Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree

Tomorrow's book is A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe.

This charming tale of an overgrown pine that was always passed over for Christmas, and what his woodland friends do to help him.

We will be doing two activities with this book. First, we will make sugar cookies in the shape of Christmas trees and then decorate them. Then we are going to take extra tree decorations and decorate our lone little pine tree that is in our backyard. It was our Christmas tree last year, and we planted it after Christmas was over. I think we will cover some pine cones with peanut butter and bird seed and add some suet bars, as well. That tree is a favorite of our local birds.

I will post pictures of all our activities from this week on our Weekly Wrap-up.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snowmen at Christmas

Tomorrow's book is Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner.

Snowmen at Night shared with us the magical, slip-sliding adventures of snowmen after dark . . . but have you ever wondered what snowmen do for Christmas? Well, now’s your chance to find out! The snowmen are back, and this time they’re celebrating Christmas—the snowman way!

We will be making, and playing with, the ever-popular Snow Playdoh. It's easy to make and so fun to play with, making snowmen and other snowy creations.

Photo Credit

Here is the link for how to make it. Have fun!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Snowbear's Christmas Countdown

It's time to start counting down the days until Christmas. One of our favorite activities for Christmas is the simple paper Christmas countdown chain. My kids love to wake up each morning to decide whose turn it is to tear off the chain. We keep it pretty simple. We use green and red construction paper (or two patterns of Christmas scrapbook paper if we have some), cut them into strips, and staple them together into a chain. The only link that is not a Christmas color is the one for December 22nd. That's Eli's birthday, so we always dazzle it up with birthday paper and ribbons.

Here is a picture of our Christmas chain from last year.

This week we will read the book Snowbear's Christmas Countdown by Theresa Smythe and make our countdown chain so it's ready for December 1st.

On the first day he wrote a list of all the presents he wanted Santa to bring him. Come celebrate with Snowbear as the days leading to Christmas fly by in merry preparation! December is full of joyful anticipation for Snowbear-there are just so many things to do before Christmas arrives. For starters, Snowbear must put up decorations, buy gifts for his friends, make hot chocolate and cookies-and let's not forget-play in the snow, and go for a sled ride! So count along with Snowbear as the days pass and the excitement builds to Christmas day!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shopping List for Christmas Book Activities

Are you planning to join us in our journey through our planned Christmas Books and Activities? If you are, here is a list of the supplies you will need for the activities for the first six books (the first two weeks):
  • about four sheets of Christmas scrapbook paper
  • flour
  • salt
  • oil
  • cream of tartar
  • silver and/or iridescent glitter
  • white paper towels
  • red and white craft paint
  • shaving cream
  • white glue
  • construction paper to make Christmas trees, snowmen, or foam ones
  • sugar cookies (either prepared or homemade)
  • Christmas tree cookie cutter
  • frosting and cookie decorations
  • popsicle or craft sticks
  • hot glue gun
We will be making Christmas countdown chains, snow playdoh, paper towel poinsettias, shaving cream snow scenes, popsicle stick snowflakes, and will decorate Christmas tree sugar cookies.

We will be starting these projects on Tuesday. I'll post the specifics about the first activity on Monday. See you then!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Yes, we had school!

We actually had a couple of days of school this week. We follow the public school calendar, because two of mine are still in public school. So we had school on Monday and Tuesday.

Of course I wanted our focus to be on Thanksgiving. But since we are going to see replicas of the Nina and Pinta next Monday, I wanted to throw in a little Columbus and ship study, too. So we did a little mash up.

Dawson finished watching The Andromeda Strain for Biology and answered questions about it. He sure thought that learning the effects of deadly viruses on ph balances and amino acids through a movie (albiet low-quality) was much better than just reading about it in a book! It was obvious from our question-answer discussion that he picked up some good stuff. On Monday we will actually be starting our first chapter on Energy. Our focus has been on cells and the patterns of life so we are ready to jump into our first major topic!

