A homeschooling blog we created to share our stories and adventures as we live and learn as a family.

Monday, January 24, 2011

the week in review 1/17 - 1/21

This week went by in such a blur I can hardly remember what we did! I am trying to get ready for our trip to Florida, on top of all our regular commitments so I most definitely burnt the proverbial candle at both ends this week. Here's what i remember:

We all went to a wonderful opera preview with some singers from the Boston Lyric Opera on Monday. In a few months we will all go to see Engelbert Humperdink's opera, "Hansel and Gretel", so these singers previewed the opera and also educated the kids about opera and singing in general. They were so much fun, all the kids were laughing and having a great time, and I was very pleased to see that both D and J remembered much from the past operas they have seen, The Magic Flute and The Barber of Seville.

Here at the homefront D worked on some expository writing this week. I loved his informative and brief essay entitled, "How to Cook a Fried Egg". It made me laugh and also realize how grown up he is becoming, because he does indeed often cook himself eggs these days. We also reviewed prepositions, contractions, homonyms, and he wrote from dictation several times. He finished 'David Livingston' and is reading the third book in the 'Guardians of G'Ahoole' series. In math he worked on learning how to write trillions, billions, and millions and reviewed conversions and finding averages. He learned about the powers of the executive branch, and about the easter uprising and socialism in Russia post WWI. D continuted his marine science research project, focusing on flounder and sea clams this week. He went to hockey, art, theater, and percussion lessons this week.

J lost her first tooth! The tooth fairy paid her a visit, even though she swallowed the tooth in the brownie she was eating at church. She was quite upset about not being able to keep her first tooth, but I assured her there will be many more to come. J read two phonics readers this week and also read a story in her first grade reader. She reads all the time now, anything she can get her hands on, from canned goods in the pantry to menus in a restaurant. It is fun seeing everything begin to fall in to place for her. We read James and the Giant Peach, James Herriot's Treasure for Children, and many library books at our local library, which I now call our home away from home. We were there 3 times on Thursday. Three. Times. She worked on adding by 1 and 2 and also on skip counting and learning her odd and even numbers. Her social studies and science were grossly neglected this week, and I was feeling pretty guilty about it last night. We will need to get back on track after our vacation. But she did practice violin every day and she finished learning the Happy Farmer. She sounds great and all her review songs are solid. She went to gymnastics, and violin group class this week.

We are off to warmer lands in two days! It can't come soon enough as last night it was negative 8 degrees and today our thermometer is registering a balmy 5 degrees fahrenheit. Brrrrrr. More posts to come after our getaway!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

the week in review 1/10 - 1/14

K enjoyed a typical week of blocks, play-do, coloring, and playing with her siblings. Her favorite read aloud this week was 'Python's Party', a book she checked out of the library. She is also enjoying hearing 'James and the Giant Peach' with her sister.

J read a story from her first grade reader, "Up and Away", this week and also read a story from her phonics reader. She wrote thank you notes to her family members who sent her Christmas gifts. We played War to work on comparing numbers 1 - 10 and worked on simple addition. After finishing up our unit study on North America we made a southern-style meal of hoppin' john, cornbread, and collard greens. The cornbread was a hit! But the kids feel they could gladly live without hoppin' john and collards. J and K both did some art with quilting squares. We read about fish this week and watched some Brainpop movies about sea life. J practiced violin every day (except Friday when she had a random low-grade fever) and is still working on the Happy Farmer and reviewing her Minuets. We read many books aloud, including 'James and the Giant Peach'. J did a lot of drawing this week and all the kids built elaborate pillow mazes and an obstacle course in the playroom. J went to gymnastics this week. At Monday Funday she took a KEVA class and gym.

After a month of math neglect during our uber-busy December I realized that D really needed a week to review some of the concepts that we glossed over a bit. So we reviewed division facts, how to find the area of a square, rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid, and triangle, and coversions using ounces, pounds, pints, quarts, and gallons.

We reviewed compound sentences, using commas, conjuctions, antonyms, and the suffix -er as well as -ful. We also reviewed homonyms, the prefix mis- and positive, comparative, and superlative adjectives. It was a review-filled week here at the GB house! Our favorite find of the week are Story Cubes, a cute little game I picked up at a local toy store. There are many ways to use them, but this week D rolled the cubes and wrote a story linking the pictures on all 8 cubes together. It was a lot of fun and made for some funny stories! I like that you can interpret the pictures in many ways to make it fit your story, too. For example, a moon can mean that your story takes place on the moon, or at night. D also wrote thank you notes for his Christmas gifts, and addressed the envelopes as well. He is reading the second book in the 'Guardians of G'Ahoole' series, and is also reading 'David Livingstone, Foe of Darkness' much to his chagrin. He is not crazy about the book, but I am encouraging him to stick with it by reading one chapter a day. He rolls his eyes and grumbles under his breath every time he takes the book out, but I don't want him thinking that we just drop a book the minute it gets dull or challenging. Books are like friends - it takes time to develop a relationship with them and you never know when they might just surprise you with something wonderful.

