migration, by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Alix Berenzy. And we started reading Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater, which is absolutely ADORABLE, and very timely indeed, given that the first sentence of the first chapter starts "It was late September". Talk about your happy coincidence! The kids are as enthusiastic about this book as they were with their beloved The Trumpet of the Swan.

One more week left in our first Language Arts block -- I'm already busy mapping out the details of our first Math block!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

fascinating fossils

As a substitute for our scheduled (and rained out) butterfly banding adventure, we instead spent yesterday afternoon at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, CT. We got to handle, examine, and study fossils; saw two films on dinosaurs (one specific to the dinosaurs and fossils found here in CT); had the museum practically to ourselves all afternoon; got to meet some of the resident animals; and learned tons about the geology of this area (well, I did anyway -- my interest in geology has recently been re-awakened. I was very interested when I was a kid, but haven't thought much about it in the past 30 years or so).

Zoo Boy at one of the interactive exhibits that shows where fossils are found in the layers of rock that make up the Connecticut River Valley. (Which isn't really a river valley, it was just named that because the Connecticut River flows through it. In fact, it is a rift valley that was formed at the end of the Triassic period when West Africa and New England broke away from each other due to continental drift. The strain on the earth's crust caused sections of it to collapse inward, causing rifts. Do you see what I mean, geology is TOTALLY FASCINATING!!!!)

One of many chances for us to touch real fossils of plants and animals at the museum. The museum was built over a "track bed" where there are over 500 dinosaur tracks -- the central part of the museum is open down to the track bed. It's extremely cool. Around the edges are walkways chock full of displays, information, and interactive exhibits so that kids (and adults) can garner an understanding of how that track bed was made, preserved, and eventually discovered by humans. (Accidentally, while excavating for a state office building.)

The boys spent a good amount of time examining smaller fossils using magnifying glasses and a guide to identify the kinds of animals. On our way out, I purchased them each a small fossil -- J got a type of ammonite (an ancient mollusk, like a snail) and Zoo Boy got a cephalopod (an ancient squid). They've been playing Paleontologist ever since! I got souvenirs too -- a book on geology (put out by Google, actually -- really cool book with lots of info and photos, plus website addresses to visit for educational activities on each topic), and a book of places in CT to visit to see examples of various geological formations. Not that I'm interested in geology or anything....

I even managed to find this butterfly display in the museum and tie in our original theme a bit. (Well, not much -- the museum is dedicated to education about the Jurassic period, and butterflies were non-existent than, since there were no flowering plants yet!) But really I was tying in our trip to the Springfield Science Museum the day before where we learned all about Dinosaur eggs.

Anyway, an AMAZING field trip, and one that I'm sure we'll take again. They have an incredible arboretum of plants that are similar to those that grew here during the Jurassic period, we definitely need to get back on a better weather day to explore that!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

busy wings

Last night we read the Enki 1st Grade Nature Story, "Busy Wings", which follows Little Monarch on her migration south to the mountains of Mexico, and back north again to lay her eggs after over-wintering with thousands of her brothers and sisters. Her children go on to produce grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who then migrate south again the next fall.

This morning, we recalled the story, then did some beeswax modeling. Both during the recalling and the artistic work, the kids were still obviously focused on the life cycle rather than the migration cycle.

The first photo is what I sculpted.

Here's J's sculptures -- there's a yellow egg on a green leaf, a green caterpillar (with black eyes) eating the leaf, and a chrysalis hanging from the leaf. And of course the adult monarch butterfly flying away. He spend quite a bit of time playing out the entire life cycle with his sculpted pieces after he made them.

I found it fascinating that Zoo Boy sculpted almost exactly the same things as J, even though he never looked to see what J was working on. His butterfly is on the left, then a yellow chrysalis (a little hard to see on the yellow background), then a green caterpillar eating a green leaf, then a black egg on a green leaf.

I have no idea what The Map Man was thinking -- he came in halfway through our modeling session and thought we were sculpting caterpillars, I guess.

The boys (and The Man!) seemed to enjoy working with the beeswax. Me, not so much. I'm not patient enough to do so much pausing to warm the wax before manipulating it -- I prefer the instant-gratification of playdoh. But this certainly smells MUCH better!

