Monday, December 7, 2015

Cripple Creek and Mount Rushmore

This summer we spent time camping at different KOA's around our area.  We headed up to Cripple Creek for a weekend and loved hiking the trails and learning about mining there.  CJ thinks he'd like to be a miner when he grows up.
 Camping and Hiking - what my boys do best.
 In August we enjoyed a long weekend trip to Mount Rushmore, or as EMan calls it, "Mountain Rushmore".  We have enjoyed staying in cabins at KOA's and Mount Rushmore KOA at Palmer Gulch deserves 10 stars.  My boys asked if we could please just live there.  The cabin was comfortable and the grounds had tons of activities to participate in.  There was a swimming pool, splash pad, jumping pillow, mini golf, bicycles and gem mining (the last two had a fee, but the other's didn't).  
Mount Rushmore was simply amazing.  We hiked the trail, completed the Junior Ranger Program and explored all the museums.  It has been great to reference that learning as we're working on our US History curriculum. 
 I would highly recommend looking into the Junior Ranger programs at each of the National Parks.  It has given our family learning opportunities and direction for our visits.  It is phenomenal and I never need to front load the kids with other information and work on a lesson plan on my own.

Monday, November 30, 2015

New Glasses

CJ (6 years old) went to the eye doctor with me this fall for his first visit.  Following in his parents footsteps he got his first pair of glasses.  He doesn't have to wear them all of the time and is supposed to remove them when he's reading or playing on the computer.  He reads a TON and loves his screen time so it's quite common that he goes a few days between wearing them.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rocky Mountain National Park

This year we have gone quite a few places as we have tried to explore a variety of locations around the US.  It made sense to start with exploring what is nearby - the Sand Dunes, Cripple Creek, and the Rocky Mountains. We spent the weekend exploring the east side of the park hiking to Cub Lake and a few other locations.  We loved the Ranger lead program at the visitors center where the boys worked on their Junior Ranger assignments as we searched for signs of animals, weather (there was a lightning stuck tree), and looking for different plants.  The boys made best friends with a family from New Jersey that was also participating in the Ranger led activity.  CJ LOVES making new friends at all the different places that we go.  And nearly every time they are deemed "best friends" for the short time that they get to play together.  I find that the dreaded "socialization" question that everyone asks about homeschoolers is bazaar.  Just spend a weekend with us at any KOA and watch how quickly my kids make friends with individuals of all varieties from all places in the world.  They aren't stuck in a single classroom with 30 kids to choose from where they are asked to sit quite and not socialize except for 15 minutes at recess at each day - the whole world is theirs for the taking. They are so creative in their play and exploration.  Time and time again they get to practice asking others if they would like to play together. Ok, stepping off the soapbox now...
 I was very pleased with the Ranger that did the Junior Ranger swearing in with my boys at the Rocky Mountains.  He spent time talking with them about how to take care of the environment and be safe in the mountains.
We completed a number of hikes while we were in the mountains.  The boys in our family love the experience.  I like the idea of hiking, but don't enjoy actually doing it.  On an eight mile hike over this weekend we heard non-stop from CJ about Minecraft.  He developed a world as he was describing it to us.  In his new Minecraft world he was going to be the emperor and we would be workers.  We could go to school and get a better job and we would have to pay taxes to him. Though I give kudos to his creativity I got tired of hearing all the details.  We also heard non-stop from EMan about Super Mario Galaxy.  In fact, the boys ended up needing a timer to give them each an amount of time to talk.  When their time was up the other child would pick up right where they left off on their chosen topic.

As a side note: EMan, who wants to be a zoologist, cried when we went home because he was so sad that he couldn't bring "Fishy" home.  "Fishy" was a small gold fish in Cub Lake that EMan watched for about 15 minutes with complete fascination.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Steve and I are not huge sports fans, but we do love going to the minor league baseball games a couple of times each year.  This year the boys got to be in the kids club and run the bases after the game.  They had so much fun that CJ is ready to join a baseball team now.  Too bad the season is over.  I guess we can keep practicing until baseball season starts up again.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dance Party

I have a unique family full of energy and craziness! While we were visiting in July my sister put together a dance party.  Each person was assigned a character from the Wii dance game and had to show up in character.  We had such a fun time dancing to all the different styles of games and earning points to see who would win.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thankful for the Ancestral Walk

