Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Your Thoughts on Book Reports

Today I would appreciate your comments on the following topic: Do you think it is important to have your child do a formal book report (of some kind) after reading a book? My two are in the third grade and are reading chapter books (finally!).

I would love to hear your thoughts and then I'll share mine in a few days.

Polar Animals ~ Sweden and the Minke Whale

I think that the other ladies have already concluded their units on Polar Animals, but we started a week late and had just a little more we wanted to accomplish before we finished. This week we wrapped up our study by learning about Sweden and the Minke Whale.

Before starting, we tied up some loose ends by editing and revising our information paragraphs on the Snowy Owl as part of our WriteShop Primary Book A lesson. These paragraphs were written off of a story web created by the kids.

The Snowy Owl
by Brynne
We saw snowy owls at the zoo. My owl has yellow eyes. 
The owl looks at me. The male snowy owl is all white to 
blend into the sky and snow. At the zoo, they make it 
really cold so the snowy owl can live. I am so glad to have a 
snowy owl at the zoo.

The Snowy Owl
by Eli
Snowy owls are the snowiest creatures on Earth. 
The male snowy owl is all white. Males need to blend 
into the sky and snow. The owls have sharp claws 
to swoop down and get food and for protection. 
Snowy owls are Arctic animals.

We took a two-day break from our current read-aloud to read Snowshoe the Hare by Kathryn White and Ruth Rivers. It was a fun book about how snowshoe hares turn white in the winter to camouflage themselves.

We colored the Swedish flag and read facts about Sweden. The video on the National Geographic website was about the Sami people, which was very interesting.

Then we read a small book called My World of Animals: Whales by Frences E. Ruffin. Although it wasn't about Polar whales, it did give good general facts about whales. (With our limited library, I just take what I can get.)

We read specific facts about the minke whale, we played a whale migration animated game (this was a really fun and educational game!!), and did the ever-fun blubber experiment.

Finally, for art we completed an "Under the Sea" drawing of whales from Deep Space Sparkle (love that site!).

Eli, well, doesn't enjoy art much. So his drawings are usually fairly simple.

I like how Brynne added the baleen of the whale without even being instructed.

And that concludes our study of Polar Animals and the Polar regions where they live. This has been a fun study for us and we enjoyed our time collaborating with The Usual Mayhem, No Doubt Learning, Montessori Tidbits, and Childhood Beckons.

You can click on the Polar Animals tag below to read all of my posts from this unit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rock Study ~ The Perfect Indoor Sick Day Nature Study

Last Friday the kids and I went to the park to collect rocks for our rock study. We got instantly distracted by the ice on the lake and spent the majority of our time breaking ice, exploring animals, and observing things (and animals) trapped under the ice. We ran out of time, and got oh-so-cold, so we gathered up some rocks to take home to study at a later time.

With Eli recovering from the stomach flu, none of us had much energy for a full-out day of school today. So it was the perfect time to pull out our rocks and do our rock study.

We used the Rock Observation Chart and Rocks Up Close printables from Barb at Handbook of Nature Study. We needed a few supplies: a magnifying glass, rulers, flexible measuring tape, colored pencils, a magnet, a penny, and a nail.

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot about our rocks. Brynne decided to start a rock collection.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Beautiful Plan Thwarted

Oh, I had such a beautiful plan for schooling this week. I had it all scheduled out, a list of each thing I hoped to accomplish each day. It was lovely! I was so looking forward to getting back into a good routine (it's only taken us a month to do that post-Christmas).

And then ....

Eli was up all night vomiting. He is better this morning, but how much do I push? I think we'll stick to reading and doing our fun activities for the day, all from the coziness of the couch. He may feel better, but I feel like I've been hit by a semi.

Oh well. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ It Seemed to be Mostly About Nature

In our regular life this week…

I started off my week in Portland, Oregon, visiting my brother, sister-in-law and sweet baby niece, Bell. My parents and I had a great time getting to know our newest little family member. Rick took the kids on a special weekend back to Oklahoma to visit friends and have some fun staying in a hotel. Kyndal and Dawson also went back to Oklahoma to visit some of their friends and to go to their orthodontist appointments on Monday. Everybody made it back home by Monday (me at 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning).

