Wednesday, March 31, 2010

new life

Spring is obviously upon us, evident both from the inches (upon inches) of water that fell from the sky over the past few days, and the happy surprise waiting for us this evening in the barnyard (above), a beautiful new ewe lamb from our pretty ewe Alice, who will be named Gwenhywyfar. (We're going with a King Arthur's court theme -- Arthur has already been born on another farm and will be moving here when he's old enough.) I'll get better, less eye-glowy pictures of mom and babe tomorrow in the daylight.

And the fun won't stop there. There are more sheep to lamb, and we just set 60 duck eggs in the incubator. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

welcome Spring!

Ok, so we're a week late with our celebration welcoming in Spring. And it felt a whole lot more spring-like last weekend than this one. (Brrr!) But I was away last weekend, and the moon phase jibed better this weekend anyway! I'm not a Pagan (though I love many of the traditions, and The Map Man at least leans in that direction), but there's something deeply soul-satisfying about watching my children dance under the (nearly) full moon around a bonfire.

We're ready, bring on the warm weather!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

fact family games

This week we mostly just messed around with some games to support our fact family work, some via Enki Education instructions, some made up on-the-fly because it supported the kids in how they were taking in the information. As I was pulling out the Fact Family verse to post at the beginning of the week, Zoo Boy asked, "What are we doing today?" J whispered, "Subtraction, of course, we did addition with Grandfather's Family last week!" I simply read the verse aloud, and Zoo Boy exclaimed, "Oh, I see, 'going separate ways', that would be subtraction!" Love it, love it, love it....

ANYWAY! I had made up a bunch of these number cards (6 for each number) that correspond to the colors of the cuisinaire rods, as well as a few "+" "-" and "=" cards. The first day I took a 6 card, a 4 card, and a 10 card. I retold, again, the key point from the Grandfather's Family story, picking up the "10" for Grandfather, and the "6" and "4" for the grand kids as I read, laying them on the table, and then adding a "+" card between 6 and 4, and a "=" card before the 10 as above. Then I went on with my story, laying out a 10, and saying "The children stayed with Grandfather and played with him at the carnival for quite awhile. Eventually they became quite hungry. Grandfather asked his granddaughter to run ahead and let Mother know that they would be coming along right away for breakfast." With that, I laid down the "-" card and a 6, then laid down a "=" card and looked at J. He grabbed a 4 card to complete the equation and I said, "That left the grandson to help his grandfather pick up and prepare for breakfast." The I laid another 10 card down and said "After breakfast, Grandfather sent his grandson out to gather some wood so that he could whittle more whistles," and I laid out the "-" and 4 cards. Zoo Boy jumped in and grabbed a "=" and 6 cards, and finished the equation, and I wrapped up the story, "which left the granddaughter to help Grandfather sharpen his knife. When the grandson returned, they were a family together again and they whittled whistles together all morning long." Then I pulled the number cards out of one of the equations and laid them side by side.

That first day I finished by just letting the kids play around with the number cards. They built various families of three, and corresponding equations.

The next day I pulled out a spinner I'd made that corresponded with the card colors and explained the rules of the game. I spun the spinner and came up with a 6, which I picked out of the cards and then added two other cards (of my choice) to make a fact family. The it was J's turn, and he spun a 1, doing the same. Zoo Boy spun a 2, and so on and so forth until we were all out of cards. We played this game two days in a row, the 2nd day I pulled out cards to 25 to increase the options.

For the next couple of days, we played a game the kids have dubbed the "truth" game. I'm not sure if this is the same as any of the Enki games, it's something I thought of while working with the previous day's game. I spun the spinner and got a "6", then I made an equation (6+1=7) from the remaining cards.

J's turn was next. He spun a "10". He then had to put his 10 over my 6, and then make the equation "tell the truth" by changing one of the other cards (either the other number in the equation or the final number). He was also allowed to change the "+" sign to a "-" if he wished -- he did, changing the 7 to a 9 and making the equation "10-1=9".

Then it was Zoo Boy's turn. He spun a "3", and decided to change back to a "+" sign and change the 1 to a 6 to make the equation "tell the truth", 3+6=9. He then declared "number games" to be "the most fun games ever". Hooray for math!! We continued turn taking until no more "truth" could be told by the remaining cards.

More math games next week!

Friday, March 26, 2010

spring poems and ventures

Western European crafts, part 1

Honestly, I keep meaning to take pictures of us actually working on the crafts that we've been doing to complement our Western European cultural block. But I get so caught up in the craft itself, I can't seem to remember taking photos until after the kids have cleared out! But here's the remnants of a recent Quilling craft lead by my friend T, which all the kids (my two and T's daughter D) really seemed to enjoy, as did we adults.

Here's the creations from our first 'try it' day of quilling. J's picture is on top, of a campfire (he says the dark coil above the fire represents the dark night). Zoo Boy's is beneath J's, and is just a sample of the different types of coils and folds that T taught us to make.

