Sunday, April 24, 2011

week 29

It was a lighter week for us commitment wise -- pretty much everyone in this part of the world was on school break, so we didn't have most of our usual activities. In fact, other than Jazz class and Tap class, we had NONE of our usual activities. It was kind of nice to slow down and just enjoy a bit of free time! We spent as much of it outdoors as the weather (which was, for the most part, rainy and cold) allowed.

On Monday we lead our newly formed Letterboxing Club on it's first outing. We followed the clues to try and find 9 letterboxes. We managed to locate 5 of them, which I consider a pretty successful day, since we were letterboxing in a highly used park, and letterboxes in those sorts of places tend to go missing more frequently than boxes in more remote locales. We actually had a really nice day for our trip, especially considering how the rest of the week went.

That night, despite the drizzle (and partly because of it), we burned a bunch of wood from our recent clearing out of one of our outdoor storage areas. Zoo Boy suggested S'mores, so I ran down to the local corner store and grabbed a stale bag of marshmallows and their last 3 Hershey bars (they've not put up S'mores supplies yet, as the weather's not been very campfire-conducive so far -- in fact, the only box of Graham Crackers they had on their shelf was more outdated than the expired box I had at home, so I went with our box!). I also ran into the Packie next door to grab a few Mike's for The Man and myself. Here's The Map Man enjoying a warm spot by the fire with his treats.

J roasts a marshmallow -- the kids were already in their PJs when they realized we had a good roasting fire going, so they donned sweatshirts, raincoats, and rain boots and came out to join us. Fires and S'mores are a summertime tradition with us, and the fact that it was cold and raining didn't dampen their enthusiasm to jump-start the season!

Zoo Boy in gooey marshmallow heaven....

After finishing his second S'more, he looked up to the cosmos and declared, while rain splashed on his face, "What a GREAT night!"

The rest of our week was on the quiet side. We finished up our Sage cycle (which I already blogged about separately), visited the library, had a couple of play dates, took a few family walks, then celebrated our extended family's holiday with them.

So a quiet week (compared to usual, anyway), but a fun and rewarding one!

John Muir, chapters 3 & 4

We finished up our John Muir sage story this week -- above is J's and Zoo Boy's (in that order) drawings from Chapter 3, below is their written summaries.

We all drew to-scale drawings of Giant Sequoia trees, with John Muir standing next to them. J's is on the left, Zoo Boy's is in the middle, and mine is on the right. (Actually, my Muir is a little bit too big for the scale!) We didn't actually cover the concept of scale at this point -- I just wanted the kids to experience it right now, we'll be working with the concept in detail over the next couple of years. They were pretty blown away by just how big these trees are!

Their Chapter 4 summaries above, and some final drawings (below) to finish out the story (J's is of John giving a tour in one of the National Parks he helped to get recognized, Zoo Boy's is of John writing about his experiences inside his cabin).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

weekly wrap-up, week 28

Spring sure is taking it's own sweet time at getting rolling this year, we're still walking in winter coats! It's been fairly dry too (despite the deluge going on out there right now). Weird, weird weather...

We started the new week by taking the kids to see a really wonderful production of "Alice in Wonderland" (the musical) on Saturday evening. It was every bit as delightfully disturbing as the book, and we all quite enjoyed watching the ensemble transform themselves into all the various characters. I don't remember ever laughing so hard at a live theater production.

Sunday found us, as usual, at J's chorus rehearsal. Just a few weeks until the show. I won't be too sorry not to have to drive so far on Sunday evenings once it's over.

The bunnies are getting bigger! So The Map Man has been working on constructing a larger cage for them with various cage pieces and equipment from my bunny breeding days. Meanwhile, the kids have been taking extremely good care of them, with only gentle reminders from us on occasion as needed. The Man and I both agree that getting them was a very good idea. The boys have also taken a bit more responsibility with the daily farm chores again, now that the footing out there is no longer treacherous.

We started our schoolwork for the week with some paintings inspired by our poem from last week ("The Hills in the Highlands"). On the left is J's, on the right is Zoo Boy's:

The rest of the week we worked on Journals (which I've been keeping private for the sake of, well, privacy!), read a Scottish fairy tale called "The Black Bull of Norroway," and began working with our next sage, John Muir. I posted their sage story work separately. And of course all of our usual practice work. This week's poem has been "The Weaving of the Tartan," by Alice Macdonell, although we are only reciting it, not doing any copy work from it since there is enough writing during their main lesson work when we're working with a sage story.

Here's a copy of some of Zoo Boy's speech therapy homework, practicing his "r" sounds as they associate with various vowels. J had his Social Thinking group, and they had a blast as usual playing games in perspective taking and idea building. He also had piano and guitar lessons, and we all had a nice visit (and a nice walk!) with our friends afterwards. We visiting more friends on Wednesday afternoon as well. And J had his usual 5 dance classes, plus a ballet show rehearsal, while Zoo Boy helped me out with grocery shopping and accompanied The Map Man on his evening walks.

We wrapped up our week with our fun (as always!) Science Fridays meeting, which I posted about here.

