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 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, 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____________________________