For our formal quilling project, T printed out partial copies of St. Francis's "Canticle of the Sun" poem, and the kids created quilled suns above them. J's is on the left, Zoo Boy's on the right (I love his depiction of "Brother Sun"!). The boys were SO thrilled to be working with a poem that St. Francis himself wrote, and these are now hanging in an honored place in our house.

The boys and I also worked at home on a few projects -- here is some mosaic votive holders we made (zoo boy's is on the left, J's in the middle, mine on the right). This craft took several days to complete, but by the time we got to the grouting stage, Zoo Boy declared it "really cool".

Another "really cool" (according to the boys) yet really simple craft was coloring these "stained glass" pages, which now hang on our sliding door, brightening our dining room.
There will be more crafts to share before we finally leave this culture and move on to Western Africa -- stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

black holes

We've sort of had an unintentional study unit on black holes this week. The Map Man took the boys to a planetarium program (plus some related activities) on Saturday evening at The Children's Museum in West Hartford, and yesterday we met our friends Kyra and Fluffy at the Springfield Science Museum for their special exhibit on this most confusing of astronomical topics. We learned a lot. I honestly can say, however, that I still don't "get it". But it didn't keep me from enjoying the exhibit activities.

Above, J experiments with the magnetic/gravitational pull of a hidden black hole, trying to pinpoint where it is by the "stars" movement. (Black holes, being black, are understandably hard to locate, and you need to use star movement clues to find them.) Below is an example of the distortion that happens around black holes.

Above, Zoo Boy journeys on a space exploration of a black hole. The quote at the top of this post and the cartoon below pretty much summed up my experience! But the kids have a better grasp on the concept than I do -- I think their ability to think outside the box and the fact that they are not firmly entrenched in years of learning allows them to openly accept all the weird stuff that happens in the vicinity of black holes, whereas my brain rebels against it.

bikes, breakfast, and baseball

While I was gallivanting around Maine with dogs, ducks, sheep and cows for the weekend, the boys enjoyed the wonderful spring weather at home with The Map Man. It was the first time the bikes have been pulled out since fall, and J remembered everything he knew.

Zoo Boy has clearly outgrown his bike, but in typical ZBoy fashion, refuses to admit it or accept our offers to buy him a new bike. I really would like to get him really riding this year, but there's just no way he'll do it on that small of a bike. So we'll see what we can work out....

The boys jumped the gun on our cultural themes, asking The Map Man to make them pancakes from a Kenyan book. (We are going to be moving on to Western African culture in a few weeks, and while Kenya is most certainly not in Western Africa, it is culturally more similar to that than to the Western European culture we're still working in!) But I don't begrudge him caving in to their request -- anytime our kids actually ask to try something new to eat is an opportunity to be seized with gusto! J said he liked them, Zoo Boy said he didn't, and both requested more "traditional" pancakes instead for their actual meal.

Being spring, we of course broke out the baseball equipment. The boys were predictably thrilled and spent a bunch of time in the yard working on fielding and hitting skills.

Zoo Boy has taken a real interest in baseball all of a sudden (J has loved it for a couple of years). I'm looking forward to getting them out to a few minor league ball games this year.

I'm glad they were able to take so much advantage of the lovely weekend weather, because we're dealing with a week of rain and cold and ick now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

grandfather's family

This week we worked with the Enki Education 1st Grade Math story, "Grandfather's Family." Through story it introduces the concept of a "family" of three numbers, two of whom add up to the third, and you can subtract either of the two smaller numbers and get the other. (So, in other words, 2 + 8 = 10, 10 - 2 = 8, 10 - 8 = 2.) This week we just read the story one day, and recalled it the next, drawing the key scene where the two grandchildren sat down on the opposite end of the see-saw from Grandfather, balancing the see-saw without realizing it.

The following day we wrote out the key verse that labels the process. As J (whose picture is above, this one is Zoo Boy's) was writing out his verse, he suddenly gasped and said "Hey, I know what this has to do with math!! The two kids add up to one Grandfather!" I just love the discovery process!

The next day I pulled out a balance scale for our see-saw, and acted out the key part of the story, using a "10" cuisinaire rod as Grandfather, and a "7" cuisinaire rod as the little girl, and a "3" cuisinaire rod as the little boy. When the grandchildren sat down opposite the grandfather, the scale balanced, and I pulled out corresponding colored cards to build the equation "7 + 3 = 1o" in front of their locations on the scale. Then I stepped away from the scales and busied myself elsewhere as the kids, without any further explanation, dove in and created their own scenarios and equations with the cuisinaire rods and scale and cards. This photo shows one of their ideas.

This morning I woke up to hear J in the dining room reciting the "Addition Facts to 10" verse that we've been using this week to work on rote memorization. I snuck out to the room before he knew I was up to catch him creating his own fact families with the cuisinaire rods and writing equations on paper, both with numbers and with cuisinaire "trains" like on his worksheets.