Today we had a family birthday party (more fun!) and tomorrow we have plans to (hopefully) get a bunch of spring farm maintenance work done ahead of breeding some of our ducks and getting some new chicks in a few weeks. We'll see how wet it is out there and whether or not that impedes our progress -- it's pouring pretty good at the moment, but it's supposed to clear up by morning, hopefully leaving us a nice spring day to get a bunch of work done!

density, part 2

We played around with density again during this week's Science Fridays meeting. First we reviewed the experiment we did last week, and discussed again why the hot water floated on top of the cold water. (Because when you heat water, the molecules move further apart, making it less dense.)

Then we experimented a bit with popcorn:

Why does an unpopped popcorn kernel sink, yet a popped one floats? The unpopped kernel is more dense.

Our little molecules, all bundled up together inside of a popcorn kernel.

We add bit of heat and...

POP! The molecules move away from each other, and the popcorn kernel explodes outwards.

We also floated bits of bread in water. Then we made the bread bits more dense by squishing them into balls, which then sank.

Back to the popcorn....we popped a bunch of popcorn, and the kids pretended they were molecules in a substance, making the substance more and less dense by piling the popcorn together in the center of their plate and by spreading it out around their plate.

Then we let them make their substance really dense, by adding a bit of melted marshmallow and butter and really pushing those popcorn "molecules" together....squish, squish....

Result = one dense popcorn ball. (Yum!) And 140 really sticky fingers....

John Muir, chapters 1 & 2

I know I said I was just going to blog weekly reviews, but I can't figure out how to include photos of all the story work in that sort of a post, so here's what the boys did for work on our Scottish Sage, John Muir, this week:

Monday, April 11, 2011

the gala

It was the social event of the year! J's ballet school held their annual fundraising ball this past weekend, at a posh hotel in Hartford. Not only did The Map Man and I (and Mimi!) get to enjoy a fabulous night of dining and dancing, but the school's pre-professional ballet students got to perform for the guests in the ballroom before dinner was served. I was busy helping to sew costumes for weeks leading up to it, and it was well worth it to watch how much the kids enjoyed being able to perform to such an intimate audience. J was well-pleased with his outfit (which I think makes him look just like Little Lord Fauntleroy, don't you?!), and he couldn't wait to get it on after the kids were served their meal in a downstairs banquet hall.

J dancing during the performance. The theme was "Royal Wedding," and the kids were playing the parts of the wedding party for Princess Aurora and Prince Desire (from The Sleeping Beauty Ballet). They even served wedding cake (complete with the happy couple cutting the cake)!

The kids got to change into party clothes and join us for desert and dancing after we had dinner. Here J snacks on M&Ms that had been wrapped up like little wedding favors, sitting next to Mimi at our table.

J arrived at the party just in time to dance with "Princes Aurora" (one of his teachers) during her "dollar dance".

He also got to dance with Mimi, and about 3 dozen classmates, teachers, and friends...

...including me!

When he wasn't dancing with someone else, he was busy "getting down" on his own -- that boy was everywhere on the dance floor, and he didn't hesitate to drop to the floor for a bit of break dancing here and there.

Seriously, whose kid is this?!?!?!

J poses with Miss Nicole (his current Jazz and Tap teacher) and Miss Naomi (his first ballet teacher -- I told her this is all her fault!!).

We all had a blast (The Map Man and I had a great time dancing too, though I never thought to have anyone take a picture of us -- I'm a dope!), and we're already looking forward to next year's Gala!

Friday, April 8, 2011

weekly wrap-ups resurrected -- week 27

Ok, so obviously I'm having trouble keeping up with trying to post our daily activities, and have been for awhile. Since I'm in the groove of finding ways to fit in those things that I feel are important for my kids, my family, and myself, I am going to try to take the blogging pressure off myself, and switch to doing weekly wrap-ups rather than trying to post as things happen. Of course, I'll still toss up big things and special events, etc, but as far as my "record keeping" (which is why I really blog to begin with!), I'll drop back to just posting about the more important stuff from the week.

My big accomplishment for this week was re-starting up our routine of taking morning walks to start our school day. It's still darn chilly in the mornings, but I think we're all feeling the benefits of getting out and walking more, and it's just such a lovely way to get in our movement and exercise for the morning. We still follow up with a cultural dance (right now we're dancing a type of Scottish Jig, to the Scottish folk song "Aiken Drum"), followed by a spin and fold type sensory integration sequence to make sure we're grounded before we start our seated work.

I also managed to fit in little 15-minute-or-so cleaning session each day to help us try to reorganize our work and living spaces. The kids have actually cheerfully chipped in, so I have hope to get this place manageable again soon. (They are motivated knowing that if we get it all cleaned up, they can invite friends to come over! It's been a long winter of doing our visiting elsewhere, they are ready to have some social fun here.)

We're in our "Intersession" between sessions at our Monday Homeschool Classes. This week I led a workshop on Letterboxing, where we launched the brand-new "MHC Letterboxing Club." The plan is to offer letterboxing field trips throughout the summer and during intersession.