As our thoughts turn to thanks giving I'm reflecting upon the Ancestral Walk that I participated in with my father, brother, and in-laws this summer.  It was an experience organized by my father to remember my great-grandfather Hyrum Hatton. We followed in his footsteps in a hike from Alpine, Utah to Draper, Utah.  Hyrum Hatton would walk to the quarry every Monday and then walk back for church each Sunday for 5 years in the 1880's.  Walking in his footsteps as closely as possible with all the construction that has happened in the last 130 years we experienced a little of what he did as we honored his service to the building of the Salt Lake Latter-Day Saint Temple.
Though I walked only a portion of the whole trip I made it 11.69 miles, 24197 steps and 108 flights of stairs (all tracked by my FitBit).
To my father who made it 24 miles and my in-laws who made it 35ish miles (the whole distance) I am awed at your dedication and thankful to you for the bonding opportunity and the inspiration of completing the task to honor both my great-grandfather and my father.  I love you guys!
Hyrum Hatton

Monday, October 26, 2015

Homeschool Real Life

I just have to share this photo from this summer.  We spent tons of time at Lowe's with our hands full of construction projects.  This picture not only documents that, but shows how my 6 year old CJ looks when he's annoyed.  It makes me want to giggle :).

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Body - A Kindergarten Unit of Study

Today was our final day studying the body in our Kindergarten Homeschool Options class.  Since we only met for 4 times during this unit our focus was primarily on blood and what it does for us and how it helps fight against germs that are everywhere even though we can't see them.  Last week we each had the opportunity to make a hand print on a gelatin petri dish.  Over the week I let the dishes grow at home and today I shared the results with the kids.  They were amazed that that many germs grew and were once on their hands.  We wrote all about it in our journals, pictures included.
 We then reviewed the parts of blood and what the different types of germs (mainly bacteria and viruses) are.  We talked about how the different germs attack our body and make us feel sick and how our white blood cells and antibodies fight against the attack.  Then we brought out the play dough and got to work recreating bacteria, viruses, white blood cells, antibodies and red blood cells.
 We also finished up our body maps which now represent many different organs as well as bones and muscles within our body.  They also show things that are most important to us and how we identify ourselves.  It was a fantastic day of learning.  Next up ... archaeology.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Water Park

This summer we got a pass for our local water and theme park.  Quite honestly I'm not certain if it was worth it or not with the way our summer went (being stuck at home waiting on the construction crew to show up).  But the handful of times that we went the boys LOVED it and had such a great time.  It was fantastic to be able to go with our friends!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Options Kindergarten 10-17

I apologize that it has taken me so long to get this posted!  We had such a fantastic time in kindergarten on Friday.  We kicked off our section of the body unit about germs and had a blast doing it!  We started the day with the great glitter germ experiment.  Adding some glitter to my hand before shaking everyone's hands in the class caused our "germs" to spread everywhere!  We all had germs on us, on the pillows, on the carpet!  The glitter germs were everywhere!  We read a few stories explaining about germs and then we set off writing our own stories about germs.
 We spent plenty of time recreating viruses and bacteria, white and red blood cells, and playing with them to recreate what happens.  There were many white blood cell play dough pieces that "ate" pompom germs!  We had "blood veins" made from red rolls of paper and immediately had the good blood cells attacking the bad germs!
 Using gelatin plates we made handprints of each child and I'm HOPING they turn out fantastic for us to examine our germ growth on Friday.  We painted germs and wrote in our journals about germs as well.
We're continuing our "Body Percussion" unit during music time which encourages stomping, clapping, patting and snapping.  That snapping is hard to do!  In math we worked on counting by 10's and explored base 10 blocks.

We had a fantastic day of learning and I look forward to another great day on Friday!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Honey Harvest 2015

It has been both fun and frustrating having honey bees as "pets".  A couple of years ago when Steven was really excited about the opportunity to have a backyard hive I consented to have them, however I would not participate in any of the beekeeping duties....ever.  Steve now has his sidekick CJ the Jr. Beekeeper.  CJ loves to help with the bees and find out how much honey there is.  We use a method of honey harvest that involves crushing the wax and straining the honey out in quart jars with cheesecloth.  It's a bit messy but effective.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

US History Kick Off

During this school year the boys and I are studying US History and geography.  We've been talking about the different places we've visited around the country and the boys are so excited to learn about American History because it involves wars :).  We took the opportunity on the 4th of July to invite our friends over for a backyard camp out and US History Kick Off.  We had a fantastic breakfast together and had a short and overarching history lesson about how the US was started.  We also started learning the national anthem.  It was such a great way to kick off our study for the year. 

