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?  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Our First Book Club - "The Wright Brothers" and "Alexander Graham Bell"

Our homeschool group (LEARN) is simply fantastic.  We are a group of parents that get along really well and each carry a portion of the weight to accomplish all our educational goals for ourselves and our children. One of the great moms in our group has decided to host a monthly book club for the kids.  Since each of our children are on different reading levels this, at first, seemed like a challenge.  We talked through the idea and sorted a way that is working fantastically.  Each monthly book club is focused on a theme.  As a group we're spending a lot of our time talking about ideas, inventors and developments from the historical time of the American Industrial Revolution in many of our play dates and activities.  Book club has naturally become a great forum for talking about the inventors.  Each month a new inventor is the theme.  Our first book club was based on "The Wright Brothers".  By having a theme each child can read or have a book read to them on their appropriate level.  Then they prepare something to share about what they learned at book club.  Each child has a time to share their presentation on the same theme, we can discuss what we've learned and participate in a group activity.  (Simply due to the illness that late winter provides, our first book club was combined with the second scheduled book club.)
Some of the presentations were colored pictures, some where memorization, others were journal entries (the written narration).  I'm sure as we go on the presentations will also take many other forms. CJ is working on finding his voice in a public speaking environment and this is a perfect, small and well known crowd to practice on.
I simply love the way this book club is working out.  We get to spend free afternoons reading and exploring together and then reporting our learnings to the whole group at the end.  For the Wright Brothers we spent days reading small portions of the text and then exploring the concepts in different ways.  None of it was lesson planned, we just went with the flow.  We worked on our lap book, made paper helicopter toys and paper airplanes, practiced flying and tipping our wings the correct way and even measured our wingspans. 
While working on Alexander Graham Bell we watched the Animated Heroes video, worked on our lapbook and learned about using tubes to amplify our hearing.  It was great to then go to book club, share what we learned and then make tin can telephones as a group. 
This format is working fantastically and we're so excited to continue it each month!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where're My Peeps?

My boys are no stranger to responding to "the pet question".  "Do you have any pets?" "Yes. Bees and worms." -CJ or "No." -EMan.  Yes, we do keep bees.  We have one hive that's been around since spring of 2013 and a second hive in the works to be populated starting spring 2014.  Yes, we do keep worms.  Composting worms.  In a bucket.  They live in the garage.  Though many wouldn't consider these pets, we're not real traditional pet people.  Along those lines was a surprise for the boys yesterday morning.  First they needed to wash out their sandbox toy tub.  It had to do with their surprise.  Then we gave them a couple of books.  Which is funny, because earlier in the day EMan said, "Is our surprise books?" with genuine excitement in his voice.  They started flipping through the books and CJ was (once again, genuinely) excited.  "I love science stuff!"  It took a little prompting for them to figure out that there was more to this surprise then a couple of books.  Their hint: the titles: "Mommy, Me and My Chickens" and "Young Chicken Farmers".  Both highly recommended books for preschool-elementary school kids about taking care of chickens.  Daddy read both of the books to them while I anxiously awaited them to be done so we could move on to the next portion. 
 Conveniently, Chick Days is going on right now at our local farm and ranch store.  It's practically a walk in, walk out process.  They had 3 types of pullets (baby hens) available and the boys got to pick two each as their very own pets.
 Once we got home with the cheapest pet and supplies on the market (about $80 spent on everything to get them to where they can live outside) we got to work assembling our brooder.  We did discover very shortly that an upgrade in box size is necessary in the next couple of days.  The water and food containers take up too much space.
 The chicks had nearly 4 hours of love before the boys were off to a play date at a friends house for the evening.  They (the chicks) were so tired after that much love!
 I had made these shirts for the boys with the intent that they could color the chick to match the color(s) of the chicks that were their own pets.  CJ did color his (half yellow, half brown) to represent his two chicks.  EMan just liked to color it.  It was fun to snap these couple pictures of them in their shirts.  Hopefully in a few weeks the chicks will be comfortable with their new "people" and can go outside in the warm daytime air.  Then I can get pictures of the boys in their shirts with the chicks.  I love them! Where're my peeps?

Swimming Lessons

CJ and EMan have been taking swimming lessons for about a year now.  They both love being in the water.  CJ has been working on the following skills:
  • Freestyle one length with alternate breathing
  • Backstroke length of pool
  • Breaststroke kick on board
  • Breaststroke pull with noodle
  • Introduction to breaststroke
  • Intro to deep water bobs (5x off the bottom)
  • Swim underwater 15 feet
  • Dolphin kick on kickboard width of pool

 EMan has no fear, though he really should :) He's been working on the following skills:

  • Wear goggles
  • 10 bobs with bubbles and breath
  • Tummy float independently (he still sinks like a rock)
  • Back float independently (he actually can do this when he calms down - that doesn't happen often)
  • Kicks, digs and bubbles then turn to back float to breath
  • Front glide, streamline & kick 10 feet
  • Back glide, streamline & kick 10 feet

A Visit to the Zoo

It's been a long time since we've been to the zoo, particularly on a warm day.  I do believe the last 2 times we've gone were both for Boo at the Zoo for the past 2 years.  The boys LOVED running and seeing all the different animals.  CJ has been studying about maps in his Beginning Geography course and was in charge of the zoo map.  It was fun to watch him utilize his skills outside in the real world.  He was also very interested in reading the signs of information about the animals, not something he was ready for in the past.  Of course the running around bit was also a highlight.
 EMan loved visiting the zoo as well.  It was nice enough to want a sweater occasionally but we were able to get by with just t-shirts for most of the day.  We went with our homeschooling group (LEARN) and had a blast.  Because the adults are taking a Love and Logic class on Friday mornings we had to switch the time for our zoo outing to the afternoon and lost quite a few rsvp's due to nap time.  We still had a total blast though.  This week in preschool we were talking about the letter E (for elephants of course) and we love reinforcing what we're learning through fun field trips.