In addition to his Biology studies, Dawson plugged away at Algebra, Critical Thinking and Grammar. Then he joined Brynne and I in our Thanksgiving/Columbus studies.

He read The Nina, The Pinta and The Santa Maria by Dennis Brindell Fradin.

He drew one of the ships and Columbus from the Draw Write Now book we picked up from the library. These two were actually two separate lessons, but he put them into one drawing. Notice Columbus' Santa hat? Dawson always finds a way to throw in something quirky.

He also wrote a five senses poem from his IEW curriculum.


Once our boat hits the sand,
We go to the indians to shake their hand.
It's cold outside, they keep us warm.
They teach us proper ways to farm.
We hug them tight cause we have peace,
So tomorrow we have a delicious feast.
We catch the scent that the food is done.
We all gather to have some fun.
We sing and dance upon our feet.
Thank you, LORD, for what we're about to eat.

Brynne and I, in the meantime, read Oh, What a Thanksgiving by Steven Kroll and A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus by David A. Adler.

She drew her picture of one of Columbus' ships, and put a stick-figure of Columbus on it. This picture reflects Columbus landing on an island that has a mountain (the gray thing) and a palm tree. She also copied the text from the Draw Write Now lesson.

In math, she did a couple of worksheets. One was a number order sheet and one was a math addition facts sheet. She said, "This is so boring." I knew they were well below her knowlege level, but I couldn't really find anything Thanksgivingish that was at her level.

So, I had her paint a paper plate to look like a pumpkin.

And the next day I cut it into parts and we did an introduction to fractions lesson.

She also worked on her handwriting, copywork, grammar, and did some personal reading to finish off the week. She has a nasty cold (again) so by yesterday afternoon she was winding down pretty hard and ended her day on the couch watching a Barbie movie. She was supposed to go with her homeschool choir to sing at the Community Center this morning, but I decided it probably wasn't a good idea to expose her snottiness to the elderly.

Over the next few days, we will be discussing the First Thanksgiving and also reading the book Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne.

I know many of you took the whole week off. I hope that you are enjoying your family time!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Counting my blessings,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Dream

Our Weekly Wrap-up is going to look a little different this week. We did normal schoolwork this week, but I thought I would share where our focus has been ...

This week we have been on a journey of Dreaming by exploring the Dream Exhibit by The Legacy Project.

The jumping point for our study was the book Dream by Susan Bosak.

Believe, Do, Think: This triad represents what author Susan Bosak calls the "core essence" of reaching for life dreams. It's based on social science research that has looked at how people achieve dreams and goals throughout their life. It has multiple meanings:
1) Pursuing a dream requires believing in it, acting upon it, and making strategic, thoughtful choices; 2) There must be a unity of spirit, body, and mind; 3) We need psychological and social qualities from all stages of life – childhood, young adulthood, and older adulthood – to succeed; 4) We also need to learn from the past (think), live fully in the present (do), and continue to build for the future (believe).

 Dream by Susan V. Bosak
Remarkable illustrations from 15 internationally acclaimed artists complement a beautifully poetic story that celebrates living and dreaming. Children will discover all the possibilities within themselves and adults will be reminded that their best can be just ahead.

We spent the week reading some other suggested books and doing related activities. On Monday, we started with the book Zoom by Istvan Banyai.

 Zoom by Istvan Banyai
Zoom in--what do you see? Two children playing on a farm. Zoom out--what do you see? One child playing with a toy farm. Don't stop zooming yet--just when you think you know where you are, guess again. Nothing is as it seems--and there's nothing to do but hang on tight as this tilt-a-whirl goes zooming by.

We engaged in a fun activity where Brynne stood a long distance away from an object (a decorative pile of rocks) in our neighbor's yard. She told me what she saw and then moved closer. Then she told me what she saw then. And so on. She ended up with a magnifying glass to look at it up-close-and-personal. Then she would take steps back and stop when she couldn't see certain objects that were revealed to her. We learned:  The closer you get to something, the more you can learn about it.

