Saturday, March 28, 2009

coming home

High honks and low,
Fast wings and slow,
The skies all one song
That echoes below.

-from "Coming Home" by Beth Sutton, an Enki Education Kidergarten Nature Story

This Canada Goose (actually, there was a pair of them) that we saw on our hike yesterday inspire me to read "Coming Home" (an Enki Kindergarten Nature Story by Beth Sutton) during our Fireside Friday story time last night. It is the second part of a story we read in the fall. In fall's story, Little Goose left her home with her family and flew south for the winter. In this installment, Little Goose flies back home for the first time to the lake in which she was born.

Our artistic digestion for the story today was a combination led drawing/craft. We traced our hands into our Science Good Book, pasted in a goose head and feet cut-outs, google eyes, and real feathers, and then drew a habitat for our geese. This first is J's creation.

Zoo Boy's goose. He was very enthusiastic about the feathers, not so interested in drawing a habitat (guess he thought that goose looked at home in the middle of the lake -- he willingly shaded the entire background in blue).

We also chose our family outing for the day to take place alongside a lake where I was sure we would see some geese on our hike. Here the boys venture out onto a point of land to scan the waters and shore for geese.

Success! A pair appears to be planning on nesting on the island at the lower left of this picture. There's usually a pretty good goose population at this lake, so these guys must be early arrivals. We did note a lot of geese in a farmer's field on our way home from the park yesterday, so they are definitely starting to move through.

My hiking family, enjoying our afternoon stroll by the lake. It was another beautiful spring day!

As usual, I worked alongside the kids while we created -- not only does it promote more enthusiasm in the kids when I'm doing what they are, but it's fun for me too! So here's my goose. Zoo Boy particularly liked the personal greeting I included for Little Goose.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring at last!

Spring has finally arrived in southern New England! On Monday it never got above freezing. Today, we were swarmed with biting mosquitoes. It may not LOOK much like spring, but it sure felt like it (temps in the lower 60s), and we were out enjoying it with several other homeschooling families at our favorite park. Enjoy the photos!

Walking the braille trail with the gang.

The bog we hiked around, filled with a symphony of Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs.

My boys, adventurers of the woods.

J's quote of the day: "Nature is my life. My life is nature."

Zoo Boy in the field near the pavilion.

instant cool

A scene from my personal horror film, entitled "Dodge Ball 2: The Sequel":

Scene: YMCA gym homeschool class, kids are happily playing kickball.

Coach (off screen): "Ok, let's put away the kickball and cones and get out the dodge balls."

Kids erupt in a chorus of enthusiastic cheers.

J: (to a bigger boy standing near him) "Oh boy, Dodge Ball. I hope I don't get hit in the eye again."

Bigger Boy: (incredulous tone to voice, shocked look on face) "Whoa! You got hit in the EYE the last time?"

J: (nodding his head in a matter-of fact manner) "Uh huh. It got all red and oozy and everything."

Bigger Boy: (with stars in his eyes and a look of admiration on his face) "Cool...."

jumping mouse

"Journey afar," he heard a voice calling,
"Joy awaits in a far-off land.
Jump over desert, jump over mountain,
Jumping Mouse, jump as high as you can."

-from "Jumping Mouse", a Native American fairy tale modified by Enki Education

This week's curriculum story was "Jumping Mouse", a Native American fairy tale about a mouse who generously gives away his eyesight and his sense of smell to help other animals, who in turn help him. Great story, Zoo Boy in particular was very taken by it. This first drawing is J's. Check out his jiving title line.

And here's Zoo Boy's drawing. Very obviously, "J" is the consonant we were focusing on in this story.

The kids' Js.

J's verse. The formatting fell apart when he realized he couldn't fit the entire first line on the page. I think his struggle with spacing between words was a result of his slight distress over this fact. You can also see that he was using many more capital letters than he has been lately, I think also a sign of stress. Interesting.

Zoo Boy's verse -- he of course only wrote the first letter of each line (all Js, as it turns out). Although he did put in the 2nd opening quotation marks after watching me add them to his first J. Also interesting!