Monday, October 12, 2015


This summer our homeschool group started a monthly activity with a local nursing home.  Our first activity was a Luau.  It was quite a learning experience for three introverted moms to go to a new place and put on an activity where we didn't know anyone.  It turned out fantastic!  After this experience I realized that CJ would be the most to benefit from going each month.  He talked and talked about how wonderful it was to visit the nursing home and make new friends.  We had big sandbox sensory bins on 6 tables throughout the room that the kids and some of the residents engaged in playing with.  Our goal was to create an environment where the kids could do something so common to them and therefore engage in interaction with people they had never met before.  CJ worked at a table where three women thought he was the cat's meow.  It was so fun to watch their interactions.  We also did a few activities like limbo where the kids got to do it and then we walked the limbo stick around the room and lifted it over the residents who where chair bound to let them participate as well.  We learned a lot and look forward to going every month.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Options 10-09-15

We began writer's workshop in Options on Friday.  We shared our ideas about how authors make books and how we could be authors, then we got busy making our first books.  You should have found your child's book in their backpack.  Some students did not finish as writing a book can take a long time, they are welcome to bring it back and continue working on it next week or finish it up at home.
 Our second week into our body study and we're learning a ton.  We continued learning about the parts of blood and what it does for our body.  We also were able to finish gluing the printouts of essential organs, bones and muscles to our body maps.  We'll continue working on our body maps for two more weeks adding information about germs and information about the passions of our hearts and minds.
EMan in Options today.  He wrote a book about different kinds of ships for writers workshop, sorted long and short vowel words and finished adding the last pieces to his body map.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Alligator Rescue

If you ever make it down to the Sand Dunes in Colorado there is a quick side trip to the Alligator Rescue that's worth the trip (especially if you have boys!).  The rescue takes in alligators and other reptiles that didn't work out as pets (duh!) or needed a new home for some other reason.  We spent about an hour there.  It was an hour well spent where the boys got to hold an alligator, pet snakes and a large tortoise, and see a variety of  other creatures.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sand Dunes Summer Trip

This summer we had the opportunity to camp at Sand Dunes National Park with our homeschool group.  We had a fantastic time, staying in a cabin, playing in the water and building sand castles, hiking the mountains and hiking the dunes.  With the boys a year older since our last trip to the Sand Dunes we were able to hike all the way to the highest peak.  I was so proud of them and SO thankful for our emergency protein bars and applesauce in our hiking backpack.  It took us all day and something like 15k steps and the equivalent of 100 flights of stairs but we made it.  Of course, coming back down was tons of fun and super easy.  We purchased a used snowboard at the end of the season and it was the perfect "sled" for sliding down the sand.
If you don't know yet, the National Park System has a program called "Junior Rangers" at many of the parks.  If you stop by the visitor center they have a (most of the time) free booklet of activities for children to complete to learn about the park, its inhabitants and plant life.  Through this program we learned all sorts of things about the Sand Dunes.  Once completing the booklet the kids are awarded a badge to wear.  I love the program because it gives us an opportunity to turn hiking into an interactive brain powered adventure as we're looking for plants or signs of animals, signs to read or rangers to explain one of our many questions.  I'd highly suggest the opportunity for families with kids 4-15.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Legos at the Denver Zoo

We spent all our Christmas money a few years ago to buy the boys TONS of Legos.  In their bedroom they have Legos and they have books.  At night when it's bedroom time they are welcome to read or play legos quietly before going to sleep.  They also enjoy playing Legos (and reading) all throughout the day, nearly every day.  The Denver Zoo has an awesome exhibit of Legos through the month of October that is worth checking out if you haven't yet.  There are life size statues of animals and other objects made completely out of Legos.  EMan took "Littler" his baby tiger to see all of the animals.  He really loved the trip to the zoo and wanted me to take a picture of every animal we saw so he could come home and make a book of animals.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

