Wednesday, September 30, 2009

homeschooling day at the museum

Yesterday we participated in The Children's Museum's (in West Hartford, CT) very first Homeschooling Day, where they offered classes for various grade levels and provided a fun location for homeschoolers to gather. Like a dope, I forgot my camera (sigh), but this photo was taken during our last visit there, in the exhibit where kids get to read a news broadcast from a TelePrompTer while they can see themselves on TV. Zoo Boy in particular loves this exhibit.

I only signed the kids up for one class a piece, since this was our first experience with classes at this museum and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. As it turns out, I wish we'd done more, but there's always next time!

Zoo Boy took a class for kids in grades K-2 called "Meet the Animals". He had a bit of trepidation about taking a class in a new place, but when he discovered that a friend from our Monday Homeschool Classes was going to be in class with him, he readily went in and apparently quite enjoyed himself. They did NOT meet these rattlesnakes (although they do reside at the museum), but they did get to meet and learn about African Hissing Cockroaches, Frogs, Bearded Dragons, Chinchillas, and Tortoises.

J took an astronomy class in the planetarium geared towards kids in grades 4-8 -- I was pretty excited to be able to get him into a class for older kids, since his knowledge about space is pretty extensive. From what he told me, the class was perfect for him, discussing theories about black holes and technical information about our solar system, galaxy, and the universe.

J drew a series of pictures tonight for my benefit, to show me where we are. In this first one, we are in a town that is (follow the arrows...) on the earth, which is in the solar system.

The solar system is in the Orion Arm of our galaxy, which of course is in the Milky Way Galaxy.

And the Milky Way is located within the Local Group, which is located within the Virgo Cluster (a much larger group of galaxies than the Local Group). And that's where we are.

What I really wish I had my camera for was the OODLES of fun the boys had playing with their friends after classes were over, both in the museum, and then outside when the museum kicked us all out because they close at 4:00 (the nerve!). They are looking forward to the next time the museum holds a Homeschooling Day! And they told me that we were right in the assumption we made a couple weeks ago when we first visited here -- this museum IS much more fun with friends.

Monday, September 28, 2009

being held by our rhythms

(The boys use free time before breakfast to read on various topics -- here they are reading an anatomy book.)

I've started to take for granted how nourishing our daily rhythm is, but recently I was shown an example of what would happen without a predictable flow to our day. The kids had a dentist appointment last Tuesday morning. As a result, we didn't get to finish even the early part of our morning routine, leaving for the appointment right after doing chores, no morning walk or story work of any sort. By mid-day, the kids were absolutely bouncing off the walls, being loud and boisterous, and fighting with each other -- all extremely unusual for my boys, normally they get along very well and are extremely well behaved. It was the disruption in our typical daily flow that did us in. Fortunately we had an entire afternoon of outdoor running and playing planned, because there was no way we were getting any work done, and I certainly didn't want them out in public like that!

I've had a couple of folks ask me recently about the details of our daily rhythm, so I figured I'd share what we are actually doing at this point (while also sharing some pictures from the past week). Our rhythm evolves over time to meet our family's need, so if you check back in with me mid-winter, you'll find some subtle changes. But for now it looks like this:

First, we wake up. The Map Man is up first, and is gone before the rest of us arise. J gets up around 6:30. I follow at 7:00, and Zoo Boy rolls out of bed anytime between 7 and 8. I put a load of wash in, feed the indoor birds, and bring in the dogs (if they were out all night, or I put them out if there were in all night). The kids do their own thing (as above) while I take care of the bulk of the farm chores, then come in and prepare breakfast. Breakfast is on the table by 8, after which the kids get dressed and we all head outside to finish up chores. After our chores, J heads across the street to do a couple of chores for our neighbor. Then we all head out for our morning walk.

(J playing soccer this past Friday at Homeschool Sports Class.)

After our walk, we do a "spin and fold" sequence to work on sensory integration -- right now we are doing an "autumn wind" sequence where I am the "north wind" and I blow the "leaves" (the kids) down the hall. They spin down the hallway, then hop back -- the first time they are the leaves hopping and skipping across the field; the second time they are rabbits leaping towards the safety of the brambles after a fox caught it's scent on the breeze; the third time they are frogs jumping to the pond they will hibernate in, buried beneath the mud.