After we all recuperated from our fun-filled weekend, we spent the rest of the week doing the norm ... church on Wednesday night and relaxation on Thursday night and tonight. It's been very cold, so snuggling in at home has been a necessity.

In our homeschool this week…

Tuesday was an educational computer and iPad app day since I was recovering from my weekend away. We got back into the full swing of things on Wednesday. We are now reviewing some new products for the Schoolhouse Review Crew in the areas of math, spanish, and science, so we are working hard. So far we have learned some new phrases and songs in spanish, are working on double-digit addition (our MEP mental math skills are certainly coming in handy), and have started learning about zoology in science.

Of course we are reading every day. Eli finished a graphic novel today and Brynne is almost done reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Eli is starting his very first REAL chapter book (not a graphic novel) next week. He chose Captain Underpants. Our current read-aloud is The Storm by Cynthia Rylant.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

On Thursday we started a brand new co-op! We have been eagerly anticipating this opportunity and it did not disappoint. It is a larger co-op than the one in Oklahoma, and the kids attend enrichment classes instead of just having social opportunities (in Oklahoma they went to PE and music for co-op). Eli and Brynne are in the same class and are taking "Holidays Around the World" (geography) and "Water World" (science .. studying animals of the oceans). We will attend classes for 8 weeks. I am assisting in their classes.

My Favorite Resource this week was…
Our spanish curriculum we are reviewing is a big hit so far! I have caught the kids singing the songs provided (which I think is the point) and they have looked forward to working on it each day. They even want to go back and review songs that are not on that current day's lessons.

My kiddos' favorite thing this week was…

going to the park for a nature outing. We intended to spend our time collecting rocks for our rock observation worksheet (and we did collect rocks). But once there, the interest turned to the ice on the lake. We spent well over an hour trying to break the ice with a stick ...

having a sweetgum competition, to see who could throw them the furthest ...

observing things trapped in the ice ...

and watching geese walk on the ice ...

They were also pretty certain that the Snowy Owl had made it's appearance in Missouri. (It hadn't.) But, they thought all the evidence was there.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share ...

Don't create a dead-set schedule with no room for flexibility (unless you are a schedule control freak who cannot operate otherwise ... I am a reformed schedule control freak, so I can relate). However, our school days are SO MUCH BETTER now that we move around a lot, change up our subjects a lot, and do the unexpected. You never know what's going to come up, so we like to be flexible so we can fit things in we hadn't planned. This week, at co-op, the kids were given an "optional" notebooking page for Australia. They don't have to do it, but if they do they can earn prizes. Since they love geography, we added it to our schedule today and removed handwriting and a couple of other small things. We'll just pick back up with those things next week. No big deal.

Things I’m working on…

My ideas for my garden this spring and how I will incorporate it into our schooling for science. We are planning to use Square Foot Gardening as a curriculum. I cannot wait!

I’m grateful for…

the sacrifices that my husband has made and is making so that the kids and I can live the way that we are. I feel like he has taken on all of the burden of our circumstances and left me free to continue living the way that makes me and the kids happy. We miss him and know that the next couple of years will be difficult. But, I try to remember that it's only for a short time in the grand scheme of things, and we will be together soon and all the better for it. I hope that I never forget to tell him how grateful I am each and every day for him and his provision for our family.

I rewarded my kids this week by…

having some fun at the park, even though it was cold. And, Yes, I was there too!

Things you might have missed at Journey to Excellence ...

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

This little turkey let her daddy pull her tooth about as soon as he saw it. I had been trying to get her to let me pull it for about two weeks. It's funny, though, because she has lost each of her two teeth the TWO times I have been to Portland to visit my brother.

We are happily linking up this week at the following sites:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Polar Animals ~ Norway and the Arctic Fox

We did not have as much time to work on our Polar Animals unit this week because I was out of town on Monday and Tuesday was a catch-up and educational computer game day (while mommy played catch-up). There were no projects or activities involved, but we did do lots of reading and had a great flow to what we learned.

We started by reading facts about Norway, coloring our flag of Norway, and doing a Norway word search. The word search was a huge hit and helped us to learn some words we did not already know, like fjord.