Given the kids' focus on the life cycle, I brought out my wax window crayons while the kids were finishing up their sculpture, and drew an Adult Monarch on our sliding glass door, over a field of flowers, heading towards some mountains. Zoo Boy looked up from his work, and suggested a sun, and I added a cloud as well. Then, across the middle of the scene, I wrote "good luck, Little Monarch!" The kids were thrilled, and commented that she was on her way south. (I tried getting a picture, but lighting at a glass door being what it is, you can't see the drawing very well in the picture, though it shows up just fine in real life.)

I had planned on wrapping up our butterfly study in a neat little package by taking the kids to a Monarch tagging program tomorrow afternoon. But it seems likely that it will be canceled due to the weather (rainy and nasty here, apparently for days to come!). Today there were downpours, and no migrating butterflies to be found, so we found alternate adventures to keep us occupied this afternoon. (Details coming soon!)

dino eggs

Hm. This thing looked much more frightening in person. I was hoping for some shock value, but I fear I have fallen flat.

Yesterday afternoon we hooked up with my very dear friend Kyra and her son, Fluffy, for museum exploration at the Springfield Science Museum, in Springfield, MA. The special exhibit du jour was all about dinosaur eggs, and we got a sneak peak at the home life of these ancient critters.

Other than examining the wee-est of the great lizards, we also had a lovely time exploring the museum at large, destroying planets in the virtual-planet-destroying-area (I'm pretty sure that's not the official name), snacking in the "dino cafe", and just hanging out and enjoying visiting with each other. Oh, and reading. Reading, reading, reading. Forever reading!

But quite a pleasant way to spend an exceedingly blustery, rainy day.

Zoo Boy and Kyra eggs-cavating some eggs-traordinary eggs. Pretty eggs-citing, no?

Um, yeah.

an award? for me?

Wow, thanks to Frog's Mom, who is homeschooling the ever-adorable Frog at Frog's School, for awarding me a Brilliante Weblog award! I've never won a blog award before, and have had to put on my thinking cap early this morning to figure out how to get the logo on here!

And now I get to nominate other bloggers!! Here are the rules:

1. The winner can (and should, really) put the logo on his/her blog

2. The winner must link to the person from whom they received their award.

3. The winner must nominate at least 7 other blogs for an award.

4. The winner must place links to those blogs on their own blog.

5. The winner must leave a message on the blogs of the people they’ve nominated.

As I've long pointed out, I don't read all that many blogs with any sort of regularity -- I really don't have time. However, those that I DO visit regularly most certainly are Brilliant(e), hence the reason I can't seem to stay away. Most likely these folks have already received this award anyway from someone else, but I see absolutely no reason not to award it from me as well!

Kyra at This Mom (kisses to you!)

Aspergertopia (not sure if it's Kosher to share your name, so I won't!)


TWO awards to Jennifer for her amazing Enki-inspired blogs, Tree of Life Homeschool and Tree of Life Musings

Stacey at Learning Along

And right back at Frog's Mom at Frog's School (and Frog's Mom has other blogs that are well worth a visit as well!)

Well-deserved, one and all!

And hopefully this will all go through OK -- Blogger's been acting a little wonky this morning, and being a bit technologically deficient, I don't think I could handle doing this again!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

the little white dove

Nestled in her nest in the highest nook,
The Little White Dove hides.
Needle in her neck, she sings sweet notes
To call the King by night.

-from "The Little White Dove", a Panamanian Fairy Tale (adapted by
Enki Education)

"The Little White Dove" was our story for the second half of the week. The consonant "N" was featured, and can be seen in one of the branches of the tree (the trunk makes the first vertical line, then a branch veers downwards and eventually turns up again to make the rest of the "N"). This week I've been just emphasizing the letter sound being featured while reading the verse, and the kids have easily identified the featured letter and found it in the drawings.

The kids really took off with the embellishments of their led drawings in this story set! The first is J's picture. Not only did he actually draw the needle in the dove's neck, but he also turned his tree into an oak tree, complete with acorns, and drew a variety of flowers in the garden around the tree, including, as he put it, "pollinators", a butterfly and a bee. He even got creative with the title, adding a "(coo-coo)" at the end of it!