(An autumn painting by Zoo Boy, made during a museum class the boys took last week about seasonal art.)

After our little sensory sequence, and a break for some water, we start our story work. Here's how that looks in terms of this current Language Arts block:

On Tuesdays we paint (still doing free-form color exploration type painting for now, we'll be introducing painting stories in a couple of months). After snack, we read a new story, then the boys have an hour of creative play time.

On Wednesdays I lead the kids in recalling the story we read the day before. In another couple of months we'll be creating a summary of our stories as well, but for right now we just read the story verse (which I have prepared in large print on an easel. Then we create a drawing (or other artistic endeavor) from the story, and read the verse again. After snack the kids have their creative playtime.

On Thursdays we read the verse, and then write it out, reading it again from our own writings. After snack we read a new story then the boys have their creative play time.

Friday follows Wednesday's pattern, and Saturday is a repeat of Thursday, only without a new story. (We read a nature story by the fire on either Friday or Saturday evening instead.)

Sundays, rather than story work, The Map Man does a woodworking project with the boys.

Mondays we have our Monday Homeschool Classes (which started today, in fact), so there is no story work that day at all.

(The boys playing their new favorite card game -- "War", which Zoo Boy likes to call "War Cards". Good greater than/less than math practice!)

After play time, the boys have "practice time" where they get to independently work on practicing skills -- right now we are focused on handwriting, and the boys are still working on individual letter sheets, although they will move on to number sheets in a couple of days. Eventually they'll have math worksheets as well as handwriting worksheets to work on. We also recite our poem for the week at this time. Eventually we will be writing out the poems as well.

Then it's lunch, followed by rest (which we start by reading a chapter from our current chapter book, assuming we're at home for rest -- sometimes our "rest" is listening to a musical story on CD in the car while traveling to our afternoon adventure destination).

(The boys playing with friends after Monday Homeschool Classes today.)

Afternoon adventures are all different -- Tuesdays we're usually out hiking or having other fun with friends, Wednesdays are our "home days", Thursdays we try to get together with other Enki homeschooling friends, Fridays are Sports, and Saturdays are adventures with the entire family. Sundays we watch football as a family (and J goes to his chorus practice). Mondays we just lay low with quiet reading time after our excitement at Monday Homeschool Classes.

And that's it! Hey, it works for us!

Sunday, September 27, 2009



Our verse from "Apple Tree", the Enki 1st Grade Nature Story that we enjoyed at our campfire on Friday evening. (This is J's work.)

The following day the boys created verses decorated with apple prints and fingerprint apples.

Our workspace.

Zoo Boy's verse.

Saturday boasted a perfect afternoon for apple picking.

Industrious boys.

Peeling, coring, and slicing our harvest.

Apple Crisp and Apple Sauce in production.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

autumn afternoon

We spent a wonderful Thursday afternoon with our friends T and D exploring the woods, ponds, fields and barnyard at Westmoor Park in West Hartford, CT.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Golden Feather

Our story for the first half of the week was "The Golden Feather", an Israeli Fairy Tale from the Enki Education 1st Grade fairy tale collection. J (left) and I (below) decided to draw the hero of the story determining the difference between the Tree of Life and the Tree of Death by looking for their reflections in the feather.

Zoo Boy chose to draw the golden feather lying beneath the Tree of Life and the Tree of Death. He also had the two trees sharing a cluster of leaves and apples, he mentioned this to me as though it were significant to him. He's taking a lot more time with his drawings in general the past week or two, adding details that are important to him rather than just drawing what he thinks is the bare minimum that he can get away with.

And his writing has come SUCH a long way! I reduced the size of his "forest paths" for the first time today (to reflect his smaller writing lately). Combined with the fact that the verse was a couple lines longer than what he'd been accustomed to writing, I thought for sure I'd run into some resistance, but there was none, he readily wrote out the first two words from each line.

My drawing, for comparison.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

best day ever!

Yesterday afternoon we met my friend Tr and her kids, Q and O, at THE WORLD'S BEST PLACE TO HIKE WITH KIDS AND DOGS. No, I'm not telling you where it is (Christine, I'm sure you can guess!), because we want it all to ourselves!! (Well, us and the folks that already know about it, mostly owners of Labs and other hunting type dogs -- in fact, I used to frequent this place myself for Hunt Tests when I owned sporting dogs.) Thanks to Tr for taking and sharing the photos, because dopey ol' me left my camera in the car. (D'oh!)