We actually backtracked a bit by reading a great book about Snowy Owls (that came in at the library yesterday, even though our unit on Snowy Owls concluded last week). It was called Owls: Owl Magic for Kids by Neal Niemuth. The focus of our reading, however, was on how Snowy Owls find their food.

Then we went on to read Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Constance R. Bergum. This book had wonderful illustrations of where lots of different animals live during the frigid and snowy months. (Some of those animals are food for others.)

After reading facts about the Arctic Fox, we read Ice Bear and Little Fox by Jonathan London which is a fictional picture book about an Arctic Fox following a Polar Bear to feast on the leftovers of the carcasses of the animals he kills.

We talked about how Arctic Foxes eat lemmings and voles, but in the winter they are burrowed under the snow (as shown us in Under the Snow) so there is less to eat. We found a great video called "Deadly Hearing" where some scientists buried a speaker under the snow that gave out the sound of a lemming squeaking. The fox used his HEARING not his sense of SMELL to locate the speaker. Then he dug fast and furious to get to the sound. The sweet scientist did bury some meat a small distance away as a reward.

Although we didn't get a lot accomplished, you need to head over to my friends at The Usual Mayhem, No Doubt Learning, Montessori Tidbits, and Childhood Beckons to see what they did. I have stopped by already and there were some fun things going on!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Polar Animals ~ Canada and Snowy Owls

Welcome to the second week of our Polar Animals party! Last week we had a lot of fun learning about Denmark and Polar Bears. This week we moved across the big water to Northern Canada and learned about the Snowy Owl.

Unfortunately, our library does not have the non-fiction book supply that I wish it had. In fact, there weren't even any fictional books about snowy owls (sigh). I don't like to do research with my kids on the internet. I like a colorful book loaded with facts. But, we do what we have to do. All of our facts came from Canadian Geographic. Due to some technical wireless difficulties, they did not get Canadian flags colored as of this posting. They will be working on them tomorrow.

We decided to incorporate the Snowy Owls into our regular studies, as well as learn about them as a separate unit. It was an all-around Snowy Owl week. (We even discussed the Snowy Owl at the Tulsa Zoo whom we have visited several times.)

Eli and Brynne watched a great PBS video called "Magic of the Snowy Owl". It aired back in October and can be watched for free on (A word of warning ... this is a tearjerker. At around the 34 minute mark, one of the owlets dies from starvation and then the other owlets eat him to survive, although they don't show it graphically. Thankfully we had some internet outage right as the owlet died and when it resumed it had skipped the eating part and the kids didn't realize it had happened. Eli might not have ever recovered from that.)

Instead of using the recommended topic of "Insects and Bugs" in our WriteShop Primary Book A writing program (Lesson 8), we used the Snowy Owl as our topic instead. We made a word family flower with the sound -owl. We looked at a photograph of a Snowy Owl and then wrote five observations of it. Then we used our observations to make a non-fiction story web, and used our web to write a factual paragraph.

We learned about why the poles are so cold.

Then we did a fun math game demonstrating how difficult it is for the Snowy Owl to survive in the Arctic.

This activity came from the book 175 Amazing Nature Experiments by Harlow and Morgan (pg. 139), that I purchased for $1 at the infamous Powell Books in Portland, Oregon. (And I'm going to Portland this weekend and I hope to get in another trip to the bookstore and it's $1 shelf. Go there if you ever get the chance!!)

For art, we learned about camouflage. Polar Bears aren't white ... but Snowy Owls are! And, they need to protect themselves from predators! You can see the white owls on their pictures, but you couldn't see them when they were taped to the white paper. They were camouflaged!

Finally, we did copywork of a poem called "Camouflage!" by Tamara Montgomery. I changed the words to describe a Snowy Owl instead of a Polar Bear, and as seen above we attached it to the bottom of our Camouflage art.

And here's a link to a really cool snowy owl art project that I wanted us to do, but we didn't get around to it. I will be a zombie next Tuesday coming back really late Monday night from a trip out West to see my brother and his family, so maybe this will be what we do for the day.

