Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Do you study crystals in your homeschool elementary science? Crystals are beautiful and while you probably do not realize it, crystals are all around us. Sugar and salt are both crystals. A crystal is an organized grouping of atoms, or molecules. Each crystal has different properties and shapes.

Crystals have many different uses. Precious gems make beautiful jewelry. Carbon is a crystal. As graphite, carbon will conduct electricity, act as a lubricant between moving parts, it is used as a writing tool such as pencil, and it can be used to strengthen steel. As diamond, carbon is used for cutting and as a gemstone in jewelry. Vibrating crystals can be used for time keeping, such as in a quartz clock.

Here is an experiment that will show you how to grow a crystal.

* Alum powder
* Glass jar
* Pot
* Spoon
* Dish, not too deep
* Cloth

Step 1: Create a saturated solution by putting two cups of water in your pot. Add 4 ounces of alum powder. Stir over a medium-low flame until the powder is dissolved completely. Continue to add more powder, slowly, until it stops dissolving in the water. You have now created your saturated solution.
Step 2: After the solution has cooled, pour some in a shallow dish, and the rest into your glass jar. Add a tablespoon of alum powder to your jar, and stir. Cover the jar with a clean cloth, and set it aside. It needs to be in a warm location, where it will not be disturbed. Leave the solution in the dish uncovered.
Step 3: Within several days, you will see crystals start to grow in the dish. After the solution in the dish has completely dissolved, you will be left with lots of seed crystals.
Step 4: Tie a piece of string around a pencil or sturdy stick. Tie the other end around the largest seed crystal. You will be using this to grow your alum crystal.
Step 5: Suspend the crystal in the solution in your jar. Put the jar back in its warm spot, and leave it alone.
Step 6: It will take about two weeks for your crystal to grow completely; after that, you can remove your crystal and use it or display it.

Have your child draw pictures or take pictures of the solution each day to show the growth of the crystal. At the end of the project, have your child sequence the pictures on poster board for others to see the whole process. You might be allowed to display it in your local library if you ask nicely. The crystal itself can be mounted on a pedestal, on a separate piece of poster board, or made into jewelry.

If you and your child make several crystals, you can arrange them as a crystal garden. You can also just pile them in a clear glass bowl. It will make a cool, 3-D display.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Kids like the newest fad, newest Wii game, newest music CD, newest popular book and so on. However, when it comes to traditions like Christmas, kids want to carry on favorite family traditions like cutting their own Christmas tree and putting the angel on top, hanging their favorite ornaments, polishing grandma’s menorah, caroling with family and friends, or hanging up their old stocking. Traditions remind us that there are some things in life that are meant to last.

This year, continue your favorite family traditions and challenge your kids to come up with a new one as part of your homechool curricula. Tell them to write down their idea and include why it should be a new holiday tradition. As a family, vote to see what the new tradition will be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Temperature change leads to Math and Science experiments

November is known for being a rainy month, too warm for snow, but oh that cold cold rain. It's mother nature settling in for winter and it has us scrambling to winterize the house. Something of course we should have done in October, but hey there were days we could still have the windows open, and who wants to put up heavier curtains when the sun is still shining out beautifully.
This is a great time to make Math real and understandable. The same with Sciences... all sorts of Earth Sciences are teachable and are likely to really sink in with keeping the subject close to the season.
You can do experiments on erosion – as the rain will carry away leaves and then some top soil if there isn't grass. Other things that can be done is experiments with expansion, and how a water filled bottle will need to be filled less if it is to be frozen to keep it from bursting out the top.
A little less messy is this one...soaking some Indian corn in a bit of water to see what happens.... Using a large tray with a paper towel, and ¼ to ½ an inch of water...pour water over the cob every couple of days and see what happens.
This has been a great way to use the cob of corn that fell off the door and it's been a fun experiment that the kids have gotten into with gusto. They also have wanted to do this with Maple seeds they brought in and used on artwork (Elmers Glue soaks right off) and with Acorns. Within a few days we've gotten seedlings on the Maple seeds but not the Acorns. These can be transplanted into milk cartons for a winter garden, however unless you have a greenhouse, the Indian corn is not a likely candidate for windowsill gardening.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Veteran's Day

As a homeschooler we get to go into topics pretty deeply, covering not only the history and individuals involved with an event but the geography and weather at the time.

Originally Veteran's Day marked the end of the first world war...and holds common the following days of observance in kind world wide.
  • Anzac Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Remembrance Day
  • Volkstrauertag
All these days are held in observance of those who served and passed in times of war and oppression. Yes, it's a heavy lesson for a first grade child, but one that can be used to impress on them how important it is to support the present soldiers serving somewhere in the name of defending the principles of our country.

In our family, last spring, my brother returned from Afghanistan. We use this day as a day to learn about the armed services, the places they deploy to, and what their jobs might be.

Observance of this day isn't limited to the heavy hard aspects of the day though. We will listen to music from the U.S. Marine Band and eat ravioli – which was served in the White House by President Wilson to 2,000 returning soldiers, having recently become a huge fad at home due to commercial canning. Ok – maybe the kids will eat it, Mom will stick with the freshly made stuff.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Internet Safety in an online learning world

We do a lot of online learning and game playing in our household. As a result I have a very cyber savvy first-grader. There is no bad time to teach internet safety to your child, and while we presently do not let her chat online (no matter how much her online fairy game may want to facilitate swapping of property pixie to pixie) the day will come when we eventually relent.

As a result we've been working on a Q & A format to get her familiar with scenarios that may or may not come up once she gets into a situation where she is actually interacting more and doing different actions than her fairy wand touching things.

Here are some of the questions we ask – but not all...

  • While chatting online with some friends that you know and some others you don't know, the phone rings, and its someone you were online with in the game but not someone you know in person. The person sounds pretty awesome but there's no way you gave him/her your phone number as you know Mom and Dad would kill you (figuratively of course) for giving out your number to strangers. How do you handle that?
  • You are playing your favorite game, and someone starts saying a bunch of bad words. What do you do?
  • A Stranger starts asking you personal information, like what you look like, where you live, what schools and programs do you go to... what do you do – do you talk to mom and dad or do you just tell the stranger these things.
  • You notice your cousin has her phone number in her away message, and you know its her home phone number. She's just a couple of years older than you – is this ok to do?

Internet safety can not be taught too early...take the time with your child today, and save yourself some heartache later.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Farmers Market Season and Pumpkin soup

I've written elsewhere about my love for healthy real food sources, and buying local. This year is an adventure as we don't have all the things we had last year as we're not as familiar with the area since sometime in the middle of writing these articles our homeschooling family has moved...

That said, some traditions help keep you grounded and ours include going to the Farmer's Markets and talking to the farmers that state that their products are grown organically. It's a great chance to get the little ones to actually get to make the connection on where their food comes from as well as the difference between organic and non organic food.

One of our traditions is of course pumpkins – soup, pie, cookies...my family loves their pumpkins. So while you are at the Farmers Market – pick up a couple of Sugar Pumpkins, these are the best to cook with. We make Pumpkin soup first, straight from Alton Brown. He included it in his November 2010 episode on Pumpkin Pie.

  • 1 whole baking pumpkin, approximately 4 pounds, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Clean the pumpkin out fully and cover the outside with cooking oil. The pumpkin is then placed into a casserole dish and the other ingredients are dropped in. The only thing I leave out from the ingredients listed above is the cheese and the thyme.

While doing this we take some of my notes from earlier in the day and discuss growing Pumpkins – revisiting the August entry and discussing where our food comes from, and then discuss what health benefits pumpkin has for little bodies.

Then while the pumpkin bakes for an hour and a half at 375 degrees, we clean the seeds, pat them dry, then lay them out on a cookie sheet, cover them in butter, sprinkle a little garlic salt on them and put them in the same oven on a lower rack and cook until they are golden.

At an hour and a half, you can take the cheese and thyme and drop them in to the pumpkin. A half hour later pull it all out (if you haven't taken out your seeds already) and set the seeds to cool, while you set your casserole dish on a trivet and then break out your hand blender. This is something my first grader loves doing, but be careful to not go through the skin on the sides and the bottom. Let it sit and cool a little, and it can be served right out of your pumpkin – my kiddos love this and I love how good it is for them.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Autumn Is Here!

The air has a slight tang to it, the trees are getting a bit of color to them, and the days of warm weather are limited.

Yep this is the time to get into studies about the September Equinox.

  • How is it / was it observed
  • What cultures venerated it
  • What precisely is it
  • What nifty facts can be turned up about it...

A little research on the net and I turned up the following useful (or useless depending on your perspective) facts about the September Equinox.

  • In Iran it marks the beginning of Mehr or Libra – it's a festival of love – how nifty!
  • Korea has a major harvest festival with a three day holiday celebrated at this time of year.
  • In China the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month... mostly found near the Fall Equinox and it is an official holiday in not only China, but many countries that have a significant Chinese population. Remember though this is the Lunar Calendar we're talking about so it could be any time from Sept to October...
  • In the UK the traditional harvest festival was celebrated on the Sunday of the full moon closest to the Fall Equinox.
  • In the French Republican Calendar – in use from 1793 to 1805 the calendar year began...

These are just a few facts I could find in a quick Google search. What do you think you and your first grader could turn up at the local public library?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not Back to School day!

This sounds marvelous doesn't it? A number of local groups hold these and take their kids to the beach on the first week other kids return to school. It's a chance to get together, blow off steam and hang out with friends who might have been away or attending too many parks and recs programs over the summer.

C's daughter B has attended these since she was a pre-schooler and it is always a highlight of her summer, time where she can just be silly, put some of the knowledge she's gained together over summer from the various trips to the library and aquarium to use and maybe build a sand castle with a Renaissance flair.

As a homeschooling parent it's a great time to connect with other homeschooling parents and not worry about having a lesson crafted around your outing. Kids learn from each other and now is the time to watch the osmosis occur. It's almost a given that your child and another child will start trading facts back and forth and will use the knowledge gained from this last year to better their sand art or the sand mummification of their friends.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Great Restock - or Back to School Sales

The stores are bustling these days, sales for school supplies and for a homeschooler it's not a moot point, even if you see education as something that happens year-rounds. Make the best of these sales, as you'd be surprised at what you can find. Don't be afraid to buy in advance, nor to take advantage of end of season sales. Just buy a size or two up, because the odds are, you child will need them at some point and the weather and your child's size will coincide.

I have to say that being homeschoolers, I like that my child doesn't have to dress like the popular kid. Because, as I've discovered at her summer recital for her parks and rec program, she is the popular kid. She is able to set her own trends with her friends, not only her homeschooled friends, but her public school and private schooled friends.

But hey – that big box store and then the office supply store are both having sales like you couldn't believe, so along with the clothing re-stock (and thank heavens for being in a state with no sales tax on clothing) we also buy our supplies for the year ahead, restocking on some, and building up the cupboard for the coming year.

So what's on our list?

  • Safety Scissors

  • Manilla Construction Paper

  • Colored Construction Paper

  • Watercolor Markers

  • Spiral bound notebooks

  • Crayons

  • Glue Sticks

  • 3 ring binders

  • folders

  • Extra Large Manilla Paper (for if/when we do lap books)

Add into it things that you might find useful and take it with you. Have fun and remember, on September 1, you don't have to haul your child off to school early in the morning, as he or she has been learning all along.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Discovering a learning experience at the Ren Faire

Well it's Ren-Faire season here again. Time for oulandish ticket prices bad food on a stick and a chance to expose your little one Shakespeare.


Yes, that's right. Shakespeare. Now I'm not suggesting you go in unarmed, and in fact a pre-emptive trip to the library to get “Tales from Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb, illustrated by Joelle Jolivet, and introduce your first-grader to an abridged version of the Bard's stories.

Abridged versions of "Hamlet", "Midsummer Night's Dream", "Macbeth", and "Romeo and Juliet" are included and will make all those men in tights saying “Forsooth” and “Milady and M'Lord”not appear so strange to your little one.

Most Renaissance Faires will have entertainment for all ages, and you might just find a Punch and Judy show, a bird of prey exhibit, and maybe even archery games or a pony ride. These are all things my little one loves seeing when we go and are welcome activities when our paths cross with the booths or displays.

When you get home, its time to get back out the art supplies. Let your child tell a story on paper about where they went, pictures, drawings, maybe make paper Knights and then draw armor for them, or make a princess cone hat and trail ribbons off of it for your little Princess...the possibilities are limitless when it comes to your child's imagination.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Baby it's HOT outside!

It's the middle of July, it is of course a beach day. What great fun, but don't forget some basic summer safety.
  • Don't swim right after you've eaten (wait that half hour, it's worth it not to get cramps and be unable to swim while actually in the water.)
  • Keep covered by a floppy hat or scarf for your head, and sunscreen for your face and body.
  • Don't swim without a lifeguard or parent close by.
  • Bring you bucket and shovel and be prepared to have lots of fun!

Then when you get home, have your first-grader work on an art project depicting his or her day in the sun. Sand or Manilla paper works best for this project.

Materials Needed:
  • Crayons
  • colored pencils
  • scissors
  • glue
  • paper beach art printouts / magazines with beach scenes in them
  • Large sheet of paper – a natural or sand color will make the project easier

So what to do now?

Have your little one decorate a sheet of paper to look like sand (might not be necessary if sand-colored paper is used). If you wish, attach two sheets of paper together for a larger scene. Then take those printouts or magazine cutouts and let your child glue them as they see fit. Odds are you will find it's a nice scene as opposed to something from Picasso...

These can also be used to make a beach mobile and hey – when your house gets too cluttered with artwork like this, have them give the artwork to Grandma as a present. She'll love it – I guarantee it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Red, White and Blue, with a lesson about Bullying.

The opportunity to teach your child about bullies is ever present, and you can do it with US History as well...

Have your child do a little studying on why the American Revolution happened.
  • What was the real reason the Boston Tea Party happened
  • Why exactly did all that tea get dumped into the harbor.
  • Who were the figures involved, and where did they live?
  • What were their professions outside of being Rebels against the British Monarchy?

This brings a number of things together, it allows your student to learn about history in a manner that makes it real for your child. It allows for a lesson in economics, in geography and then what were viable professions in the mid 1700's.

Now, to tie that into our current era with Bullying.
  • What are reasons that your child might see another child bullied.
  • Can you compare and contrast these with the Colonists here in America?
  • Where might they turn to in the case of bullying that the colonists couldn't as it was a much larger scale.
  • What might drive someone into bullying – physical, financial and emotional.
  • How would someone or something being different maybe scare an individual or group into behavior that is considered less than acceptable in any other situation?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blending into a new peer group

Coming home from our last outing gave us a great chance to talk to our own first grader about what summer parks and rec program she might be into. With little surprise we were informed Dance of course had to be on the schedule, but Gymnastics and Art as well. These are outside of the Co-op's spectrum and give her a chance to interact with a different peer group.

Meeting new peers is always a bit nerve-wracking for all involved, but fun and exciting. After all, who knows what this summer group of friend might have to offer that the regular group doesn't. For us as a homeschooling family no matter what curriculum we are using the learning never ends, and there's no reason for it to do so. Some new friends might have different cultures we've yet to be exposed to, some might integrate lessons we've learned in our co-op group into every day life in an unexpected way. Take the French class that the Co-op did this year... well if your little one finds him or herself exposed to a french speaking family (not difficult to do in our region as Quebec is just north of us) it gives your child a chance to actually use what he or she has learned. On top of this of course is the opportunity to make new play dates with public schooled kids and spend many days at the park. Something my own First Grader would never turn her nose to.

These Parks and Recreations programs can be quite affordable and give you a chance to expose your child to things you may not have had an opportunity to do so with otherwise. Give it a look-see for your self, you might find that it is a great addition to your own personal home school curriculum.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Homeschooling Day at a museum

I wrote last month about getting over to the local living history museum. It's a great way to spend a day outside, getting exercise and learning in one fell swoop.

Traditionally over Memorial Day Weekend our own troup takes a Saturday to go to Sturbridge Village, where we learn about hydro powered mills, tin smithery and of course my personal favorite – fiber processing into cloth, from shearing to weaving.

They have a number of sheep there and they hand shear them, and then clean the wool with amonia and water in large boiling water tubs in the sun. Of course as they are in costume, the women are wearing long dresses and aprons, as well as bonnets, and on a hot day this can be pretty rough, so my first grader gets to see firsthand that she has it pretty cushy when she doesn't have to do this hard work to get her clothing.

They have a mill powered carding machine there that is pushing 300 years of age, there are no synthetic parts on the belt, and the wood of the mechanism is held together with pegs instead of nails. This provides an excellent opportunity to teach about construction methods of long ago, and has amazed many.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

...it's warmer and the kids are antsy.

So we're taking our first beach day. It's not quite warm enough to go swimming yet, where we live the Atlantic has not warmed up enough, but we can pull into our homeschooling science curriculum and see what sorts of things we can learn about sea life and our local ecosystem at the shore.

Our local aquarium has Beluga whales, penguins, Seals, Hognosed Rays, Sharks and Jelly Fish – and these are just in the large tanks. We also have smaller tanks with other regions represented as well as a touch tank with horse shoe crabs and star fish, and other things that you might find in a tidal pool. For an unexpectedly hot day this is a fantastic break away, and can help reinforce much of what is taught at in homeschooling, whether in a home or co-op setting.

Then off to the beach, to see what else might be found that we saw at the Aquarium. Depending on where you are in our region, you might get to see a whale rise out in the ocean, or a seal sunning itself on the rocks, but there's no saying that if you are further inland that you can't do some studies on local wildlife as well.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Horay Horay for the First of May! So it's finally consistently nice out. We've been doing short trips out to nature preserves of late and are looking to the weather being even warmer for our trips that are farther afield.

The saying goes “April Showers bring May Flowers” and it's not off at all. We have lovely flowers everywhere here these days, and it's given us a chance to work on more horticulture and agriculture based lessons in and amongst the 'reading, writing, and arithmetic lessons.

Of course in and amongst all this is the fact we can now make trips to out door living history museum and festivals again, and we're gearing up for the Textiles.

The CT Sheep and Wool festival is at the end of April each year and allows us to get out and stretch out legs, learning about various animals related to the textile fiber industry. The kids love that they get to pet the Alpaca, to see the various breeds of sheep that produce different kinds of wool, from the really scratchy kind to the almost smooth as silk, and even the Angora Bunnies, and silk worms. We only get to see the fiber ready to spin from the silk worms, as they grow fast and are hard to transport for the person raising them, and of course the fact that they are little eating machines so keeping up with being a vendor and caring for all the little silk worms is a little tough.

Coming up soon will be the Home School day at a local living history museum as well, with their own textile days so we hope to attend that as we have in the past.

What can these kind of festivals teach your kiddo? Animal Husbandry, Training – sheepdogs in action are amazing to watch, the math of weaving – it's all open and so much to choose from.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Environmental differences and how plants grow

Arbor Day was a few days ago, and it provided us with a great chance to learn about trees, their insides, the growth patterns, and what we've got in our own little interior garden here.

Some trees grow very tall and create a canopy of leaves that keep other plants from growing beneath. We can simulate this effect with our Marigolds by putting a paper cup over the plant (with holes in it of course, some sun will get in) which will allow us to see what happens when plants don't get sun as much as others.

Keep a little ruler near by and see what the difference is in growth on a daily basis with your first grader. Watch the plants which get more sun grow with gusto...

Now we can simulate a much more arid environment as well. Set one Marigold aside from the sunny bunch and don't water it as often as its counterparts get watered. This will help your first grader learn about different climates and how certain plants grow with different conditions.

How are those Cherry Tomato's growing? Ready for a planter yet? No? Ok. Let 'em keep growing. That's the hardest part of Tomato's, watching them grow enough to transplant.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Was that a prank I pulled?

So April 1. It's a prank filled day here, one that would not be complete without making up a rather annoying word-search online for my first grader, filling it with tons of letters, and then setting the following directions at the top, which I know she can read.

“Read the directions before you do anything. Write your name and the date at the top of the paper. Read the list of words. Circle any ten individual letters that you want to in the puzzle. Turn over the paper and draw a picture of something you like.”

Now am I being mean to my homeschooled child? I don't know, after all I had this one pulled on me several times in several forms in school – all the way from Elementary to Post Secondary.

This is actually a critical lesson for your first grader to learn, however, and will be helpful later in life too. It decreases the chance of getting yelled at for not reading the fricking manual on a piece of electronics.

Moving on to your growing plants, how are they doing? The Tomato Seedlings won't be big enough to transplant yet, but soon, and you will likely want to find a bigger planter for them before moving them into your upside down planter. Please be careful to minimize shock to them while you do it, as they don't like April Fools as much as other beings on this planet may...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Here comes the Spring Equinox

It's nearly the first day of spring, and it's time to join the party our planet is having here in the northern hemisphere by planting something of our own to grow with the rest of the world outside.

So two weeks ago we had the following items on the list...
1. Start reading about growing things
2. Start saving creamer cartons and only recycle the top halves..
3. Save your egg cartons
4. Pick up some cherry tomato seeds
5. Pick up some Marigold seeds
6. Pick up some potting soil

Did you do those? Good! We are using this time of year to start our plants, and to do some experiments.

Add to your list now:
  • a sharpie
  • a watering can
  • popsickle sticks

Pick a day when you have time to make a mess, lay newspaper out because, baby, this is messy. I highly recommend not wearing nice clothes for this, as you are working with dirt. Set all your materials in front of you as well as a watering source, doesn't have to be a watering can, but something to help moisten the soil.

Plant your seedlings, noting on the stick with the sharpie what your first grader planted. The tomatoes in our house start in egg cartons, and then get moved to an upside down grower, and we study about what makes a healthier tomato. We can't buy enough Cherry Tomatoes in this house to keep my youngest happy, so we also grow them. It's a lesson in patience for him, but well worth it for his favorite food.

The Marigolds. Well for them, I have far more sinister plans.
(Insert wicked laugh sounding fairly like “Muahahahah” at this point. I know you can imagine it...go ahead do...)

Now the lessons on what makes a healthier plant may continue all spring, so keep peeking back.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Winter's last hurrah and getting cabin fever

Good grief, would this snow just go away? By now your first grader as well as mine is likely getting cabin fever. I can't say as I blame him or her...but fortunately there are some things that can be done.

1. Keep up those library days
2. Start reading about growing things – it's not time to start your seedlings yet, but hey a little knowledge goes a very long way.
3. Start saving creamer cartons and only recycle the top halves..
4. Save your egg cartons
5. Pick up some cherry tomato seeds
6. Pick up some Marigold seeds
7. Pick up some potting soil
8. Keep up the play time outside when possible, and when it's not so cold that going outside for fresh air while bundled up will give you frostbite, send your first grader out into the backyard to see if he or she can find signs of things budding yet. Have them bring a note pad or chalk board and count the types of plants that are just as tired of winter as they (and you) are.
9. Maybe plan a trip to some place warmer as a respite for the cold and cabin fever you are feeling...

Now those things you can't use immediately listed above will all come useful in the next entry I promise...we'll be planting then in honor of the spring equinox, but until then we're preparing.

Such preparation and studying is actually useful for your little one. Granted, a first grader doesn't want to wait to plant things, but it will help, believe me. It's a lesson in project management, and if you lay out your own steps one by one on the calendar or make a chart for the refrigerator you are helping your child learn long term time management.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Endangered Animals and odd angles.

Yep – we're studying endangered animals this week. Our library trips have included bringing home books on Kiwi, Amazon Parrots, Komodo Dragons, Mountain Gorillas and other endangered animals. We are preparing for a trip to the zoo when it gets nicer out, or our next trip out to the desert of the American Southwest – where it's nice right now and we can go to the zoo in winter without worrying about snow.

We're not limited to the warmer weather animals, and last fall they got an opportunity to be exposed to the Kirtland Warbler, a small bird that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has gone to great lengths for. Makeing sure that the ecosystem is viable for the species to come back from the brink of extinction...this little bird lives in Pine Trees in the Oscoda County area (Hrm, same place that Paul Bunyon was first written about) and is a beloved bird of the region!

Getting to see an endangered animal's ecosystem is one way to bring it home to the child that this species is at risk, and reinforce the child's existing lessons. Many kids learn by doing, and an opportunity to physically be there doesn't need to just be something to worry about; “Can I afford the airfare for the trip?” Often you can find endangered species not far from home.

So what does my child become exposed to in the process of learning this? Statistics, Wildlife Conservation, Zoology, Mathmetics, History, and Art as she coalesces this all into her little first grade mind.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Groundhog Day

So tomorrow is Groundhog day. Each February second Groundhog Day is celebrated by many people across the US...

If your child is an early riser then you can turn on the TV to any network and at 7:45 a.m. a Groundhog named Phil emerges from his burrow in search of his shadow. If he sees that shadow or not, it is reported to the town leaders, who make their pronouncement of the length of the winter season and whether it is to go to the full spring equinox or if it will end six weeks earlier than the calendar states.
Based on an old story that taught folks to believe that animals could predict the length of winter, it's still held dear to this day.

So in honor of Groundhog day our homeschool curriculum includes studies of the various historical cultures and holidays around this date, as well as of course the reddish brown North American marmot, as well as studies about woodchucks, squirrels and other small wild rodent like creatures.

With this we learn about the date of Groundhhog day, the word Emerge, how to recognize the first signs of spring, the length of winter, and gain a goal for the end of winter.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teaching to test and it's all about the numbers...

I've been thinking more recently about an email list I am on. I have seen a lot of activity regarding the CMT’s – which is a standardized test…all Public School children in Connecticut are evaluated with these evidently. Some homeschooling mama’s are wondering if they should have their children evaluated as well, or if they should find auxiliary tutoring that focuses on standardized testing by state.

For the record – homeschooled children really don’t need to do this, but it seems to have some parents all worked up and they want it, so it’s a good thing that there are resources out there for the parents to utilize for their kid's test preparation. Mine are far too young for it but personally I would be more concerned with SAT courses. That seems to me to be far more where the attention should be focused.

When talking to another parent in a production that my first grader is currently in, his statement was as follows...“they tell you off the record, it's all about those numbers, it controls the funding and what help the kids can get."

He is the dad of fraternal twin boys, both are kinesthetic learners. Homeschooling appealed to him for the purpose of being able to design a curriculum around his children's specific learning style and needs. It's a shame that we've forgotten that kids need to learn for learning’s sake, not to become statistics.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Getting back into the swing of things

So welcome to 2011... hard to believe that the year has rolled around as fast as it has. But here we are and January has such wonderful things to learn such as cooking, art, the color wheel...

The Color Wheel?

Ok – so when I start these entries I'm not fully sure where they will take me, but I use what we are doing in our everyday to inspire the posts, so today I will write about yarn dying and fiber processing. Spinning wool is a great way to teach Math...a certain volume of raw fiber will convert to so much processed fiber – cleaning the wool to take debris and lanolin out will reduce the weight. Measuring before and after cleansing the raw wool will show the difference, and my first grader loves the entire process...carding the wool into equal sized cigar shaped rolags, and setting them upon the digital scale to see how close to the perfect match that each can be.

After spinning the wool up we put it on a tool called a Niddy Noddy in two yard circles, which enables the lesson of counting by twos. Once the yarn is put into a skein the whole process of setting the twist is great fun...Look up at the title of this post...getting back into the swing of things? I swing the yarn in circles and thwack it on a counter for good measure. Then we measure out what we need to for dyeing the yarn in hot water and the shades of koolaid we are looking for, wrapping it in cling wrap and placing it all in a bowl, then microwaving it until the color is set.

All these things together integrate a wholistic learning method and reinforce the lessons that our formal curriculum teach.