Zoo Boy also got tremendously creative with his drawing (and very little of this drawing was with help from me). He told me that he was drawing a sycamore tree, and even added sycamore seeds, including one that fell to the ground. He too added a vast array of flowers to his garden, and even put a line in the 'sky' and told me it was a fast falcon flying by. His title is difficult to read in this photo, but it says "The Coo", playing off of J's creativity with the title. He's put a lot of effort and time into both of his drawings this week, and is extremely proud of his work.

And then came the writing of the large letters. I had re-read the directions for this activity in the guides, and realized that I wasn't taking the same approach as the recommended one. So I tried the way the guides suggested, which includes writing the letters first with a yellow stick crayon, repeating it until it's correct, then writing over the letter with a darker color, and finishing up coloring the background with a yellow block crayon to "erase" the mistakes. It didn't go over so big with my kids. They were more than happy NOT to make adjustments to their letter (despite me purposely messing mine up and fixing it as an example), and neither of them wanted to color in the background. J claimed "I didn't make any mistakes" as an explanation. Can't argue with that confidence! So I'm going back to my old method (where I have the kids color in the background first with whatever color they want, then write the letters once on the page). The kids and I were both more satisfied with that method.
By the way, the reason for writing the large letters is somewhat of a mystery to me in terms of what it does for the kids' learning process. But I like it -- it sort of solidifies the focus on that letter during the story set.

J's written verse. I was interested to see him identify his short-hand as that this time -- when he wrote "to" in the last line, he then added "(or 2)". Zoo Boy chose yet again to just scribble in all of his forest paths, claiming it to be writing. Again, as this is not even a developmentally appropriate exercise for him, I'm happy to let him approach it however he wishes, so long as it keeps him feeling satisfied, successful, and a part of what's going on.

My drawing. Not much to say, I like the kids' pictures better!
One more week in our first Language Arts block, then it's on to our first Math block! Hm. Maybe it's time for me to start looking at that math stuff....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

rapunzel; and defining a led drawing

Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Release your golden hair.
A Royal Prince awaits
To rescue the lady fair.
--Western European Fairy Tale (adapted by Enki Education)

The story for the first half of our week was the well-known "Rapunzel". The letter "R" is hidden in the drawing -- formed by Rapunzel leaning her head out the window of the tower she was trapped in. (The tower side makes up the straight piece, her head is the circle part, and her hair is the "leg" of the "R".) J cried while retelling this story -- when I questioned him about why he was crying, he first said it was because it's such a sad story. "Because the prince got his eyes scratched?" I asked. He nodded, and I reminded him that when Rapunzel's tears touched his eyes, they were healed. And he nodded some more and said "yeah, it's so beautiful". So, I dunno. Maybe the story is just a little intense for him. Or maybe he really WAS touched by it. He certainly felt the prince was central enough in the story to include him in his drawing, despite the fact that I did not include him as a part of the led portion of the drawing. (See my drawing below.)

Zoo Boy's drawing. Much of this was with hand-over-hand assistance from me, although he insisted on drawing Rapunzel's hair himself. He also added a "P" at the base of the tower, which he told me stood for "Prince", and a "W" in the upper left corner, which he told me stood for "Witch". Very interesting, no? His style of adding the title really cracks me up, and is just "so him".

The large capital and small "R"s. J's in on top. I prepped J before starting by saying "we are writing a LARGE letter R", emphasising the word large, and making eye contact with him. His "R" is appropriately large.

J's rendition of the verse. Much creative spelling involved and still not much in the way of spaces between the words. I continue to watch and wait. I'm going to try modeling writing the verse myself at the same time the kids write. Zoo Boy is still just scribbling on each forest path and calling it writing. I'm cool with that.

I have had several requests to include my drawings as well as the children's, in addition to adding an explanation of what actually makes a drawing a "led drawing". In the led drawings, I am showing the kids how to draw certain key components of a story, for one thing to ensure that the hidden letter is embedded within for them to discover the next day. It also leads them in the drawing technique of bringing form out of darkness and light (so every drawing starts with us establishing an area of light -- yellow -- where the main components of our drawing will arise, and an area of dark -- blue -- which will comprise the background). After we've completed the key components of the drawing, I'll say "hm, I think I'll add a tree" or something like that, and they realize that I'm done leading them and they are free to embellish their drawing however they'd like. For our first few drawings, they were hesitant to add much beyond what we drew together. But with each successive drawing, they are becoming more and more enthusiastic about adding their own personal flair to their drawings and truly making them their own. It's a pretty cool process, and I am enjoying watching them go through it. Especially Zoo Boy, who really didn't have much interest in drawing prior to this, but now absolutely loves sitting down with his crayon case and good book.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

bad butterfly juju

Monday morning dawned with great promise -- our little Monarch chrysalises had "turned to windows" and we could see the soon-to-emerge butterflies clearly through the walls. We checked in on them several times an hour and put off all afternoon plans so that we could be at home to watch the miracle happen.