My drawing, for anyone who might be interested.

Incidentally, I don't remember reading about using a balance scale with this particular story work, it just seemed like a natural to me, and I really like the way it brought the story to life for the kids and naturally worked in the number equation.

We've got a lot of games to explore in the next two weeks to solidify the fact family idea, and will start including subtraction in with the addition, but I think we're off to a great start with the groundwork laid this week!

what a week!

Wow, we couldn't ask for nicer weather in March! Despite all the flooding and mud, we've been getting out as much as possible. Enjoy some photos from our outing on Wednesday afternoon at a favorite (albeit flooded) walking locale:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

in breath

It's time for a great big in-breath again. We started out our semester with a bang -- 4 weeks of fairly intensive, structured school work focused on Language Arts and Humanities. That was a great big in-breath. Then we exhaled and relaxed a bit -- a week of science, then a week "off" (from schoolwork, but not all of our "extras"). I have to say, it was much-needed, but also plenty long enough. We all were feeling the need to focus again, and this was the perfect week, as we wrapped up both the Ecumenical Children's Choir program (see two posts ago) on Sunday and our Monday Homeschool Class session with our Share Day festivities yesterday.

The above is a photo of my Revolutionary Days class (minus three students), who presented a public reading of the Declaration of Independence for our Monday Homeschool community. J is 2nd from the right. The kids took turns reading paragraphs from the document, and did a fabulous job. They also made "Independence Shortcake" (with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream -- red, white and blue, you see) and "Freedom Tea" (red raspberry tea -- the colonists began drinking herb and fruit teas when they started refusing to buy tea from the East India Trading Company, and called any variety of non-caffeinated tea "freedom tea") to share with everyone. It was a big hit! (And very, very yummy!)

Later in the day the drama class put on their show, which I blogged about in my last post.

These events made for a great transition back into a more focused school day for us. We have a new element in our morning now, playing with (and training) the puppy. (And on that note, check out my latest project: .)

The weather is starting to be consistently good enough to walk in the mornings. I've shifted our spin-and-fold cycle after our walk to a song that better meets the season. I'm using a song from the Enki Education 1st Grade Movement CD call "The Cuckoo" but I've modified it to meet our needs as a spin-and-fold activity. So I sing "Oh, the cuckoo is a silly bird, and she spins as she flies" instead of the usual first two lines as the kids spin down the hall all 3 times, finishing the first verse the way it is written. For the fold on the way back, I sing the second verse as follows: The first time I sing "Oh the cuckoo hops along the ground down by the crystal stream, and she sings as she hops along of the coming of the spring," and the kids hop on the way back. The second time I sing "Oh the cuckoo rolls in the sand down by the crystal stream, and she sings as she rolls along of the coming of the spring," while the kids roll down the hall. (Today J asked me if cuckoos really do all that, and I said only this one crazy cuckoo!) The third time I sing "Oh the fox stalks the cuckoo down by the crystal stream, but he never quite catches her, except maybe in his dreams," while the kids crawl back down the hall.

The kids' journal entries for today, J's above, Zoo Boy's below.

We're starting on three weeks of concentrated math work, while sticking with our Western European cultural theme. Today we read the "Grandfather's Family" story from the Enki Education 1st Grade Math curriculum -- it's the last little bit of 1st grade we need to finish up, and is about working with the math fact families.

For practice work, we've finally made it through the "alphabet-8s" lower case alphabet. J is more than ready to move on, he is now forming all of his lower case letters correctly 100% of the time, so for handwriting practice now he is writing stanzas of our poem of the week (I'll post it when he's finished with it in a few days). Zoo Boy has asked for a bit more remedial type help for a few of the letters, so besides that he mostly will be working towards weaning off those 8s by writing the alphabet every day until he's got them all down.

I surprised the boys today by making all of their answers the same on their 4 processes grids. We'll be reviewing some of the rhymes that reinforce the rote understanding of math facts, starting with all the combinations that add up to 10. A nice intro to our fact family work!

Also pertinent to our fact family work is the cuisenaire rod worksheets the kids have been working on during practice. In this sheet (this is Zoo Boy's work, as was the addition worksheet above), they were figuring out how many different ways you could make up "9". We'll be using the cuisenaire rod colors in many of our math games in the coming weeks. (Stay tuned to see that in action!)

With the weather being absolutely gorgeous after our rain-filled weekend, we just had to spend some of the afternoon outdoors. We took the puppy down to my favorite frog pond (just a few miles from the house in the state forest). We saw bunches of 2nd year bullfrog tadpoles, fresh from hibernation.

When we got home, the kids worked on a stained glass window type craft. I'll be showcasing our Western European crafts in a single post at some point over the next several weeks. We've been getting together with T and D (who are also working with the Western European cultures right now) to explore Italian crafts, and we've done a bunch on our own here at home as well.

All in all, we've slipped easily back into the groove, refreshed from our out-breath and breathing in deeply!