On Tuesday, we read Three Cheers for Catherine the Great by Cari Best and made stained glass stars.  In the book, a star is found on each page of art and represents the journey of a dream. They really turned out neat.

Three Cheers for Catherine the Great by Cari Best
When Sara's grandma, Catherine the Great, suddenly announces, "This year for my birthday, I want no presents! I have music in my Russian bones, and laughing in my heart. I have the day and the night, and I have all of you, " Sara is surprised. How can Grandma have a birthday party with no presents?"Her mama explains that a No Present can be anything from a kiss or a hug to a game of gin rummy -- as long as it comes from deep inside you. But what kind of No Present would be good enough for Catherine the Great? Mr. Minsky, Monica and her dad, Mary Caruso and her baby, Mimmo, already have good ideas. But it isn't until Sara is surrounded by Grandma's bundles of Russian newspapers and books that she gets her own idea: She will teach Grandma to read and write English. This lively borscht-and-blintzes birthday celebration shows that sometimes No Presents can be the best presents of all.

That day we also had a discussion suggested by my friend, Megan, who is also sharing this journey with us:  Psalm 37:3-4 ~ Your Heart's Desire

Trust the Lord and do good!  Live and be happy.  You are God's child.  Make the Lord your greatest joy, and He will give you your heart's desire.  (*he will place His dreams for you inside your heart.)

If you could have anything in the world, what would you want?  A new toy?  A special gift for a friend?  When you give your heart to Jesus, and then live in a way that is pleasing to God - when you make your friendship with God the most important thing in your life - He will gladly give you your heart's desire!

*from "I Can Read God's Word" from Phil A. Simouse

On Wednesday, we traveled to Tulsa to the Tulsa Historical Society to view the Dream Exhibit. Our friend, Brena Mathews, from the Tulsa Children's Museum was there to read the story to the kids, take them through the Exhibit, and do a craft project with them.

The Exhibit contained all of the original artwork from the book. The art is absolutely exquisite. Fifteen illustrators contributed to the book. The Exhibit also had the original sketches or ideas of the illustrators to show their original dreams for the book.

The kids made a piece of art where they cut out a "seed", decorated the page to show what the seed grew into. Brynne had sunlight, water, and love helping her flower grow. Her seed grew into a dream of "I want my kids to have fun ... swing, swim."

Before we left the Exhibit we made small origami stars and put them into the Dream Chest while making a wish. Then they wrote on a star what they dreamed for the future of Tulsa and pinned it to a bulletin board. Brynne put "love and people".

On Thursday, our friends came over so that the girls could make their very own Dream Chests. They painted them and decorated them with glitters, flowers, and jewels. They were told that when they have a dream, they are to take it out of the air and toss it in the box.

On Friday, we read All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan.

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan
A little boy recounts all the special places on his family's farm. Eli knows that no matter where the rest of his life takes him, all the places to love are right here, connected to the land.

Then we spent several hours making turkey plates to send for all of the residents of my grandmother's nursing home. The plates say, "I am thankful for your Legacy." We are mailing them tomorrow so they can use them for one of their meals around Thanksgiving.

We have had several spontaneous discussions this week related back to this theme and our study of it. We have talked so much about family, and legacy, and hopes for the future. It's been a dreamy kind of week, full of hope and nostalgia. Even though the lessons were geared toward Brynne and her friends, Dawson shared in the journey with us. I think that's important for Brynne to see. And, it's a perfect preface to our short studies on Thanksgiving we will do next week. We will do school on Monday and Tuesday and then take the rest of the week off.

"Come and Dream a Dream with Me ..."

Monday, November 14, 2011

HP TouchSmart 320 Giveaway

My son goes to public school and they use, extensively, a SmartBoard! The SmartBoard allows the teacher to pull up computer programs on a large screen and the kids can touch it to play it. It is so cool. It's almost creepy what all it can do.

Now there is an HP TouchSmart 320 that does basically the same thing. It look sooooo coooool and would be the most amazing homeschool tool!