The first butterfly started to put in it's appearance just before noon. We rushed to watch. "This is SOOOO COOOOOOL!" exclaims Zoo Boy in this photo as he watches the butterfly push it's first legs free of the "tiny prison".

I've heard that this is an amazingly fast process, but it seemed to be taking our butterfly quite awhile to come out. But out he came (and yes, turns out it was a male -- you can tell by the vein structure of the wings and by a black dot on the hind wing, which I never did get a good photo of).

Initially, he did everything a newly hatched butterfly was supposed to do -- he hung upside down from his chrysalis, slowly unfurling his wings. J watched the process closely. We all did. But at some point in the process, he stalled. He seemed to just give up and rest.

This is about as good as he ever looked. From here, he should have pumped fluid from his abdomen into his wings to straighten them out so that they could harden and eventually dry out. But when he still looked like this several hours after his emergence, we realized that something was terribly wrong. As we began searching for answers on the internet, our other butterfly emerged all at once, while we weren't even looking. It was quickly evident that its wings were not going to unfurl at all. It lived slightly longer than the first, which died during the early evening hours, but it too was dead by this morning, which was probably a blessing given that it obviously could not fly. I had planned to feed and nurse it if it had a will to live, but it would have been a short, sad life for a creature that should have been daintily winging it's way to the mountains of Mexico.

It actually didn't take us long to figure out the problem. It seems there is a protozoan called OE that affects Monarchs, particularly those reared in captivity in large numbers. Most butterflies can be infected with the protozoan and still live, seemingly unaffected and yet spreading the infection from one butterfly to the next, infecting the next generation as they go. But sometimes the infection is so severe that the butterflies have difficulty emerging from their chrysalises, or emerge too rapidly, damaging their soft abdomens in the process. Commonly, their wings will not unfurl upon emergence. If anyone is interested in reading more about OE, click here.

The kids took it all in stride, and found the research into the cause interesting. We all agreed to call Magic Wings and let them know about our findings, because it sounds like a huge concern for butterfly raisers, and we wanted to make sure the proper disinfection procedures were followed to prevent future generations of their monarchs from being infected. I talked to a fellow in the gift shop, who was pretty confused about what I was talking about, but upon my urging did promise to pass my message on to the curator in charge of raising the butterfly larvae and chrysalises that they sell. I tried to keep it simple so that the message would get into the right hands -- that the butterflies seemed to have OE. With any luck, he wrote it down. I'm sure the curator will know what it is and what to do about it.

In any case, I'm trying to embrace the entire thing as a learning experience. In reading about OE, we also came across some interesting info and photos of chrysalis parasites, which helped to bring about some resolution of what happened to our first Monarch. I've now learned NOT to buy larva or chrysalises from facilities that grow them, as these sorts of problems are very common when caterpillars are kept in large numbers in close quarters. And I was reassured that collecting caterpillars from the wild is not only not harmful to the species, but actually encouraged by stewards of the Monarch. Being so sensitive to environmental toxins and hazards, Monarchs are in need of a helping hand, and raising Monarchs indoors produces a 90% survival rate to adulthood, as opposed to a 10% or less survival rate in the wild. So next summer we'll be on the lookout for caterpillars to lend our own little hand to the stewardship of these beautiful insects.

But, you know, for right now I'm totally bummed....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

week #2, block #1 summary

The boys during "Reading Practice", J's book for the week was "Frog and Toad All Year". Zoo Boy's reading book was "Five Little Ducks", per his own request. We also started hand-writing practice, which I will discuss at some point in the coming week, I promise!

Their math practice for the week was tangrams -- on Monday, The Map Man read the book Grandfather Tang's Story, by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, then gave the boys the book and a set of wooden tangrams. The kids of course went nuts making all the characters from the story out of them. The next night J made a set of cardboard tangrams to match the wooden set so that each of them had a set. Ingenuity! Glad I didn't buy 2 sets!