My drawing, in case anyone wants to see it.

1/3 gingerbread....

(The title of this post is a private joke for my parents -- trust me, they are laughing their butts off.)

The kids had a museum class themed around gingerbread, of all things. They read a few Gingerbread Man type stories (the classic tale, Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby, and another one about a Gingerbread Girl that is supposedly the sequel to the classic story, I'm not sure of the title or who wrote it). This is J's Gingerbread Man craft (which he made into a Gingerbread Girl).

J working on his craft during class.

Zoo Boy working on his craft

The boys play a Gingerbread Man memory game.

The kids also made "gingerbread men" out of toast, decorating with cream cheese rather than icing, and candy bits.

I'm not sure why they didn't make actual gingerbread, although I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Zoo Boy was in the class. This teacher is making an enormous effort to accommodate his sensory needs, and spent quite a bit of time discussing him with me prior to the class starting. While I deeply appreciate the motivation and sentiment, I've found that in The Boy's case, NOT accommodating him is usually best, as drawing attention to something is more likely to result in that something becoming an issue when it may not have otherwise. Mostly what he needs is to just know that he can escape a situation if he finds it too overwhelming.

In any case, he enjoyed the class, with just a bit of distress about the smell coming from the kitchen (though I'm not sure what was baking in there), which was easily handled with a fan and an open window and having me in the classroom to make that suggestion. However, I'm going to think twice about signing him up for future classes that might involve cooking. (I've still got a post in the works about the whole food thing -- it's coming, I promise!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Baku who?

What have my kids been all excited about for the past two days, you ask?


Baku- who?

Assuming some of you out there are as clueless as I was, I will clue you in.

Zoo Boy received a DVD with a few Bakugan cartoons on it for his birthday from a friend. I had never heard of it, neither had the kids, but just the cover art got them excited. Turns out that Bakugan is another card game type thing, along the lines of Pokemon. Only with a much more attractive twist. And when the kids discovered Bakugan Battle Packs at BJs Wholesale yesterday, both of my stingy children, who think that all money belongs in banks, opened their wallets wide and made one of the few purchases they've made in their lives.

And they've been playing Bakugan battles ever since.

Here's how it works:

You select a few of these Bakugan balls.

You open your field by each player putting down a Gate Card.
Then you roll a Bakugan ball at the field, yelling (as loud as possible, apparently) "Bakugan, brawl!"

So here's the cool part: when the ball gets to the metallic Gate Card, it springs open, revealing the Bakugan creature within. Like Pokemon, there are various types and each has a certain power level.
Oh yeah, almost forgot, when your Bakugan hits the field you yell (again, loud is obviously important!) "Bakugan stand!"

Following me so far?

Ok, so then each opponent looks inside their Bakugan to see what their starting "G" power is. The higher the power the better. The player can boost the power of their Bakugan in a couple of ways.

They can "open" their Gate Card (by flipping it over and yelling "Gate Card open!) to change the field. In this case, the Gate Card opens a Fire Pit, which gives added advantages to some Bakugan (and I assume also is a negative for others, but I'm honestly not that well versed in the game -- yet). My favorite Gate Card is the Quick Sand, which allows the Bakugan with the lesser amount of G Power to win.

They can also use an Ability Card on their Bakugan to use a specific attack and boost their power. This is "Hot Wind", and I would need to read the small print in order to figure out exactly what that meant. But I'm not going to. Because I'm not a young male to whom these things appeal. (And appeal in a MAJOR way, apparently, if my kids' enthusiasm for this stuff is any indication.)

This game has inspired a ton of imagination and some pretty complicated math skills (my kids are suddenly adding numbers with 3 places -- whoa).

So I declare it a good thing. Although I've had to make room in my schedule for the kids to obsess over them for a few days. I know my kids, without that room, it would just be misery for us all.