My kids were really excited about the idea of combining two of their favorite activities -- getting together with other homeschool friends, and letterboxing. During the workshop, the kids made their own stamps for letterboxing and put together a packet with the things they needed. We also played an in-museum letterboxing game since the weather outside was frightful. We had 16 kids ranging in age from 2 to 12, and everyone seemed to have fun!

In club business, our first task was to design a letterboxing stamp to include in the first box we plant. This is the design I came up with after soliciting ideas for what should be included from the kids (this covered most of their ideas).

The Map Man then took the design, did the lettering and formatting, and returned it to me for the artwork. He then created a digital file of the whole thing and sent it off to the Stamp Works to have the stamp professionally made. The club will take the stamp and assemble a letterbox, which we will plant during our first letterboxing field trip, to be held in couple of weeks.

As part of our Scottish cultural theme, we are reciting Scottish Poetry. Each week I post a new poem, which we recite every morning before starting our main lesson. The poem also becomes the basis of our daily handwriting practice:

In addition to handwriting practice, the boys also have independent work with math word problems (using various workbooks for that purpose), drilling of addition and subtraction facts (using Kumon workbooks), and reading comprehension exercises (using Teacher Created Resource's Nonfiction Reading Comprehension workbooks on various Science, Geography, History, and Informational topics). They both really enjoy the math worksheets and taking the quizzes about the articles they are reading (and they enjoy quizzing each other too!).

In addition to the independent work, I also read aloud a short passage (that I make up) with 4 math problems embedded in them that have something to do with a story we've ready recently (or with a real life event that has recently occurred). There is one problem each of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (not necessarily in that order), and the main point of the exercise is for the boys to be able to pluck out the important information from the passage, and identify which math process is involved. The problems themselves are actually very simple to solve, because I don't want the kids bogged down (and then frustrated) by heavy math during this exercise.

One example from this week was "The fox climbing into the man's basket and started throwing out fish, which his brother then collected. The first time, he tossed out 1 fish. Then he tossed out 2 fish. Then he tossed out 3 fish. Then he tossed out the rest of the fish in the basket, which was 6. How many fish did the foxes have for dinner that night? (1+2+3+6=12) The foxes ate 4 fish apiece for dinner, how many fish were eaten? (2x4=8) How many fish were left over for breakfast? (12-8=4) How many fish could each fox eat for breakfast? (4/2=2)

Speaking of those two foxes, they were a part of another of our Scottish Trickster Tales. These are the boys' drawings and summaries from that story.

As usual, J attended his group Social Skills class with his therapist, and Zoo Boy saw his speech therapist for a session. Afterwards, we went to J's piano and guitar lessons, where we also added in a bit of vocal coaching as well, working with his solo for his upcoming chorus concert, then a bit of social time with his teacher's family (who are good friends of ours). We also had the usual array of dance classes this week, plus extra rehearsals for an upcoming event tonight (more on that in my next post!).

We spent a bit of time discussing the upcoming summer, and what each boy would like to get out of it. J is going to be doing a bunch of dancing, including a week long Modern workshop and a 2 week long Ballet intensive in addition to a summer class schedule, so he doesn't feel like he needs anything more in terms of organized activities - he'd like to go to the lake a lot, and spend time having fun with friends. Zoo Boy would like some sort of camp experience, but doesn't want to go for a full day, so he has me looking into options for him, and hoping I can find something to pique his interest that coincides with J's full days, so maybe I can get a few hours to myself for fall planning. He also wants to spend lot of time at the lake and having fun with friends.

And that's mostly what I want out of this coming summer -- lots of fun with friends! And a little time to plan for the fall.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

walking again

We've officially had it with waiting for Spring to really start, and we started our routine of taking mornings walks again this morning. At least it was sunny (it snowed twice yesterday!), despite being quite chilly with a biting north wind. Yesterday was Joy's 9th birthday, so we took her with us, too, to celebrate. Walking pushed back the start of our morning "school" activities by an hour, but it's well worth it to get out and moving and enjoying the day. (It will be even more worth it once it finally warms up.)
Spring is TRYING to make an appearance. Here some daffodils push through. If only Canada would keep their cold wind to themselves!

Skunk cabbage is also doing it's best to come up.

And look! Crocuses!! (Or is it Crocusi? Guess not, spellcheck doesn't like that.)

Our favorite vernal pool still has a bit longer to wait for signs of life, though there's plenty of water in it.

The boys ponder over the felling of one of our favorite old snags, which apparently did not survive the winter. There are a lot of old trees (mostly Apples) along our road with great hollows and holes to explore, and this one had been a particularly active tree (I guess because it was just so dead!).

More evidence of winter damage, we stopped to discuss the sorts of critters that might have burrowed through the snow to snack on this woody shrub. And we took some time to make guesses as to whether or not there will be any new growth on this bush this year (and why there might not be). We'll keep checking back in with it to see if we were right.

Our property from the road.

"It sure is cold," Zoo Boy commented, "but it also sure is nice to be outdoors."

Amen to that, little brother.