EMan's 5th Birthday

I'm doing quite a bit of blog catch up this weekend. I guess I never posted about EMan's 5th birthday party.  He had a Transformers themed party with 5 great friends.  The boys decorated for the party with streamers and it ended up being an obstacle course which worked out well as a starting activity for his friends as they arrived.  Then we opened presents and got to play with all the transformers.  It was the perfect birthday party.  EMan's awesome birthday shirt is from Tugboats and Tutus, a fantastic Etsy shop who worked with me for a last minute order of a theme that wasn't even in their shop.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Homeschool Writing

I have a variety of journals that we use for our writing throughout the homeschooling years.  EMan's writing is on the left with the larger lines and CJ's writing is on the right with smaller lines.  This writing sample is from August 2015.  I encourage my kids to write about things that they are passionate about or an experience they have had.
This next writing sample is from September 2015.  EMan (kindergarten) has now shifted to writing in the smaller lined journal and CJ (2nd grade) is improving his handwriting as well as adding punctuation.  I love this writing sample because we did it shortly after visiting the nursing home for our Lego activity with them.  CJ really loves going and his passion has shown up in this writing (below right).  Ethan had just visited the dentist and was writing about getting a toy monkey in the token machine at the end of his appointment.  EMan's writing is also showing his passions.  He has told me a number of times now that he would like to be a zoologist when he grows up.  Every time he has the opportunity to get a new stuffed animal or other type of animal toy he asks if he has enough money to take it home.
We have been working on handwriting with size of letters and location on the writing lines.  Since this last writing sample we've also started a focus on making sure sight words are spelled correctly throughout the writing.  I used the writing checklist from the Moffatt Girls beginning writing prompts for a few days but have since made my own.  I was so thankful for her idea of a writing checklist.  It is so fun to watch them grow and by having a journal it is easy to flip through and see their progress.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Who We Are: A Month Long Body Study

We had such a great time kicking off our unit about bodies and blood today!  Before I get to the ooey gooey details I'll share that we're doing fantastic with our reading lessons.  We learned about the sight word "the" by practicing touching our top teeth and sticking out our tongues to say the /th/ sound and then opening up the sound in our mouth to say "the".  We're using the Amazing Action Alphabet mini reader books to practice blending letter sounds to read words.  We're also learning about vowels and consonants.  Being able to sort vowels and consonants helps us to identify them as we learn advanced phonics such as vowel teams to make the long vowel sound.  (Note: each child only participated in one lesson, the letters and sight word lesson or the vowels and consonants lesson, whichever was appropriate for them.)
 Now for the ooey gooey stuff!  We had so much fun learning about blood and bodies today.  We started off listing questions and curiosities about blood on our wall chart.  Then we watched the video called "The Bloodmobile" by They Might Be Giants.  By dissecting the song we learned about the parts of blood (red blood cells and white blood cells is all this week).  As each item came up I dumped our pretend version of the "blood" into our "vein" containers.  We also explored the different jobs that the blood does through the song and added the foam representations to our "vein" as we learned about them.  Following the introduction we got to dive in and explore the "blood"!  We talked about being brave enough to touch it because it was a little ooey gooey for some of the kids.  It was fascinating watching the kids play with the pieces and act out delivering the "messages" and "taking out the trash".  They even had the white blood cells fighting off the germs.
 We were then able to take the opportunity to write about what we were exploring in our journals.  We added pictures (and learned how to draw people) and words to match our experiences.  Each child got to sit in the teacher's chair and share their learning with the whole group.  They are getting so good at sharing their thoughts loud and clear for everyone to hear.  The next step in exploring the human body was to color and cut out life size organs and add them to our body maps that we've been working on.  Today we added a brain, face, lungs and the heart to our bodies.  We'll continue adding the other basic elements (muscles, bones and digestive system) next week.  By the time we're done adding to our body maps they'll be quite elaborate and display both things that physically exist and images that demonstrate the passions in our hearts and brains.
 Every Kindergarten day strives to have enough time to throw in some painting :).  During our math time we learned about dominoes and dice and got to play and explore with them.
Here is my own little buddy enjoying his day at Options today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tin Foil Art - A Change of Pace

