Monday, February 28, 2011

Valentines, Ceramics, Pollination, and More

We finished up Valentines week with some heart-shaped vegan pizza and, later on, a craft day/Valentine party with the homeschool group. The kids all got to paint ceramics and exchange Valentines with their friends.
Ava's ceramics on the left, Noah's on the right, Amora's on top.

Going Through Their Valentines Boxes

On Saturday, Noah went out to work on sorting and organizing tools for his grandpa while my mom and I brought the girls to the Banfill Locke Art Center where Ava's art was on display, also through our homeschool group.

Sunday we were pretty much snowed in, so we rolled out some paper in the hall and also worked on some computer learning. One site we have learned about recently is Kahn Acadamy. It's a great resource, especially concerning math, with tons of video instruction. Most are beyond where my kids are at yet, but a few have been of interest already. I actually set it up for Ava to learn more math but it was Noah who got into it that day. He watched the basic addition video and was yelling out the answers at the screen as he counted along.

My mom had given the kids each a cut flower from a bouquet she bought this weekend. Ava was inquiring about how the flower was drinking the water in the cup. So we hopped online and learned all about flowers! We dissected one of them (since Noah already had squashed his) and named the parts, learned how they take in water, we learned all about pollination, and we made some cut out flowers we hanged on the walls. Actually, the intention was to take their little toy insects and "fly" around the house "pollinating" the flowers. But all three were restless by that point. So we are saving that part for another day; a great option we have as homeschoolers. Sure we could have played the pollination game anyways, since we had gotten that far, but it wouldn't have been fun. And forced learning is not learning at all. Learning when the kids want to and are enjoying it is important to me. I know that that is what will last. I love the flexibility of it all. And letting them lead the way.

Mid week, Ava decided we were going to make a raw vegan dessert. She looked it up on-line and found an apple crumble desert. She got out all the ingredients and I helped her cut and blend them up to make a pretty tasty (though somewhat sea-salty) apple crumb desert.

The other lesson we all learned about was about the sea sponge! Ava was asking about them (you know, Sponge Bob is a sponge...). "Are they an animal or a plant? What do they do? What? They make kitchen sponges out of them????" The animal vs. plant issue was a harder answer than I thought. Sponges have no heart, brain, mouth, etc. but they are technically an animal because they don't make their own food like a plant but eat off of the sea plants they attach to. Huh!

More reading games, online and on paper, with Ava. Some magic tricks with the magic kit, playing cards for number recognition with Noah, and of course, more of Ava's typing lessons. I love the pic below of her typing in her flower girl dress from last spring. Sometimes we learn in PJs, sometimes formal-wear, sometimes in nothing at all! (well, speaking for the kids, anyway, haha.)!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

This week was pretty low-key. Some fun activities and Valentine preparations kept us busy. All three had a lot of fun with puzzles this week. We did letter puzzles, and used it for some great letter recognition practice with Noah. Floor puzzles. And a United States puzzle that Noah loves. Puzzles usually go over pretty well with Ava and Noah. It's one of the things they work pretty well together doing, which is a wonderful thing for any parent to see!

At art class Ava learned some techniques using stencils. She always leaves art class smiling. Although she thought this time it was kind of boring because the teacher got to do the "fun part," the spray painting.

Maddy, the art class dog :)

The girls and I made it to the library this week and as I was picking out books for Noah and Amora, Ava had picked out a huge stack of books she wanted and wouldn't part with any. It's hard to say no to library books though!  Luckily I remembered a tote bag, for once, to bring home the nearly 20 books we got! We've read them all at least once each already. She insisted on reading 5 every night until we read them all.

We made cupcakes twice this week with Ava's new cupcake maker she got for Christmas. A lot of learning goes into baking. I have her read the ingredient list and the fractions. She looks to see if we need a cup, a tablespoon, or a teaspoon for each ingredient and gets them out and measures. The natural reward for all that work is, of course, yummy tasty vegan cupcakes! We made a Valentine version the second time.

All three kids had fun making Valentines. I went all out and let them use, my biggest enemy, GLITTER. I hate the stuff, but what's Valentines Day without it? I even got them some sequence pieces. Another tiny way-to-hard-to-clean-up necessity for pretty cards. They enjoyed them every bit. But both did end up all over the place a couple different times since we made them. Back on the top shelf for YOU, glitter and sequence!!!

I also found some window markers and let them go crazy with that too. How exciting for them to get to color on the windows! Some window clings added to the fun as well.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Out and About

One big misconception of homeschooling is that all homeschoolers do is sit around the kitchen table working in text books. So not true. Some weeks we seem to be doing more outside of the house than inside. I'm sure it will only continue to be more so as the kids get older. Most the families I talk with actually have to be careful not to make themselves too busy in outside activities. There are so many great activities and field trips and classes to sign up for. Since the kids are still so young, we try to keep our schedule pretty light. But already we have gone to plays, toured the State Capitol, lots of museum trips, a homeschool train ride in Osceola, Wisconsin, two different homeschool groups, the apple orchard, the pumpkin patch, art classes, Karate classes, along with ECFE, La Leche, Vegkins, and other playdates and groups.

This week we went to ECFE Playtime, pictured above, which is always a fun time for the kids to get that winter energy out in the gym as well as do some painting, pretending, and building.

At our homeschool group this week it was a math theme which is one of Ava's favorite things. She and her friend worked on math problems most of the time and Noah watched the older boys play chess with  transformer-style chess pieces! I was worried he would get upset about not being able to play it yet, but he just loved to watch them play the game.

There were two author/book presentations this weekend. The first, was John Taylor Gatto, (which I attended without the kids). John Taylor Gatto is the author of "Dumbing Us Down," "Weapons of Mass Instruction," and "The Underground History of American Education." He was an award-winning public school teacher for 30 years before resigning. He now travels and lectures about school reform.
He was so great to listen to (let me know if you want my notes from the lecture!) and I can't wait to dive into the rest of his books. I've read "Dumbing Us Down" and was thrilled through the entire thing. His books are the kind that the entire time I'm reading I'm nodding my head and saying "Yes!" It's so exciting for me to see someone put into words so well, about what I had only a clue about during my years in institutionalized forced schooling. I always felt something just wasn't right. And he explains so well why school is what it is, the history behind it, the philosophies behind it, and the intention. Yes. School is intended to be just the way it is. With no desire for improvement. It fascinates me and I feel fortunate that I'm drawn to question it and read about it.

The second author presentation we saw this weekend was through Vegkins, a local group for vegetarian and vegan families that always plans fun activities. Today it was the authors of "Tulip's Story" by Andy Hoeveler and Jessica Slaughter. Ethique Nouveau, an all-vegan store in Minneapolis, hosted a book reading by the authors of this sweet book about a dog named Tulip, who after starting out in an unfortunate situation, found her Forever Home. Tulip herself was there as well and the kids got to meet her. It was such a heart-warming experience to know how far Tulip has come and how happy she now is. And it's so great that the authors, whom of which adopted her, are sharing her story to help other dogs and teach kids about compassion and pet adoption (versus buying from a pet shop).