Big Mama is giving one away on her blog. I have entered and you should, too! If you would like the chance to enter to win it, go to Big Mama's blog and register. Then read some of her posts. She is hilarious!

My Favorite Weeks of Homeschooling

I think if you break it down, we all have our own styles of homeschooling. Yes, there are technical names for a lot of them. But not all ways are established, published styles. I like to think I lean more toward a Charlotte Mason style in some ways, but I am certainly not hard-core. We also do a lot of classic work, like grammar, handwriting and creative writing, math, etc. We have a basic schedule and stick to it most days. When I looked at what makes us really tick, however, I see two things: Reading and Doing.

We have got to where we read (extensively) about every topic we study. We oftentimes translate what we read into a notebooking page of some sort, just to put our thoughts on paper. But a lot of times, we just discuss it.

When I look back on my favorite weeks of homeschooling, they have all definitely looked something like this (with an example).

I hear about a field trip opportunity. This week we will be going to the Tulsa Historical Society to see the Dream Exhibit as part of their One City, One Book initiative with The Legacy Project. It looked interesting, so I signed us up.

I go to any available website. The Legacy Project has a website for this initiative, with tons of suggestions for teachers and parents. While browsing the website I learned that the majority of the initiative is in teaching students about the importance of dreaming for their future and how their grandparents and the past have formed a legacy for it.

I choose books for us to read. The initiative is based on the book Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom and Wishes by Susan V. Bosak and illustrated by 15 different amazing illustrators. I immediately requested that book from our library.

Then I looked at the recommended books on the website and chose other books for us to read that week.

I plan activities. The website gave an abundance of activity ideas. We will do some "ZoomArt", make a 7-point stained glass star, and make a Dream Chest to include our dreams for our future.

We go on the field trip. We will meet our good friends for a day of learning and fellowship. We are planning to meet for lunch and then attend the exhibit, taking all we have learned from the week of books, activities and discussions.

We have recently done this same type of planning on fossils and The Trail of Tears. In a couple of weeks we will be doing the same thing based on an exhibit of replicas of the Nina and Pinta that are appearing in a nearby city.

Yes, the worksheets are important. Yes, the 3 R's are vital. Yes, we need to learn to follow some sort of schedule and learn how to plan and complete projects. Yes, we need to be writing.

But, for us, we always, without exception, learn the most when we can read about a topic, do activities surrounding it, and then touch it!!

These weeks are what make me giddy about homeschooling.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ E is for Effort

We have had a great couple of weeks. The greatest thing has been the Effort that has been given by both Dawson and Brynne. We haven't gotten everything done that I have planned each week, but more times than not it's been because the two of them have gotten involved in something else that could arguably be considered educational. It's been a joy to see.

Dawson and I finished our Westward Unit from America: The Story of Us. We took six weeks to dig deep into this era so as to cover everything we could. The last two weeks he has been learning about The Trail of Tears, the invention of the Steamboat, Abe Lincoln's and we have read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I had never actually read it, so it was so much fun. Dawson said he really enjoyed it. I must say that I'm exhausted because it was a hoppin' book with the necessity to read in several different dialects. Sometimes I would have to take a break for us to do some other work and then come back to it. That Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer were rascals!

He has been working on his IEW lessons, learning to take notes from references and rewriting in a summarized three-paragraph report. He finished a report last week on Colonial Medicine that turned out pretty good. We were able to see that he needs more practice on writing introductory and clincher sentences. He will get that chance with his current lesson on the French and Indian War.

In Biology, we are finally through the introduction of The Way Life Works. We have taken several weeks on this, making sure we covered all of the web exercises associated with each of the common patterns of life. Because Thanksgiving Break is coming up, and we don't want to launch into our first big unit on Energy, we are going to review the 16 patterns of life this next week and watch the movie, The Andromeda Strain.

His other subjects of Algebra, Critical Thinking, Typing, Personal Reading, Grammar, and Guitar are all going well. Like I said, his attitude has been amazing and made my days very easy.