Besides, I've already started using it in our curriculum work -- our movement activities today were a Bakugan Brawl (the kids were Bakugan who had to roll, jump, drag themselves along the ground, pounce, wrestle, and 'fly'). It was a pretty good physical and sensory work-out!

And, OK, I admit it, I really liked yelling "Bakugan, brawl!" at my kids.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

farm day

Yesterday we had the students from the Monday Homeschool Classes that I taught this past semester, and their families, come for a visit to our farm to participate in shearing a sheep. Kudos to The Map Man for taking these great pictures while I had my hands full (literally!). If everyone looks like they are freezing, it's because they are -- it never did get above freezing here yesterday. (Spring? What spring?!)

Hope you enjoy the photos!:

I introduced our guests to our sheep, and everyone got to pet Bella, a month old lamb.

I gave a brief sheepdog herding demonstration with one of our Collies, Joy, who was cleverly hidden behind trees or fences in every photo.

Then Joy (there she is!) and I penned the sheep so we could get down to the task at hand -- shearing!

Each child got a turn taking a clip of wool straight from the sheep. They got to keep the locks they cut as a souvenir.

A few hardy souls braved the cold to hang around until I finished shearing the sheep the kids started with a set of hand-shears. Not the fastest way to shear a sheep, but a lot more merciful on the skin than electric shears (at least the way I use them!).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

an interview with the kids

We're slowly -- ever so slowly -- recovering over here. We quietly greeted the Vernal Equinox by the fireside with popcorn and stories.

Meanwhile, Amy over at Live, Learn, Knit posted a really fun interview she did with her kids, and I instantly became curious about my own kids' answers. So I'm lifting the format from her, and asking the same questions to my kids. The questions are in bold type, the boys' answers are in regular type, and any comments I have to make are in italics :

1. What does your mom always say to you?
J: I love you
ZB: I don’t know (I rephrased it: Is there anything I say to you a lot? His answer was "no", but after hearing J's answer, he said “Oh, she says that to me too”)

2. What makes mom happy?
J: Being hugged
ZB: Being with her kids

3. What makes mom sad?
J: Not listening (hm, looks like the child actually does listen!)
ZB: Not being able to stay in bed forever (I'll bet none of you would have pegged me for being that lazy, eh?)

4. What does your mom do that makes you laugh?
J: Tell jokes
ZB: Tickle me

5. What was your mom like as a child?
J: helpful (Mom, I thought you'd get a kick out of that one!!)
ZB: I don’t really know

6. How old is your mom?
J: 43
ZB: 43
(But I'll have you know that neither of them think that I'm old! So there!)

7. How tall is your mom?
J: Now that is a problem….
ZB: I really don’t know
(Yet they can tell you how tall any one of 512 different Pokemon are....)

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
J: Train dogs
ZB: Circle (he means our "Adventure Circle")

9. What does your mom do when you’re not around?
J: Work
ZB: Computer, watch TV (while in bed, of course...)

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
J: (shrugging) doing a show
ZB: a magician, I guess you could, I don’t really know
(both kids struggled with that question -- I guess they never considered that I could be famous!)

11. What is your mom really good at?
J: feeding us (ok, never has answer to anything made me laugh more....those of you who know about our difficulties with feeding these kids have got to be laughing right along with me!)
ZB: dog training

12. What is your mom NOT very good at?
J: patience with blowing Zoo Boy’s nose (time-sensitive answer, I've devoted 98% of the past two weeks of my life holding a tissue for Zoo Boy to blow into....)
ZB: (shrugs) uhhhhhhh……. (the boy diplomatically knows when not to answer a question)

13. What does your mom do for her job?
J: train dogs
ZB: teacher of dog training, and our teacher

14. What is your mom’s favorite food?
J: (shrugs)
ZB: I don’t know, what IS your favorite food?
(Is it no wonder these kids don't eat? Neither of them could even think of one food that I like to eat. And believe me, plenty of eating goes on around here, just not necessarily by the little people.)

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
J: Because you’re very lovable
ZB: She lets me be with her.