Zoo Boy shows his Language Arts Good Book to The Map Man. He's very proud of his work and is always eager to show it off, which is a bit of a relief (and surprise!) to me. I was worried about him being too critical of himself with the 1st Grade work, but he seems genuinely happy with his attempt at the same activities J is doing.

This week we worked with two story sets -- "The Bear Boy" and "Bearskin" -- and introduced the consonants "B" and "M". (And no, there was no reason to introduce those two consonants during the same week!!! Pure coincidence, I assure you!) And we continued to use our Harvest Adventure Circle, which the kids had just as much enthusiasm for this week as last.

You gotta love J -- in classic J form, the day after I posted a comment on how he is not painting representationally, he painted the top painting in this picture. Of course, it's actually from our story work (the Golden Oak Gates from the Little Falcon story we did our first week), but I guess I'll have to reconsider using the 1st Grade Painting curriculum after all. (We'll see, I'll give it another couple of weeks before deciding.) The bottom painting is Zoo Boy's, obviously he's still doing just fine with the Kindergarten approach to painting.

An interesting twist to our week, The Map Man's car died (for good) and we suddenly find ourselves basically a one-car family. (We do own a very ancient mini van that we only use to haul farm supplies and take animals to the butcher, but it doesn't really count as a real vehicle as we are hesitant to drive it out of town -- we certainly wouldn't let the kids ride in it!) So our weekly rhythms are bound to take a few hits from that. For instance, we were unable to get to our Thursday nature walk playdate. And we may have to discontinue the kids' speech therapy sessions. The Map Man is working on a carpool arrangement for as much of the week as possible, but given as it seems there is nobody living in our town and commuting to the town where he works, it will not be 100% reliable. In fact, when the ancient farm van dies (which could be almost any minute), it will mean that either the kids and I need to bring him to meet his ride, or we'll just be out a vehicle for that day.

We had a fun playdate on Friday afternoon -- my friend Kyra and her son Fluffy came down (since we weren't able to go anywhere as The Man had the vehicle) and the kids had a great time playing with each other indoors and out.

Friday night we read our new nature story, Mariposa, and as support for that story, we visited Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory on Saturday afternoon.

Topping off the week, J began rehearsing with the youth chorus he's singing with this fall. That's him 2nd from the right, following the movement instructions of the director. Ambitious fellow, that director -- he's got quite a holiday show planned for this group of kiddos! J was extremely enthusiastic after the rehearsal, and claims that he'd like to sing a solo. The theater the practices are held in (and where the show will be held in mid-December) is really cute, and I enjoyed sitting in the back with the other parents and listening in on all the plans.

Family Story Time stories for this week were Possum's Harvest Moon, by Anne Hunter; Hello, Harvest Moon, by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Kate Kiesler; and Harvest Home, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Greg Shed. We also closed in on the end of our chapter book, The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White (in fact, we finished it today!) -- next on the docket is Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

hands-on butterflies

Our trip to Magic Wings, in Deerfield, MA, to support the science portion of our curriculum was a huge success!! J was thrilled when this Rice Paper Butterfly made friends with him.

A gorgeous Postman Butterfly near an equally gorgeous hibiscus. For many, many more photos of butterflies at this conservatory, see my posts from last year's trips here, here, and here.

The boys check out a poster of the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly, which is what our "Mariposa" story was about.

The boys pose with The Map Man in the conservatory. I'm not sure what I like more, the plantings or the butterflies! (Or the button quail. Or the Gouldian Finches.)

And we came home with souvenirs -- these two Monarch chrysalises to replace the one that we raised that didn't make it, and a DVD about Butterflies which not only includes video of all 4 stages of the Monarch, but also clip of a man eating a silkworm caterpillar (which is what made the biggest impression on the boys, and made mommy gag....).

Here's keeping our fingers crossed that these little guys make it and we can release them as migrating Monarchs this week -- would coincide amazingly well with our next nature story, which is about the Monarch Migration.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Last night we read the Enki nature story, "Mariposa" (Spanish for butterfly), about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, while sitting by a crackling fire, eating popcorn. (I love homeschooling!!) This morning we recalled the story (J is doing really great with his story summaries!), and then did a drawing from the story. We used new drawing pads, which I identified as our "science good books" to the kids to try to differentiate between the Fairy Tale led drawings we do in our Language Arts good book and the types of drawings we will do for nature stories. I told them they could either draw what I draw, or anything else they wanted to, or could use my drawing to get ideas from. I also told them we would not be looking for hidden letters in our Science drawings. So this first photos is mine, depicting the life stages of a Monarch, and a field of orange butterflies.