Above, the boys doing their best to hold still for a minute (with one of Tr's doggies, Lola, in the background, waiting for someone to throw something for her).

Water, sand, fields, trails, this place has everything a boy (or dog!) could want!

Below: superheroes Zoo Boy and O on the trails.

We're going again. Soon. We loved it!!!


I've been fiddling around with my blog settings today and think I've settled on the "stuff" I want in my side-bar. I put up some photos and info about us, links to the blogs that I visit regularly, and a list of cyber-placed I like to go. So be sure to take a peek and see if there's anything that might interest you there! I might even update them occasionally. (Though, considering it's taken me three years to bother to put anything up at all, I wouldn't hold my breath if I was you....)

Autumn Equinox

We had our little celebration of the Autumn Equinox last night, with a fire and the reading of the poem "Duchess Autumn" from the Enki Education Kindergarten Nature Stories collection. This has been our tradition for the past three years, and the kids (Zoo Boy in particular) were excited to repeat it. It was beautiful early Autumn weather, and we lit our fire at dusk and enjoyed the evening together.

Did you ever notice that the colors of a fire are the same colors as the Autumn leaves? That struck me as somehow significant last night.

When we read "Duchess Autumn" last year, we did a led drawing from the story the following day. Since I didn't want to simply repeat ourselves, we gathered leaves on our morning walk this morning, and used them to create a colorful background to write the repeating verse from the poem on. (See J's verse above and Zoo Boy's below.) I also made some leaf rubbings of a large Sugar Maple leaf with light autumn colors and cut them out so that I can write our weekly poems on them and hang them where the kids (and I) can enjoy them throughout the fall. I'll share the poems here on the blog with seasonally appropriate photos, too, as we go along.

Zoo Boy's leaf rubbings and verse. I had him write the first two words of this verse (which met with a bit of resistance in the form of silliness, but he did ultimately do it). Also, when he got to the "n" in "soon" I said "Let me show you an 'N'." As I wrote it on another piece of paper, he objected, saying he already knows how to make an "N". But without anymore input from me, he saw my "N" and claimed "Oh, I thought it went the other way!" and wrote a correct "N".

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

weekend adventures

No words needed.

(Ok, two words -- Go Pats!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wokwotoonok, the Wind Giant

Our story for the second half of the week was "Wokwotoonok, the Wind Giant", an Algonquin Fairy Tale adapted by Enki Education for their first grade fairy tale collection. Another of my all-time favorite stories, this one was a perfect fit for the start of Autumn, since it involves the North Wind and the Frost teaming up to cause leaves to change color, and gives a magical reason as to why the evergreens stay green.

Zoo Boy's drawing (J's is above) -- he wanted to make sure to include Keskum the Frost Giant as well as Wokwotoonok in his drawing.

Zoo Boy's verse (J's is above) -- he was playing around with the smaller writing again, although he's still using all capital letters. The Map Man actually did the verse writing with the kids for this story (good work, my Man!), so that's his handwriting filling in the rest of the words beyond The Boy's first words on each line.

My story drawing, for comparison.

fall sports

The homeschool fall sports program began on Friday afternoon. What a gorgeous day we had for it! It's being held through the YMCA at a sports field in a nearby town. J is in the 7-10 year old class, and soccer is the first topic they are taking up for this session.

Zoo-Boy, who prefers to be a sports fan rather than a sports player, hung out with Justin while J and Russell were in class and while Lori and I visited with each other and other homeschooling Moms and families.

I'm afraid a lot of my photos from this session are going to look like this -- we're just not sitting very close to where the action is, and I'm sure you can guess from my photos, I don't use a camera with a very strong zoom (it's just a little bitty pocket Fuji). But even at a distance I could tell how much everyone was enjoying themselves!

The kids loved the class, but my favorite part was afterwards, when the kids all got together to play some made-up adventure game where they were the crew of a ship that sailed to Mars to capture dragons. Each kid had a role to play, and they had a blast running around enjoying the open field and the beautiful weather. None of them were too pleased with us adults when we eventually decided to pack it in and call it a day. From now on I'll keep the remainder of our Friday afternoons open to accommodate as much play as the kids can muster. It's a great group of families, and the kids of all ages get along really well.