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
J: What is that, a person from a movie?
ZB: I don’t know!
(Both boys were mystified by the question -- they don't really watch TV, so don't actually know what a cartoon character is!)

17. What do you and your mom like to do together?
J: Have our circle (again with the "Adventure Circle" reference!)
ZB: that would take some thinking -- I guess just being together

18. How are you and your mom the same?
J: We have sparkly eyes
ZB: Our skin is the same color

19. How are you and your mom different?
J: you have glasses and I don’t
ZB: We’re different sizes
(I find it interesting that they both focused on physical characteristics while answering those last two questions.)

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
J: Because I was born to be loved (no confidence lacking there!)
ZB: Because I’m her child

21. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?
J: The beach (For the record, I can't stand the beach -- but I guess I fake it pretty good!)
ZB: I don’t know

22. Where is your mom’s LEAST favorite place to go?
J: A building that’s on fire (Hmm...can't argue with him there...definitely worse than the beach!)
ZB: I don’t know (I think Zoo Boy was just tired of answering questions by this point.)

Ok, how about YOU guys?! Give the quiz to your kids and blog about it (or leave it in my comments), I would love to read the answers!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

mud pony

Horse of the wind,
Help me now
Guide me on my way.
Harness the Wind
Across the land
To bring me to my home.

-from "Mud Pony", a Native American Fairy Tale adapted by Enki Education

Despite my glib post from earlier, we really did accomplish some of our curriculum work this week, after a fashion. Instead of Adventure Circle, the kids participated in Sensory-rich relay races which I could manage from a sitting position, and practice time pretty much fell entirely by the wayside, but we did read and work with a Language Arts curriculum story, "Mud Pony", a Native American fairy tale about how a horse fashioned from Mother Earth's mud helps a boy become a chief of his people. In J's drawing, he covered his horse with a blanket to keep the rain from melting the mud back into the earth.

Zoo Boy's drawing. Since we were working with the letter "H", I substituted the word "Horse" for "Pony" throughout the story. Despite the fact that Zoo Boy's horse looked more like an "H" than J or mine, he had trouble seeing it, although he was delighted when we finally pointed it out to him in his own drawing. J saw it right away in his drawing, despite the fact that his looked the least like an "H". Go figure.

The boys capital and lower case Hs. J's is on top.

J's verse. I only used a couple of gold stars to remind him about the spacing -- he's doing a much better job of remembering. He's also moving along a little better with his writing -- he's prone to do quite a bit of dawdling as he writes, but he worked right along with this verse.

Zoo Boy's verse. He commented on the number of lines "Whoa, there's lots of first letters for me to write!" But he went about doing it happily enough, turning his tablet towards me to fill in the rest of the line as he completed each one. He again followed along on his verse when J and I read it at the end of our session.

My drawing, for comparison. This is the first time I've tried a "Gesture Drawing" with them. I started my drawing by saying "the wind blew across and down the prairie" while using the broad side of a block crayon to drawn a line (that eventually became the horse's ear , down it's neck, across it's back, and down it's rear leg). I then gave the boys time to do the same, then repeated a similar line, adding other features to the basic form of the horse. The boys followed along readily enough, but seemed a bit mystified about the whole process. I believe it was their lack of comfort/familiarity with this new style that caused them to add less detail than usual to their drawings. The led drawings I've done with them up to this point have been of the "Color Dynamic" type, where form arises from the basic light and dark areas we put onto the page at first. I plan to fiddle around a bit more with the gesture drawing with them this spring, and will bring some of that into our painting too.

poke-play, poke-learn

In case any of you are wondering what my kids do while I'm lying incapacitated in bed with the flu, I stumbled down the hall this morning to take some photos to show you:

Here's a game the kids made up this week to keep themselves occupied. First, Zoo Boy pretends that he's a Pokemon, moving and sounding like that particular Pokemon. He goes to J, who is pretending to be a Pokemon researcher and looks this strange Pokemon up in his field journal.