J chose to follow fairly closely with what I was doing, and here is his creation. He drew all the same components as mine, although his technique varied a bit from mine. He commented that he liked to draw butterflies by using two triangles, and I found it interesting that he chose to draw purple butterflies rather than orange, especially since he was a stickler to make sure our larger Monarch was orange and black.

Zoo Boy struck out on his own from the start. He started with a big "X" in the middle of the page. Then he drew a circle around it, then put a dot in each quarter-circle. At that point he looked over to see what I was doing, and I was just drawing in the egg on my leaf. He declared his dots to be butterfly eggs, then immediately drew a caterpillar, then a chrysalis, then a butterfly -- all one step ahead of me. When I was working on my butterflies in the field, he added some grass at the bottom of his drawing, asking to borrow the light green crayon he saw me using. J and I were done with our drawings while Zoo Boy put the finishing touches on his. He was very proud of his work.

Now we're off to spend the afternoon at Magic Wings, the butterfly conservatory in Deerfield, MA. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see butterflies at all 4 stages of development! And I know, from visiting there in the past, that we'll get the experience of standing in a field of butterflies!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Bundled in bearskins, he carried his burden
Through mountains so misty and cold.
Many a month, buried beneath them,
He traveled so brave and so bold.
From the Western European Fairy Tale, "Bearskin"

Here's J's version of the drawing to go along with the Fairy Tale selection for the second half of our week, "Bearskin". This scene depicts the main character's 7 year journey during which he was unable to wash himself or shave or cut his fingernails, and was required to wear the skin of a bear as a cloak, so that he looked more like a monster than a man. Even though J strayed from my drawing, his depiction of Bearskin really did capture the feeling from the story! And fortunately, we were focused on the letter "M" for this drawing, not "B" (which Bearskin, in profile, depicts).

The "B' can be seen better here in Zoo Boy's drawing. He actually requested a lot of hand-over-hand help with his drawing, and was very pleased with the results, which confuses the heck out of me given his problems earlier in the week. Maybe he truly just didn't like that other drawing.... But anyway, the writing of the title is all his.

Today we found the "M" in the mountains of the drawings, and then wrote the big capital letter and lower case letter in our good books. However, J (top) didn't see the need to actually write them large. (His exact words were "I don't mind them small". Hm.) Meanwhile, Zoo Boy decided to draw them without watching me first, because, and I quote, "I already know how to make a "M" ". Keep in mind, he wrote a "W" first, only adding another line when I pointed out that his "M" was upside down." Me thinks I need to re read the Teaching Guides about this activity as I seem to be slowly losing the integrity and intent of the exercise.

However, I did manage to find a way to help J out with his writing. I gave him smaller forest paths to write in today (about half the size from the past two story sets), and a colored pencil (Lyra Giants) to write with, the results of which can be seen here.

At this point I have three concerns about his writing:

First, he doesn't use any spaces between his words. Which seems to be a common problem for a new writer, so I guess I won't worry about that quite yet.

Next, he is using more and more abbreviations in his writing -- in this sample, he uses "M.t.s" instead of "mountains" and "&" instead of "and" in both places that word came up. I have no idea if I should or shouldn't do anything about that -- someone suggested to me that it might be a form of creative spelling, which should not be discouraged, so I'm afraid to say anything about it at all. He knows he's doing something "different" when he does it, because he'll do it, then stop to look at me with a sly smile on his face before going back to his work.

Last, the way he forms his letters are a bit cumbersome. It's how he learned on his own to make the letters, and involves extra motion and a general lack of flow. His pencil grip is not great, but he's accepting my adjustment of the pencil and his fingers and is trying really hard to write the way I am showing him, so I'm not worried about that. But his letter formation needs some help. That I DO know to work on, with the "alphabet 8s" I mentioned earlier (and will details when I have some photos to go with it as well). So I'm confident I'm on the right path with that.

In general, this was an AWESOME story set, both kids really seemed to enjoy the story and the story work.