Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Swimming into Spring

We recently went on a tour of a local grocery store with our homeschool group. The kids thought it was so cool to finally get to go through those backroom doors they have always been so curious about! This also happened to be the store where John and I worked together back in the day, and where John's mom works today. The kids got to go into the refrigerators and freezers, see the big cardboard compactor, see how they stack all those pallets up to the ceiling using the lift, and visit each department. They got to sample some fresh fruit from the produce section and then at the end got to decorate cookies at the bakery. The tour was full of fun facts that even the adults in the group enjoyed.

The kids were excited to see their Grandma at work that day!

Earlier in the week, the kids were playing with a suction cup from some baby-safety device we never used. I think it was a toilet lid lock at one time. Anyways, this made for an opportunity to discuss the idea of an air vacuum. We talked about the air being pushed out from under the suction when you stick it and the pressure changes and how strong they are. We may be getting to see a demo later this month about air vacuums with our group so this gave them some hands-on memorable background to it! And it was fun for the kids and something they came upon all on their own.

Decorating Bobble Heads

More fun around the house.

We went on a family vacation to a waterpark hotel in Duluth last week. The kids got a ton of swimming in. Noah has absolutely no fear of water. Upon walking in to the pool area for the first time, he walked away from me and jumped into the 4 foot pool without hesitating. He had his swim vest on but wasn't doing so good with it, plus I hadn't zipped him up yet, so I had to hop in and fish him out. John worked with him the rest of the time until he could balance the swim vest well and by the end he was swimming around the pool in it. Ava also did great, she learned to doggy paddle by the end of the trip.
I had this ideal vision in mind of getting to all the great educational places in Duluth, such as the museums, aquarium, train depot, the ships, the lift bridge, the parks, etc. But, on the day we were going to go out and do some of it, the kids were so exhausted from all the swimming they all needed to sleep. And not at the same time either. First Ava took an hour nap, then as she woke up Amora fell asleep for a couple hours, then Noah looked like he was next. So we ordered Pizza Luce delivery and stayed in. Gotta be flexible I guess!

The computer program ABC Mouse is still a hit with the kids. When we got back from being out of town last week, Ava actually said she missed ABC Mouse! So the three of them all jumped right back into that. I love watching them work together and learn together. There is a toddler option on the program that is for Amora, and Ava and Noah will win her "tickets" and help her pick things out with them. Ava also helps Noah with the activities he does. It's such a natural flow to all share the learning and teaching. I think it builds such a great trust and bond as a family to get to do so much learning together. I love when the kids take on the role all on their own.

Ava has been working on counting by 5s the past week or two. She counts to 100 by ones and by tens, so now she can pretty much make it by fives which will be helpful for time telling on the clock. That along with sight word practice has been the focus these past weeks. She's been doing well with reading words individually but still seems intimidated by reading full books. So we play match games with sight words and are putting sentences together to build her confidence. I've talked to many other parents who have said their kids could read but just didn't seem to really believe it. Then one day, the kid just picks up a book and starts to read. I could see that being how Ava will start with books.

Now that the weather is warming up, we're getting ready to try year two of our little garden. I'm hoping we can expand it this year. Ava helped me plant some seedlings indoors to get a start on things and soon we'll get to plant outside. That is definitely something I want my kids to know how to do, is grow their own food. I think it's imperative that we all can do that, and start doing that. If you think about it it's very strange we rely on grocery stores for our very survival! In emergency situations, shelves are cleared and prices can sky rocket, and then what do you do? I'd love some day to be more self-reliant and teach my kids how to be as well. We have a long way to go, but it's a start.

Speaking of Spring, the day before Easter, we went to a near-by Nature Center for their Spring Fling festival over the weekend with some friends. The kids got to see their favorite fairy tales come to life and check out the Nature Center too.

Easter Morning Candy Picnic

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Melting Snow Brings April Puddles!

Now that spring has finally (and slowly) made it's way here, it feels like life is beginning again. Our home learning gets a second wind after the long winter and we get to enjoy the outdoors so much more.
Of course, a simple trip to the park is not a dry one this time of year. After playing in the park for a while we made it to the van and I thought we were home free, but there sat a large, and apparently very tempting, puddle in the parking lot. The kids headed into it. Just when I thought I'd try to avoid the wet/cold kid scenario, I realized that they were actually grabbing different things and testing to see if they float. So what's a homeschooling mama to do but let them learn! So we tested sticks, rocks, an old apple core they found, and a soggy glove some unfortunate soul dropped in the parking lot. We tried tiny twigs and big huge sticks and observed how no matter how big, the wood still would float. Sure there shoes got wet but it was sunny at least!

Before hand we had went on a trip to the Children's Museum only to find out that the entire parking ramp was full so we turned around. The kids were disappointed, of course, so we decided to go to Ecopolitan for a raw vegan parfait. It wasn't busy at all there at that time so the kids walked back to the juice bar that overlooks the kitchen and watched the food being prepared and talked to the workers about raw foods and everything else they could think of. They asked about their dehydrator and their big giant walk-in freezer. Luckily, the staff was very cool and didn't mind chatting at all. After the parfait, the kids went on and on about it, telling the employees that the parfait was even better than going to the museum! We ordered some raw taco pizza slices as well. The staff seemed to be enjoying the kids' enthusiasm and even gave them some extra strawberries to nibble on as they went on about how they liked the taco pizza even better than the vegan ice cream they had... All this leading to a very happy mommy knowing that the kids enjoyed such a healthy lunch so much!

Another highlights of our week included a sighting by Ava of an eagle sitting up in the neighbor's tree at dusk. She was out playing and saw it across our street. She then waited at the end of the drive way so she could point it out to everyone on their evening strolls. It was such a nice night out and she even met some new neighbors we hadn't talked with yet!

The kids happen to be night owls (Ava tells everyone she is "nocturnal,") so night times can get quite late. Thankfully, we get to be flexible. The other night the kids were playing while John and I watched a show and around 10 pm I thought we should start trying to get everyone to bed. Just then, Planet Earth came on the National Geographic channel and the kids were instantly fixated on it and asking questions. So the night ended up even later. We didn't make it through the whole movie before everyone was too sleepy but they did get in some great late-night learning.
(Not sure what happened to the allignment of this paragraph. It won't let me fix it though...)

This is a random aside but I have some cute pictures so I'm stickin it in:
At home, we don't need a specific "Home Economics" curriculum to get the idea of how to do the daily activities like dishes, cooking, laundry, etc. All three kids get involved in daily chores and cooking. Of course, this isn't some spectacular daily occurance that the kids happily do all the chores. But they are young and this is a fun learning process too! On the most part, I think that like other learning, if this is a forced and hated event the good habit won't last. So the kids have had fun doing laundry, dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, and other helpful chores around the house on their own. I look forward to learning things like sewing, gardening, and do-it-yourself projects as well as they get older. It's kind of strange school has to have a formal class on the subject since most of us don't know how to do many of these basic things anymore.

Along with all the spring weather comes the mud! As Noah exclaimed coming in from playing the other day "MOM! DIRT AND WATER MAKE MUD!!!!" It's become one of my favorite moments I think (and a cute picture!).

Some more fun during the week was spent at Pump It Up with friends which wore the kids out nicely and then a return to a much less-busy Children's Museum!

More Spring Outdoor Adventures

Maple Syruping

My mom and I brought the kids to the Chanhassen Arboretum a couple weekends ago and the kids got to watch how the tree is tapped and how the turn the sap into maple syrup. The demonstrator let the kids ask questions and help tap the tree with the hammer. Ava raised her hand and asked if the tree needed the sap they took. The lady said that was the best question all day! She said that the tree does indeed need the sap but they only harvest a small amount so it doesn't harm the tree.
We then headed down to the shop that boils out the water to leave the sugar and the kids got to taste the sticky gooey syrup "candy."

Tapping the tree.

Noah checking out the tree tapping tools.

Taste testing!

Wild River State Park

This past weekend we spent the day at Wild River State Park for my dad's birthday where the kids got in some scootering, hiking, a picnic and throwing rocks into the river. On the hike the frogs and wildlife were so incredibly loud we all just stopped and listened to them for a while in the swamps. It was such a great day for all of us!
Amora throwing rocks over the edge.