"Oh," he says, "You are a Speckeldorfer!" (No, that is not the name of a real Pokemon. Yes, I made it up. Yes, if I mentioned it to my kids they would probably have a fit.) Zoo Boy jumps up and down in agreement that J has identified him as the correct Pokemon.

J then reads the description of said Pokemon, including height and weight. They compare the weight to that of other Pokemon in the book. "Look, you are bigger than a Pikachu, but smaller than a Squirtle." (Real Pokemon -- I'm not completely ignorant in the ways of Pokemon.) They then use a ruler to measure off the height of the Pokemon on the wall.

Then they compare their height to that of the Pokemon. "It's as tall as my shoulders!" exclaims J. "It's up to here!" shrieks Zoo Boy, pointing to an eyebrow. "That's taller than a Niederand," offers J. "But smaller than a Regeice," adds Zoo Boy.

Then J rifles through a pile of silk scarves, selecting the color that he feels corresponds with that Pokemon's type. He holds it up to the Pokemon, and a discussion ensues on attacks that the Pokemon uses and how they are unique to that type of Pokemon. Sometimes a pretend battle ensues where the Pokemon's skills are tested out against some invisible well-matched Pokemon.

Professor J then makes observations about the Pokemon in the wild, jotting down notes and drawing pictures in his notebook (his magnadoodle). Here he discovers and documents a Squirtle egg. And then, as likely as not, he recites a verse or poem that seems to not necessarily have anything to do with the Pokemon, but what do I know! (I'm still trying to figure out if he's lifting the verses from somewhere or making them up as he goes along.)

Ok, so let's see. We've got imaginary play and gross motor skills (phys ed); use of reference materials and reading; weights, measures, and comparisons (math); assigning color to mood and drawing (art); and at least reciting, if not composing, poetry.

Sounds a lot like a full day of homeschooling to me.

They've obviously got this under control -- I'm going back to bed.

end of winter

Happy Spring to all! I am certainly not too sorry to see this winter come to an end....hopefully health will flood our household soon!

Not only did winter end this week, so did the Monday Homeschool Class winter semester! Here, on our last day this Monday, the Homeschool Chorus treated us all with a concert. They had a new chorus director this semester, and she really took it up a notch, accompanying the kids on her guitar. Very nice! J is in the dead center of this group in the back. He surprised me by having a small solo, which he'd never told me about. He gave me a devilish grin as he started his part, knowing that I'd be surprised. Unfortunately, Zoo Boy and The Map Man missed the performance, as they were at home nursing Zoo Boy's ills.

My Sheep to Scarf class, showing off their scarves. Cute buncha kids, huh? We had fun. Not sure why J's not in this photo, he was in the

Our final project in my Fun with Fiber class, we made these cute little yarn dolls. Other projects this semester for the preschool set were wool-stenciled paintings, wool-decorated wooden sheep, felted soaps, wool tapestry art, spun wool bracelets, and pom-poms.

The American Girl Book Club put on a play from the Revolutionary War period for us all to enjoy. There was also a ceremony for the participants of Junior Master Gardener, along with a sale of the strawberry jam they made, and a bake sale by the Roots and Shoots group.

Was a very fun last day of classes! Now that everyone is getting into the spirit of putting on performances and displaying their class results, we've decided that from now on we'll have a separate "performance and awards" week at the end of our semester, as fitting in all this fun on top of a full class schedule has proved to be a bit cumbersome.

Spring Semester starts in two weeks (next Monday my students and families will converge on our farm for sheep shearing and a farm tour!). J is signed up for Junior Master Gardner (which he is very excited about), Chorus, Drama, and Soccer (so a full day of classes for him, but he insisted that he take them all!). Zoo Boy will participate in my Paws-n-Claws Farm Animals class, and in a class called "Prehistoric Pals", and will still have plenty of time to play with his friends in the museum and in the outdoor yard. I'll be teaching Beginning Crochet (which neither of my boys were interested in taking, which is fine, there's plenty of time to teach them to crochet if they want to learn) in addition to the Farm Animal class. So we should all have a fun and busy Spring!