Brynne has been working on some Autumn assignments from an Amanda Bennett Download-n-Go unit. It always seems, though, that if I am focusing on a unit with one of the kids, the other kid's main unit gets put on the back burner. That has happened with Brynne the past couple of weeks.

Every morning she does some computer work or watches a Super Why! episode while Dawson and I are doing his read-a-loud. Then she jumps right into her Easy Grammar, Handwriting Without Tears, and Copywork for Little Girls. She has gotten to where she can do these assignments independently, with minimal guidance.

We have been doing Sequential Spelling assignments every day. I don't personally feel like she needs formal spelling lessons with all of the reading and writing she does every day, but SHE WANTS TO DO IT! So, that's what we do. I purchased her a dry erase board, with writing lines. I read her the word and she writes the way she thinks it's spelled. She shows it to me and I either tell her that it's correct (which it is most of the time) or give her the correct spelling and she corrects it. I don't know if this is how you are supposed to do Sequential Spelling, but it works for us and she's happy.

After Brynne is done with these assignments, she takes a book and goes into my bedroom to read to our dogs. She has read 40 books so far! She doesn't believe she can independently read 100 books this year. I have assured her she can!! She is an amazing reader for a 6 year old. She reads a variety of levels of difficulty.

After lunch is when we usually do her math and history and science units. Math this week has involved doing math fact worksheets. They have been 50 and 100 problems long and she rarely misses any. We studied Oklahoma in preparation for our trip to the Cherokee Heritage Center to learn about the Cherokee Indians and The Trail of Tears. This week we did not study a state. I don't think we will next week either. We have something else altogether planned. And it's going to be a fun and exciting week! We will try to work more on our Autumn unit, leisurely. But we also have some pre-Thanksgiving studies to do because right after the holiday we are going to travel to Muskogee, Oklahoma, to tour life-sized replicas of the Nina and Pinta. I can't wait!

We did happen to get through our Henri Rousseau art projects this week. But I don't have pictures of them yet. Let's just say this: Artists during Rousseau's time chided him saying that his art was so "simple". First of all, he did mostly tropical paintings and he had never been to the tropics. So the fact that his art was so tropical shows how good he was. And, his methods were anything but easy! Dawson and Brynne had to each sketch their tropical pictures three times before they got them "right" and ready to paint. Then painting wasn't too easy, either. His art was not simple.

Like I said, the past couple of weeks have been full of Effort! I feel like we have just stuck our noses to the grindstone and worked hard. I haven't taken any pictures. You'll just have to take our word for it.

We are linking up with Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Christmas Books and Activities

 I can't even believe I am already writing this post!

Last year we participated in a Christmas Book and Activity a Day project with my friend Shannon at Peace, Love and Rainbows. It was so fun and really got us in the Christmas spirit.

I decided that this year we will do the same. We will do three books per week, with an activity attached to each.

Here are the first six books we will do. I have a general idea about activities, but will post the specifics of them later when I get them finalized.

Snowbear's Christmas Countdown byTheresa Smythe (make a countdown chain)

Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner (make shaving cream snowmen)

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie de Paola (a poinsettia craft)

The Last Snow of Winter by Tony Johnston (make snow-doh)

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe (christmas tree craft)

Santa's Snow Cat by Sue Stainton (a cat in a stocking?)

We will start the Monday after Thanksgiving. Join us if you'd like!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Our local library had a fun event last night. They hosted a "Stuffed Animal Sleepover". The kids showed up in pj's for stories and songs. Then they left their stuffed animals at the library for a sleepover.

It was great that it was an evening event because Rick got to take Brynne. She had a great time, until it was time to leave Pup there. Then she started crying. Rick convinced her to go ahead an leave him, but at home she had a couple of breakdowns.

She was up bright and early this morning, ready to go pick him up. We went for preschool storytime and they were reunited.

Brynne received a packet of pictures from the evening, showing her everything that Pup and his friends did at their sleepover.

She has spent the majority of today posing several of her stuffed animals and taking pictures of them.