One of my favorite aspects of teaching Kindergarten at Options is that I get to think outside the box and be super creative.  I'm excited to explore different forms or art and materials throughout the year.  We're going to be talking all about our bodies for the month of October as we continue talking about who we are and where we are in place and time.  I have so many activities set up that I decided to let one of our art projects jump to a week earlier :).  First, we talked about different types of art.  There are paintings and clay pots and drawing and statues.  Statues was the one I was looking for.  We talked about what statues are and then made our best statue poses.
 Next I showed them a pipe cleaner statue that I had made and we slowly worked through the steps together so each child could make their own statue.  1. fold a pipe cleaner in half for the legs. 2. bend and twist a pipe cleaner to become the body and turn over the top and twist to make a head.  3. use a slightly shorter pipe cleaner to twist around the body to make the arms.
 After our pipe cleaner statues were made we worked on a step by step tin foil statue.  Using this precut template we slowly crinkled the legs together, then the arms together, then formed the head into a ball.  There were some tears as the project was rather difficult and we accidentally ripped off legs, arms, and heads along the way.  Nothing a little tape couldn't fix though!
 After the two demonstrations the kids were turned loose with the tools for the day - pipe cleaners, scissors, tin foil and tape.  The creativity was fantastic!  I love providing an opportunity that they may not have considered (or would not be allowed at home).  So, if you haven't yet, check your child's backpack for the tinfoil and pipe cleaner villages, families, and plants versus zombies characters that were lovingly made in school on Friday.

A quick review of the rest of the day:
 We're still practicing how to shake hands, playing with play dough, loose parts and toys while building friendships, practicing finding letters and reading, as well as practicing drawing and writing in our journals.
 We are so busy and having so much fun that I'm taking WAY too many pictures all day long.  I tried to share with you an overall vision of our day in these 10 pictures.  We continued exploring different science themes and instrument families.  We did so much awesome learning!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Routines and Friendships a 4 1/2 Day Challenge

It takes Kindergartners about one month (22ish days) to make friends and get into the routine in school.  At the Options School we only meet once a week for the school year, which means a mere 32 days TOTAL.  I cannot stress the incredible importance of learning routines and making friends as the top goal of our first 4 1/2 days together.  Our initial 6 week inquiry block is: Who We Are.  Our discussions and activities are providing us with language to describe ourselves as learners, writers, mathematicians, scientists, readers, friends, bucket fillers, and so forth.  We have also been discussing friendship and families with comparisons of how our families are the same and different and what we need to do to make and keep friends.
Shaking hands and telling each other what color of eyes they have, practicing good reading skills, learning about vowels and consonants, and developing friendships through play with play dough/loose parts and toys.
Every "project" that involves writing, drawing or creating is given ample time in the first 4 weeks to be shared with the whole class.  EVERY child gets a chance to share their work EVERY TIME.  Through the school year we'll shorten our sharing time and rotate who gets to share each week, but for now, every child, every time is the golden rule.
Utilizing a "How to Draw with Simple Shapes" book we drew pictures of some of our favorite things and then shared with the class.
Many of our group lessons start off with a children's book read aloud to the whole group.  With rich text and captivating illustrations I can quickly give children the language to discuss a concept and develop a starting point for kids to tackle their projects and learning in their own way.  I am also modeling how to share and lead the group, a skill we'll be adding to our days as the year progresses.
Sharing about our families and science explorations aid in developing friendships and language to describe ourselves.
Painting is an amazing activity for kids.  As a form of expressing creativity, children who have the opportunity to paint learn to think with an open mind and to look at situations creatively.  They make decisions on their own from the beginning of the project to the end.  They can use a paint brush or their hands.  They can mix all the colors into one color or selectively mix to create art.  They can express themselves without the limitation of words.  And, they have a blast while doing it.  We will try to paint every single day in Options this year.  If your child doesn't have a paint smock in their backpack please consider donating an old adult shirt for their cause.  Just leave it in their backpack each week and it will get plenty of use!
Sharing pages for our Class Numbers Book and spending time painting.
Though it can be quite challenging to have my own son in my Kindergarten class, it is also a ton of fun.  I get to see him grow and learn and participate in the awesome activities that I prepare for the class.  It feels a little sad when I create something awesome and then can't share it with my own children (which is why I very often repeat activities that I've done with the preschoolers with my own kids).
I am having a blast creating and exploring, teaching and learning with this group of Kindergartners.