This was another fun week! Please visit The Usual MayhemNo Doubt Learning, Montessori Tidbits and Childhood Beckons to see what Polar activities they have been up to.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up ~ The Start to 2013

In our regular life this week…

Not only did school start back for us this week, but our regular activities resumed, as well. Eli had Cub Scouts on Monday night. He has a minimal number of activities he needs to complete to finish all of his achievements for a rank advancement at the Blue and Gold Banquet in February. This is extraordinary because the rest of his Pack started on their achievements in February of last year. He didn't start Scouts until this past October, so he has been in hyperspeed. Of course, we have the flexibility to work on some of the achievements during our school day which makes it much easier.

Wednesday we were back to church services, having potluck dinner and then handbell choir practice. On Thursday night I held an organizational meeting to re-start a former United Methodist Women Circle (that my mom was a member of when she was a young woman). I am feeling the call of Titus 2. It's kind of hard to admit that I am an "older woman", but it is what it is.

Basketball season resumed at our public school, so Dawson is back to attending games in the evenings. However, after last night's game he came home and started vomiting and has been doing so ever since. He has a serious case of the flu! I am spraying Lysol like it is going out of style.

In our homeschool this week…

We are waiting on some products that we will be reviewing for The Schoolhouse Review Crew in the subjects of math, Spanish, and science. So, this week we worked on some reinforcement in several areas. We continued on with Bible by beginning our study of Moses. We got back to daily reading (even mom) and Peter Pan is our read-a-long. It was a Christmas gift to Brynne from her great grandmother. Our math focused on measurements. Our science came in the form of some studies about polar bears. And for writing this week we reviewed parts of a letter, wrote two letters to friends, and wrote a letter to the businesses of the kids' choice. Eli chose WWE Headquarters and Brynne chose Mattel, Inc. (to inquire about Barbie). This prompted a trip to the Post Office to mail our letters.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

While writing letters to their friends in Oklahoma (brothers, who go to our former church), we noticed that their address was a Post Office Box. We discussed how this works. While at the post office to mail our letters, we ran into my Uncle, their Great Uncle, Jon. He was actually checking the contents of his PO Box, so he showed the kids how it works. That was great!

My Favorite Resource this week was…
I used several great ideas on websites this week. But, my favorite was probably the Gingerbread Geometry assignment we did. I had saved our gingerbread house for this particular lesson. (I was disappointed to see that Susan at Learning All the Time is no longer hosting the Favorite Resources Linky. Darn!!)

My kiddos' favorite thing this week was…

writing letters to the companies of their choice. As I said, Eli chose the WWE Headquarters. He had some questions. Typically he is a VERY reluctant writer, but he was so excited that he couldn't hardly concentrate on what he wanted to write because his mind was reeling with questions he wanted to ask. Brynne had some questions for the makers of Barbie at Mattel, Inc. I really do hope they get written responses from these companies. They will just flip!

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share ...

When you have a child that is reluctant to do something (i.e. Eli writing letters, or writing anything for that matter), incorporate a topic they enjoy (i.e. writing a letter to the maker of their favorite product)! Delight-directed learning!!!

Things I’m working on…

This coming week's Polar Animals lessons. Join The Usual Mayhem, No Doubt Learning, Montessori Tidbits and Childhood Beckons in our collaborative project.

I’m grateful for…

Homeschooling. When walking through town on Thursday, a woman standing outside a store stopped me and asked me if the kids were already out of school. I told her we homeschool, and she was very kind in her response to it. She mentioned how she feels that as a society we should make more of a move back to the simple way of living, back to the basics. I agreed with her. We went on to the library and while there, my husband called me to tell me about the school shooting in California. He simply said, "Thank you, again, for homeschooling our children."

I rewarded my kids this week by…

taking them for some ice cream at McDonald's. We had to go to a nearby town to get the title and tag work done on our car. They took their books and read while we were at the assessor's office and while we were at the tag agency. As we were leaving the tag agency, one of the employees said, "Go and reward them. They were so good!" Eli even finished his VERY FIRST CHAPTER BOOK EVER! So ice cream was definitely in order! And, Yes, I was there too!

Things you might have missed this week at Journey to Excellence ...
  • We studied the country of Denmark and polar bears as part of our Polar Animals unit.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share (silly, serious or both!)…

When I went to find Eli the other day, he was hiding in the laundry basket in the bathroom. I looked behind the door and behind the shower curtain. Then he jumped out of the laundry basket. He was down completely in it. The kids just cackled that they had tricked me!

We are happily linking up this week at the following sites: