Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Using Blocks to Teach Math

It was nice to admit outloud to another homeschooling mom the other day that I completely failed at teaching math.  See, we have officially reached CJ's actual learning level of math and I'm so used to him picking it up super easy that I was lazy and didn't teach him the concrete subtraction that borrows from each greater place value.  I taught him the shortcut.  On paper.  Bad homeschool mom.  I know better, and since I was able to admit my fault to a dear friend I was ready to go back and commit to making it right.  So today, we did subtraction with blocks.  LOTS of blocks.  And got through 3 problems in a full hour.  ONLY THREE!  I had to keep telling myself (in my head) to chill out.  Because seriously it was SO slow.  So there you go, a little error on my part.  It happens to the best of us.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Preschool Blocks

EMan is working his way through the Math-U-See Primer book.  He's gotten bored with the reviews happening in preschool and was ready to move on.  We flew through the first lesson and then stopped short at his instructional level.  He is working on identifying combinations that make ten.  I knew I needed to pull out CJ's old set of blocks and just play with them making groups of ten.  So, this is what I've done with what's on hand.  I happen to have a ton of unifix cubes.  I picked some colors that matched Math-U-See the best I could, stacked them together and then labeled them with numbers.  It was then Eman's job to identify what two stacks of blocks would equal 10.  Though successful, I would love for him to work more on this concept, however he is bored with it already.  Any ideas to make the game more fun?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Aquarium Visit

We had a fantastic time at the aquarium today with our homeschooling group.  My preschoolers spent the week talking about the letter J and Jellyfish so we took the opportunity to go see real ones.  It's such a pleasure to go on these outings to extend our learning and have fun with our friends!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Heading into first grade and our last year of preschool

This is going to be a great year of learning.  CJ will be a 1st grader and EMan will be in his last year of preschool.  I will be teaching a 3 year old class and a 4 year old class oer at Little Adventures Preschool this year.  EMan will participate in both classes just to make sure that he has a solid foundation for moving forward.

CJ will enjoy one day a week at a program set up for homeschool students where he will take classes like PE, Robotics, Science, Karate, Art, World Geography and Language Arts.  He will get to be with his friends learning things we can't do as well at home and EMan and I can work on Preschool stuff with our friends. It's a win, win.

Through CJ's homeschool program we get to check out curriculum through their curriculum library.  This year I decided I'll be doing Book Shark, 1st grade; Singapore 1B and 2A; and Rosetta Stone Spanish from the check out library.  I'll also be utilizing TouchMath 1st Grade and TouchMath 2nd Grade  (he's already done most of TouchMath 1st grade at this point).  I'll be utilizing the Moffatt Girls reading materials to suppliment book shark, he'll still have weekly piano lessons, recorder lessons and we'll do some writing.

I'm utilizing the Melissa and Doug magnetic chore chart to keep track of school work for the week.  It lists the subjects (with a wet erase marker): Reading, Math, Piano, Recorder, Spanish, Brush Teeth, Extras (items are written on the daily spot such as laundry, pick up room, clean bathroom).  YES.  Brush Teeth is part of our school work right now.  It's the best place to get it in front of their faces that they need to brush them every day.  Eman's chart simply lists: Reading, Math, Brush Teeth, Extras.

It should be a great fun year!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Junior Rangers - Great Sand Dunes

While at the sand dunes with our Egypt Camp we learned about the Junior Ranger Program that the National Parks have.  I'd never heard of it before but we stumbled upon Junior Ranger Day.  A special day at the sand dunes where kids could earn a Junior Ranger patch for completing certain activities.  At first I wasn't too thrilled about trying to do that and Egypt Camp (Steve was gone sand-boarding and I had to manage it all) but eventually the call of the rangers was just too enticing :).  We got a little form and started completing the activities.  The boys learned a ton and had a fantastic time doing the activities.  They worked with rangers to learn about the surge of the water and how/why it happens by the sand dunes.  They also learned about 3 types of beetles that are common on the sand dunes: the circus beetle, the tiger beetle and the cricket. 
 They also learned about some of the animals by pretending to be the kangaroo rat.
 They rolled down the hill like the circus beetle and learned all about furs and skull bones of different animals in the area.
 They learned to shoot a spear and earned their badges!  I got them the green vests to hold all their badges (another "Egyptian" had one to show off all her badges and it is so awesome!).  When we get home I'll be putting the badges on so they are ready for their next adventure.
Oh yea, did I say badges (plural)? I sure did. We earned the special badge on Junior Ranger day.  Then we learned that each National Park also has a park badge that you can earn by doing other activities.  The next day we went to the visitors center, got the booklet and completed all the work and learning needed to earn the Sand Dunes patch.  CJ has now declared that when he grows up he'd like to be a ranger.  Sweet.

Egypt Homeschool Camp June 2014

The boys had a fantastic time at Egypt Camp this past weekend. We spent all of last semester studying all about Ancient Egypt with our Homeschool Co-Op and ended the study with 3 days at the Great Sand Dunes.  How cool is that?  We've never been down there before but it was a spectacular location and I think we'll go again in a couple years.  We played in the sand and the water at the beach a lot.  We were supposed to build pyramids at first but the boys decided that sand castles were a more reasonable option :).  We met the rest of the group for dinner time and all the kids had on their costumes.  They each had tunics, some had swords, other had fans, we even had a pharaoh.  Each child was called up to spin the wheel of fate that encourage role playing activities - such as "Your cat died.  See the embalmer." or "Professional Mourner for 1 hour." or "The Pharaoh is pleased with you."  Each kid had an occupation, such as scribe/farmer/fisherman, etc.  EMan was a fisherman and CJ was the Pharaoh's Zoo Keeper.  The first night we had a weighing of the heart activity just like in the book of the dead.  I got to play the roll of Isis.  Sweet eh?  The kids had small bags with an anatomically correct heart stamped on them and they filled them with their pick of random items.  If it was heavier than the feather they were devoured.  If it was lighter they were free to move on.  The kids thought it was great fun.
 Steve took a morning and went sandboarding.  The rest of us hung out for a wheel of fate activity followed by an irrigation challenge.  They were split into two villages and had to dig a canal and build a shaduf (a sort of lever inspired bucket lifting tool the ancient Egyptians built).  CJ's team won the challenge.
 Next they had crocodile hunting.  They had to chase after an inflatable crocodile down the river, bring it back to camp and put mud on its eyes.  After more free play in the water we changed into costumes and learned that the old Pharaoh died and there was a new one!
 We celebrated the new pharaoh with a big feast and a talent show.  I was proud of CJ for playing "Hot Cross Buns" on his recorder for the talent show and EMan for showing all the cool things he can do with silly putty.  What fun talents!  We also enjoyed a market with the group.  Everyone, according to their occupation, traded goods and services with each other.  At one point EMan became very popular because word got out that he was trading Swedish Fish candies.  Everyone wanted some of those!  CJ got lots of attention from others wanting his finger puppet lions, tigers, zebras and giraffes.  He also had a blow up monkey that he traded for a fancy necklace!
One of the games we played was called tug of hoop.  Using the crooks we made in class the point was to tug and twist the hoop away from the other person.  EMan LOVED this game and played it with everyone who was willing.  On another note: CJ found a bug, he must be a bug magnet!

Memorial Day Excitement

We had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend with family in Utah.  It was a wonderful experience to take my kids to the different locations where family headstones are and talk to them a little about our heritage and family members that lived before we did.
We also had a fantastic family reunion at my sisters house.  She has a fantastic yard that she's building into a natural playscape.  She has a path of logs buried into the ground that the kids love walking and playing on.  One of them is even painted with tic-tac-toe lines and cute little bug rocks are there ready to play.  CJ of course found a bug to show everyone, that is quite an interest of his!
 My sister confiscated all our phones at the start of the reunion.  I LOVE this idea.  Even though some family members felt violated having it taken away it took away any distractions they could have been while we all played and had fun together.  Speaking of playing and having fun: she drew a "Sorry!" board on her driveway with sidewalk chalk and we played life size Sorry!  It was such a hoot!  She also had dowels painted for jumbo size pick up sticks on the grass.  That was a ton a fun.
 We played tic-tac-toe on the log (another of CJ's favorite games) as well as lawn twister.  I've done lawn twister before, but with this many people playing we made the board a little bigger and included a side section that was for kids only. It was fun to play with family to see who could be the winner.  She also made a giant Kerplunk game with bamboo sticks and balls from a ball pit.  I'm not sure a family reunion in the future will ever hold up to this much fun.
 After all the fun we camped in tents in her backyard, had a yummy breakfast and visited our Nana who let the boys pick out teddy bears from her collection.  CJ got "Snuggles" and EMan got "Andy Panda".  They both love their teddy bears and held them close the whole car ride home. What a great time!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum and Records : The End of the Year

I have kept most of the work CJ has done for Kindergarten in a file box.  I’ll most likely only keep the binder contents after a couple of years.  Now that the school year is over his records book is completed. Here is what it contains: 
In the first pocket is an invitation from his birthday party and a picture craft he did.  Next are page protectors containing an outline of the curriculum we used throughout the year. 
 I keep these pages as a working document throughout the year and I add details as things pop up, as they always do.  I also have them hyperlinked so I can quickly remember the source and any evaluator can quickly see what I'm referring to.  It includes dates of completion and references to quantity of time in class, etc.
Here it is in the folder:
Next, there is a report card that is part of a K-5 series aligned with Common Core that I'll use each year.  I have a huge issue with Common Core (totally against it).  I don't use the report card to guide what we do, but it is nice to see what items we can improve on. 
After the report cards are the certificates and documents from completed programs and classes throughout the year. 
I've also included his vaccination record as well as a few doctor reports for my own organization.  There are also camp outlines and some art. The rest of the box contains his actual workbooks that he used throughout the year.  Like I mentioned earlier - I'll most likely only hang on to the blue folder after a couple years (most likely after EMan completes Kindergarten I'll get rid of it, but it'll be a nice reference for that).  I'm not required to keep work pages as documentation but if opting out of formal testing (I will be) it will be nice to show the evaluator what we've been up to. 
I like to date everything with a start/completion date for easy reference. That way I can sift through the papers and add dates to the first sheet if I forgot them and easily have date references to his learning.

It's so nice to have all these things organized and ready!  I can now say CJ is officially Graduated from Kindergarten.  Woo Hoo! Perhaps now I'll take the boys out for ice cream :).

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ain't Gonna Paint No More

Have you seen the book "I Ain't Gonna Pain't No More!" by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow? I absolutely adore it!  It is one of my favorite books to pull out for literature based art activities for little kids.  We intended to do the activity outside, but with the poor weather we just laid out a blanket in the living room instead. In fact we've done the activity twice now.  Once in 2011 and once in 2012.  It's an activity that members of our homeschool group love and keep requesting it. 
The book follows the song "It ain't gonna rain no more" tune and is a story about a little boy who loves to paint and paints his whole body.  After reading the story we turned the kids loose with some watercolor paints and let them do a little body painting of their own.  I always dribble water on top of the watercolor pallets a few minutes before giving them to the kids.  That way the paints are moist and ready to be used and the kids aren't required to use a cup of water which is so easily spilled.  I just keep a waterbottle handy ready to re-wet any paints that get all used up.  What a fun and easy activity.  Clean up is super easy - just toss the blanket into the washing machine and the kids in the tub or sprinklers and your good as new!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Are You Ready? Game Show Giveaway from Lakeshore Learning

We were given the fantastic opportunity to review the new "Are You Ready?" series of assessment games from Lakeshore.  We picked "Are You Ready for First Grade?" because it fit our current needs.  This game is a fantastic way to get a quick glimpse of what didn't sink in or what I accidentally forgot to teach CJ during the Kindergarten year.   It's set up like a game show and for each grade level you get 6 different games that let your child earn pretend cash for each math and language question answered correctly.  CJ and EMan LOVE money and were giddy with excitement as they learned the rules to the game.  In fact, before starting the game I overheard CJ say, "EMan, let's finish the laundry fast so we can play the earning money game!"  The put away their laundry in record time. 
We had a great time playing this game.  Each game has a set of 33 cards that you set up on the game board.  Your "contestant" gets to pick a card and if they answer it correctly they get the amount of money listed on the card.  This inspired CJ to pick the highest valued cards right off the bat.
If they get an answer incorrect you make note of the card number to reference later.  I'd highly suggest pulling out their journal or writing book to use for this game.  There are a few cards that specify to write something: such as their name, the alphabet or an answer. 
 We finished the first game quite quickly and CJ wanted to move onto the second game and earn more money right away!  There is only enough money to get all of one game's answers correct, then the money must be recycled for the next game.  There are, however, certificates for what they've won at the end.  The best part is that you get to fill in the reward to something that fits your family.
After you've played one or all six games you head to the game site here and start the Post Game Assessment on the right hand side.  Lakeshore makes it easy for you to type in the number cards that were incorrect.  The website then identifies Skills to Develop with a short description of what that skill encompasses.  It also provides free printable activities and additional Lakeshore products that target that skill.  I took pictures of my computer through this process, but they turned out terrible and unhelpful.  Just trust me that it's awesome to get immediate feedback and a few work pages to go over with your kid(s).  It's a perfect homeschool companion.   
Now we'll be ready for 1st grade for sure!  Will you?  We're giving away our set and would love to see it go to a family who will love it like we did.  Scroll down and enter to win today!

This great game is available in levels K-5.  To get $10 off any Are You Ready? Game Show(R), enter code 9141 at checkout or click here for a store coupon!  Expires 7/31/14.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mummies and Pharaohs

We are participating in a weekly Ancient Egypt class with some other preschoolers and elementary aged kids.  It's great to participate in something that I'm not running to watch and learn how different programs can be successful. This week we talked about mummies and pharaohs.  The kids were able to share their mummy and sarcophagus crafts at the beginning of class.  It was quite interesting to see how everyone had the same instructions and how they all turned out so differently.  In class we did a few different activities.  The preschoolers decorated burial masks and made sugar cube pyramids.  The elementary kids made pharaoh beards and a crook and flail.  The flail we'll have to finish at home since the kids ran out of focus towards the end :)  We're reading The Cat of Bubastes which is an interesting story of a couple of boys in ancient Egypt.  I love how it pulls information into the text to paint the details of what would be happening in ancient Egypt.  We're getting close to the end and will have our Egyptian Literature Camp in just over a month! 

Beaver Trail

We have a goal set for the summer to learn all about the State Park nearest to us.  We want to know it inside-out by the end of the summer.  We're working on identifying plants, animals and even rocks in the area.  One of the trails is fantastic because it has a self-guided tour pamphlet.  We spent Saturday walking the trail and reading the pamphlet at every stop.  The boys LOVED finding the next stop along the path and CJ was able to practice his reading as we took turns reading the information. 
 We went on another walk of the same trail today.  This time it was a Rock Walk with friends.  We gathered rocks to identify at the end of the trail.  EMan's pants were so full of rocks that he had to hold them up!  We also spotted lots of red-winged black birds and ducks on the lake.  After the walk we talked about the color, size, shape and properties of our favorite 3 rocks.

Friday, April 25, 2014

At the Farm

We had a fantastic time on our farm tour this morning.  It was so much fun to run and play and explore the farm.  It's fun to visit the farm in the spring to see how they prepare the soil, watch the tractors and tour the green house.  We also got to plant a flower and a bean.  We plan to go back in the fall for the fall harvest festival and it is always a great conversation about how much the farm changes from spring to late summer. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Butterfly Release

We had a fantastic time today releasing our Butterflies from Insect Lore.  They were fun to watch crawl around as caterpillars, hang upside down as chrysalis and emerge as butterflies.  We watched them for a few days and today was the pre-determined release day.  CJ took control of the release and gave instructions to the preschoolers.  He was the handler of the butterflies and helped everyone get to see one before they flew away. 
 We found the best option for getting the butterflies out was to tip the butterfly garden on its side and use a flower with a long stem for them to crawl on one at a time. Then we could bring it out, observe it and let it climb on our hands if it was calm. Once they flew away it was fun to watch the ones land around the yard and others fly high into the sky.  I think CJ REALLY enjoyed this experience.  He's very nature oriented and has enjoyed reading about the different insects in our area from our trail guide.
Overall, as a homeschool science curriculum I'd have to say this was awesome.  There isn't much preparation, it's a great notebooking experience, and in the end you get to release them and not stress over having another pet to take care of.  Yay!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Happy Earth Day!  We enjoyed learning all about worms this morning.  We talked about all their body parts, what they eat, and why they are good for the garden.  We talked about proper handling of worms to treat them with respect.  Then we had our homeschool group join us for our "Mud!" activity.  It was such a blast!  It was a continued event from our preschool mud and worms morning and boy did we have fun getting dirty.  It seemed they needed a little prompting to get as dirty as possible, but when they figured out that it really was okay to get mud all over they all seemed to really enjoy it. 
Be sure to swing by Facebook Wednesday morning for a quick giveaway!


Stop by Little Adventures Preschool on Facebook for a quick giveaway!  Winner will be chosen at 1pm MST today!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Insects - A Kindergarten Homeschooling Science Plan

We started in the fall working on kindergarten science activities from the MythBusters Science Fair Books.   They were fantastic for monthly lessons of blowing stuff up, which happens to be what boys love.  Right now we're working our way through 4 months of Lego Simple Machines as our monthly science activity with our group.  

Since we tend to love gardening and plants with our large backyard garden we invested in about 4500 ladybugs to release last summer.  It seemed only natural that this spring we watch how ladybugs grow through their life cycle.  I hopped on InsectLore.com to find some ladybug grub and I was not disappointed.  We already had a ladybug land from last year and a refill of grub was a perfect solution.  I love that they offer the "refill".  Perhaps this will be a yearly activity for us from here on out.  Of course, my eye was also caught by other insects as I was searching the site for more learning experiences.  Our shopping cart ended up containing ladybug grub, caterpillars and a butterfly garden, millworms and a praying mantis egg sack.  This year we are trying again with a praying mantis egg sac (last year we ordered one but it didn't hatch).  In fact, last year we had a most awful time with a different insect company and won't ever use them again, oiy!  Millworms are an interesting addition to our insect collection, particularly since there are chickens around that would benefit from such a tasty snack. Caterpillars was a no-brainer since they are so common. 
So, our homeschool science curriculum for Kindergarten has turned into watching insects on our piano and drawing/taking notes as often as there is anything noteworthy going on (I often scribe notes CJ dictates). It's an experience that's educational to both myself and both boys and it's taken about zero planning time and hardly any time day to day. That's my favorite type of curriculum :).
Having never raised insects through their life cycles I have honestly had moments of, "Oh no! I killed them!" before I realized they were just growing into their pupa stage.  Silly me.  It was very exciting to watch the caterpillars climb to the top to hand upside down like the letter J.  It amazed us that they were there in the morning and still looked just like caterpillars in the afternoon.  Somehow we thought that process would be much faster.  We had to run to the store and left for an hour or so in the evening and came back to the second picture of the caterpillars now mostly in their chrysalis.  It was really cool!  We've been reading a number of books about the insects as we watch them grow.

It is really hard to get pictures of the ladybugs.  I mean - REALLY hard.  They are itty bitty and trying to get a focus on them is just not happening, but trust us that it's really cool.

Friday, April 18, 2014

TouchMath Kindergarten Homeschool Review

TouchMath has been a program that I have utilized both for my own kids and for various preschool classes.  Please visit the Preschool TouchMath Review Link on June 12, 2013.  I have found that TouchMath is a terrific foundation for teaching and learning basic math skills.  CJ has been exposed to the preschool TouchMath program for multiple years both for his own learning and being present while I was teaching his brother.  The preschool program by TouchMath has prepared CJ for a life of success in Math.  This became obvious to me when CJ was able to complete the assignments quickly, and quite often independently, throughout the TouchMath Kindergarten curriculum.  CJ was quick, accurate, and confident in his Math skills.  Topics that were not yet mastered were clearly introduced and set up for students to quickly gain confidence and mastery.   
Touch Math generously provided us with the TouchMath Kindergarten program for Review.  It came in the form of a digital download (PDF files) that I then was able to load onto my iPod Touch (or easily to another tablet or device).  I sorted through the files to find the student work pages and printed them in sets.  The curriculum has four main units. 

Unit A: Counting, Adding and Subtracting within 5
Unit B: Adding and Subtracting within 9
Unit C: Understanding Numbers 1-20
Unit D: Measurement, Data and Geometry 

Each of the four main units is broken into 6 sections.  Follow this link and click on the unit title to see the sections of each unit. This worked for me because I was able to bind the student pages into two packs per unit.  It made it much easier to have a smaller pack to carry around and work on.  Other curriculums that come pre-printed and bound are quite large for the whole year.  Not easy to carry up the flight of stairs with your pencil box for days you wish to do school in a different room. It's conveniently printed in black ink only, however I did feel that there is much wasted paper space.  It is part of the TouchMath model to not have instructions that are unreadable to younger students cluttering up pages, but I felt that many of the pages could easily have been printed 2 per page and saved a few trees along the way. 

When we sat down to do math I could easily reference the lesson plans on my iPod to guide the learning activities for the day and CJ could pull out his bound pack of student work pages.  We ended up utilizing pencils, crayons, scissors and glue throughout the curriculum.  It was also handy to have other manipulatives around (poker chips, unifix cubes, place value straws), though only a few of them were specific TouchMath products (TouchNumerals with Base 10, Texture Cards, TouchShapes).  

The Kindergarten Curriculum contains much of the same concepts that are introduced in the preschool program.  These concepts are now expected to be mastered in Kindergarten.  Some pieces were extremely easy for CJ.  He had done the preschool program for 2 years and mastered some of the concepts in the process.  We still went through every page, though often there were elements that he sped through to "get to the exciting stuff!" (addition).  The foundation of Touch Math is invaluable and has supported all my students in a life-time of confidence in Math.
Overall, I'm impressed with the Kindergarten TouchMath curriculum.  CJ and I both look forward to diving into the First Grade TouchMath curriculum right away.  He loves math and is eager to tackle the challenges of bigger numbers in addition and subtraction as well as learning more about measurement, time, data and geometry.  Bring on the math!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tennis Lessons

One of the moms in our LEARN homeschooling group loves tennis, so it makes sense that that is what she is sharing with our children.  I've never remembered the rules or details to the game (I do believe I learned them for a week or two in high school).  It is so much fun to go and actively participate in the learning with my kids.  Today's lesson included the names of the lines.  The back line is the base line, the outside lines are the doubles lines, the inside lines are the singles lines, and the center line is the service line.  I'm learning all sorts of things!
 We yelled the names of the lines while running on them, jumping like frogs on them, and even tiptoeing and sashaying.  We practiced a fun gamed called applause where your drop the ball and try to catch it, or drop the ball, clap, then catch it. It was a great skill building game for all ages!  We also played a few games with our rackets and beanbags, including: passing the beanbag and tossing it and catching it on our rackets.
One of the last games we played involved tossing the ball over the net to each other.  It was so much fun!  I'm so glad I get to be part of a group that values sharing what we love with each other and our children.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cereal Wars! A Homeschool American Industrial Revolution Activity

Our Homeschool Group, LEARN, is fantastic. We tried a co-op style and found out that it simply didn't work for us.  After going back to the drawing board and learning of of approaches to homeschool groups we found a format that is working fantastic for us.  We originally started out as a playgroup when my oldest was only 6 months old.  It makes sense that we continue in playgroup style with some new group wide goals (which we had already set).   We decided to pick a time period theme and with our oldest homeschooler in the group studying American History and coming up to the American Industrial Revolution we settled on that. 

Today we had the fantastic opportunity to head over to a friends house and learn about the cereal wars.  The cereal wars happened during the American Industrial Revolution when Kellogg's and Post went head to head mass producing a dry boxed cereal for consumers.  We had all ages present from the babies on the floor to the school aged kiddos and it was a success.  For an hour we talked about cereal and the kids loved it! 
 As adults we also learned a ton and I really appreciate that I can go to these types of activities to learn for myself also.  Some of the activities after the lesson included patterning, art and puzzles.
These are the types of awesome activities that are working out with our group.  I feel so blessed to have my family be a part of such an awesome group!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nature Walk

We are working on becoming very nature oriented.  Quiet honestly, I LOVE the IDEA of being outside, letting kids climb the trees, finding out the names of local trees, flowers and insects.  So, it's the idea that I love.  Not so much the implementation.  In fact, I believe it's an answer to prayer that I found a great friend who loves the implementation of such activities.  Yay!  This fantastic mom is leading a series of outdoor explorations and I honestly couldn't be more thankful.  We went on our first exploration around our neighborhood.  It was a slightly chilly day, but made for a great walk and day to learn about our favorite climbing trees: Pinyon Pines.
 We walked our friends to our favorite climbing spot and got busy showing them how we climb.  After a bit of exhausting climbing out came the trail guide.  Kids were instructed to find different clues about the trees: a pine cone and some pine needles.  Upon comparison we learned that the needles grow in bunches of 2 and the pine cones were rather short and squat.  We drew pictures of our findings in our notebooks and wrote down the tree's name.
It was an amazing turning point in my children's viewpoint of nature.  Never before had we looked like scientists to determine what was around us.  We could more thoroughly enjoy the trees now.  Going forward, my boys are actively wondering and asking questions about what is around them.  One of our largest goals for this summer is to learn our local state park inside and out.  The names of trees and plants, insects and rocks/minerals.  They are so excited to get out and explore the trails!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Creating a Homeschooling Group

Through ins and outs, highs and lows we've officially settled on a homeschool group that is working really well for us.  We started out as a playgroup when CJ was just 6 months old.  We've grown and changed a lot since then.  When it came time to split the group (Fall of 2012) there was a goal to create a newly formed group of people sharing the same goals and expectations.   We spent many hours talking and sorting and determining what exactly it is that we wanted.  In case it helps another family out there, this is what we settled on: our "About Us" and "Policies" information.

Welcome to LEARN, Life Explored and Responsibility Nurtured. 
We are based in AURORA, CO.

Our primary focus is building long term relationships and supporting our growing families. The majority of our families are active homeschoolers. Most of what we do revolves around our children growing and learning in the best environments that we can possibly put them in. We work hard to facilitate that growing and learning. Every member hosts a minimum of ten intentional learning activities per year. These include, but are not limited to:
• Educational Field Trips to Museums, Zoos, doctor offices, fire stations, etc.
• Science Explorations, Unit Studies, Literature Based Activities, Lego Club, Book Club
• Physical Education, Camping, Hiking, Park Based Free Play, Tennis Lessons
• Parent Education Classes, Parenting Support
• Holiday Parties, Mom's Nights
• Pot Luck and Game Nights, Family Camp Fires

Dads and kids are always invited to everything unless otherwise specified. MOST of our activities are home based in Aurora (around Quincy and Buckley); we occasionally have field trips to Denver and other cities. We are a close group of parents who like to have fun with our kids. We want to know everyone in the group and therefore expect members to be highly active in their attendance.

Members are expected to:
• Schedule and lead 10 intentional activities each year.
• Attend Meetups as often as possible, aiming for at least 3 a month.
• Prioritize group friendship by attending the monthly group activity.

New members must pay their dues in full ($10 per month for the remainder of the calendar year) by their second meetup and begin meeting all other requirements in their first full month of being in the group.

LEARN exists to build long term relationships through intentional activities and exploration.

Membership is open by invitation only.

We expect our members to act with respect and compassion for everyone's time, feelings and experiences.

Fees are $120 per member (due every January) and will cover the current calendar year. Members that join later in the year will pay $10 per each month remaining. Fees will cover the cost of meetup.com, portions of activities and a community craft box. As a common courtesy to the group, no refunds will be issued.

Members are expected to:
• Schedule and lead 10 intentional activities each year.
• Attend meetups as often as possible, aiming for at least 3 per month.
• Prioritize group friendship by attending the monthly group activity (the first Monday of each month from 4-7)

New members must pay their dues in full by their second meetup and begin meeting all other requirements in their first full month of being in the group. 

Odds and Ends:
• When RSVPing to activities, please only count adults in the “I’m Bringing ___ Guests” area unless otherwise requested by the activity. 
• No-shows (not attending a meetup when you are RSVP’d yes without contacting the host about not coming) are completely unacceptable. 
• Members are required to have a photograph of their face to match their profile. 
• It is crucial that our members feel comfortable and enjoy being a part of this group. We will not allow anyone to tear the group apart with petty bickering, backstabbing, gossiping or any other catty behavior. 
• Members should pay attention to activities that are already scheduled making sure to not double book an activity in the same neighborhood at the same time. If an activity is happening across town at the same time you’d like to do your activity that is acceptable. 
• A member roster of names, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, emails and allergies will be distributed to all members of the group. We encourage members to save all other members contact information in their phones.

LEARN Sick Policy

We have adults and children in our group who are fully vaccinated, unvaccinated and everywhere in-between. Regardless of choices, we as a group of friends are here to support each other. And that is never more important than when those choices do not match our own. Everyone has the health and interest of everyone at heart. No one in this group knowingly spreads sickness to others when avoidable. With that in mind, we also want to remind parents that sickness, while inconvenient, is a natural part of childhood. We ask that you keep your child(ren) home if they have any of the following and for 24 hours after symptoms have resolved: 
• Fever of 101 or higher 
• Vomit more than twice (think stomach bug not over eating or spit up) 
• Diarrhea 

Feel free to come to a playgroup if you have the following symptoms: 
• A runny nose 
• A slight cough 

We realize there is a large gray area between those two categories. We trust your judgment as a parent to know when your child has a cough and is still okay to play with their friends. However, please notify the group if you or your child has a cough so that all families can make an informed decision about their own participation. 

I, the undersigned, agree with the above listed policies and understand that my participation and the participation of any members of my family in any LEARN activity or program is completely voluntary, and we hereby give permission for myself and my family to join in those activities or programs. My family shall hold harmless this homeschool group, any volunteers or representatives, paid or unpaid, and/or the providers of any activity or program location and/or materials from any liability and/or responsibility for any accident, illness or injury that occurs during or as a result of any function or program. I accept that the final responsibility for my safety and that of my family rests with me.

Date _______ Member’s Name ____________ Member’s Signature____________________________

Monday, March 24, 2014

Why We Climb Trees

Do you climb trees?  Do you let your kids climb trees?  We do.  Sometimes, as the mom, it makes my heart nearly pound out of my chest to see my boys climbing in their rubber boots higher than is comfortable for me.  If only they'd love their tennis shoes as much as their rubber boots.  However, I know that by climbing trees they are developing skills throughout the whole experience.  They are working together, making personal judgments on how high is too high and making plans to accomplish their goal.  In the picture below, CJ's goal was to pick a pine cone.  If you've ever learned anything about pine trees you may recall that pine cones only grow in bunches at the top of the tree.  *Insert heart pounding for mom here.*  They are testing their own strength and their limits. They are building their confidence as independent thinkers and achievers. They are developing their coordination, problem solving skills and strength. They have direct contact with nature and are experiencing a sensory activity that changes with every tree.  They are accomplishing everything a TV cannot provide. This is why we climb trees.  Sure, there may be several scratches along the way and a broken bone is always a possibility, but if they don't test their own limits they won't know for themselves what they are really capable of. 
In my yard there isn't a great climbing tree.  We have one ash tree out front that would be okay, if only we could reach the first branch (about 9 feet up).  Through the winter we tend to make it to the park less (mom hates the cold) so we rigged a climbing rope to the tree and aim to try climbing whenever we can.  We had our friends over the other day and everyone decided they wanted to give it a try.  A helmet is required for this type of climbing since the tree hangs over the sidewalk and street and swinging into the tree is true concern. It was interesting to watch how they all saw the first person try it and they all tried the same way.  They would stick their foot in between the two sections of rope and stand on the first knot.  No one made it past the first knot.  Something about gravity pulling down the rope messed that one up.  :) But they all tried it none the less.  We keep practicing and as our muscles begin to develop the strength needed I hope someone will eventually make it to the first branch and be "King of the Tree!"  Wouldn't that be encouraging to the rest?