D learned about the House of Representatives and the Senate and researched his Massachusetts state senators. We talked a bit about the shootings in Arizona. It was impossible to avoid this week, fully saturating the media as it did, and I wanted him to know the facts and have an honest discussion about it. He listened to Story of the World and learned about the Russian Revolution and the end of World War I. For geography he made a map showing the allied and central forces in Europe. D also watched part of 'The History of US' and learned more about westward expansion following the Civil War.

We decided to take a break from Physics and spend some time on D's favorite subject, biology. He wants to research several New England marine species (Atlantic cod, flounder, American lobsters, and sea clams) and make a poster outlining different facts about each one. He has taken a special interest in their conservation status and fishing requirements/restrictions, and has learned quite a bit about how much of our seafood is harvested. This has led to discussions about sustainability and environmentally friendly fishing practices (or more often than not, the lack thereof). I'm glad he decided to do this project. I can see his passion for science whenever we talk about the ocean and the creatures that live there!

This week I made the executive decision to scrap our Latin program. We have been using Prima Latina and recently began Latina Christiana, which takes Latin to a new level. They are both wonderful programs, but I'm not sure that D will really need an in-depth knowledge of Latin at this point in his education. If he were passionate about Latin that would be one thing, but he doesn't care for it all that much and frequently complains about it, though he doesn't want to drop it all together. So instead we will begin learning Latin and Greek vocabulary using root words and he will choose a different language to study. We're thinking German, because my dear friend from Germany is coming to visit this summer with her husband and children!

D played hockey several times this week, practiced his drums, went to art, and had a great time playing with friends for much of the week. We all went sledding on Monday and enjoyed an electricity-free day on Wednesday when we were hit with a blizzard. We hunkered down in front of the fireplace, read books, played games, and took naps. It was a nice week.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

story cubes

This is our new, favorite game to inspire creative writing. We used these for the first time this week and highly recommend them!


I often feel that K is somewhat neglected around here. While I review how to find the area of a trapezoid with D or listen to J work on her phonics, K can often be found padding around the house, often still in her p.j's at noon, drifting from stuffed animals to coloring books to play-do, back to stuffed animals. She doesn't seem at all put out by any of this, and I suppose I should be thankful to have such an independent almost-three year old. Every once in a while she surprises me with something I know she has absorbed somewhere along the way, listening to books, or hearing her siblings talk about what they are learning, and has been storing for just the right moment. Today she matter of factly explained to her dad that animals who can see at night are nocturnal. And after sorting her blue knobless cylinders by height, she announced that they looked like stairs and decorated them with calico critters. It made me smile, and I have to share the pic.

Friday, January 7, 2011

the week in review 1/3 - 1/7

Since it is a new year, I decided to begin a new blogging tradition of summing up our learning at the end of each week. Sometimes the weeks go by in such a blur of activity that I wonder if we did anything at all, and I hope that this might be a way to reflect back on what we've learned and enjoyed each week. I'll blog about each child, what we did, what worked, and what did not.

K is not quite 3 yet, so we don't do any formal work at all. I have a large assortment of art supplies readily available for her, as well as some Montessori materials, and I let her choose what she would like to do while I work with her brother and sister. Most of the time she chooses creative free play, but this week she also organized her knobless cylinders by size and color, worked with play-do and paints, and did some graphing with her sister. We read lots of stories, her favorites being two library books she picked out, "Snuggle Wuggle", and "Flip, Flap, Fly". On Wednesday she went to the South Shore Natural Science Center with our wonderful babysitter while I took D and J to their music lessons. She got to feed the turtles and she held a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach!

J finished another story in her first grade reader this week. She worked from her handwriting book and also drew pictures, mostly of birds and ducks. J decided she wanted to learn all about animals this year, and so far we have studied birds and mammals. We've now moved on to reptiles and have learned about turtles, snakes, lizards, and tuataras. This week we learned about the crocodilian family of reptiles. We use "Around the World in 80 Tales" to learn geography. We focus on one continent at a time, locating it on a map or globe, reading the story from a specific country, and then reading about that continent and country in our Children's Atlas. J and I made her a passport at the beginning of the year and each time we read a story from a country she puts a flag sticker from that particular country in her atlas. This week we read "The Golden Horshoe", a story from Guatemala. That wrapped up our unit study of North America. Next week we will be cooking some southern-style food and making some crafts to compliment this unit. Our math lessons included making a graph using color blocks, making an ABC pattern using pattern blocks, acting out subtraction stories using bears, and playing math computer games. She practiced violin every day and started learning "The Happy Farmer" by Schumann. At Monday Funday J took a gym class and a KEVA class. This week she went to gymnastics, violin group class, and brownies. We read lots of books out loud, but focused mainly on James and the Giant Peach, which we are reading for her book club. All three of the kids build with KEVA planks this week - a lot! J made a dinosaur and animal habitat/sanctuary that she has expanded every day. I'm going to need to get some more planks soon.

For language arts this week D wrote from dictation, using literature passages from "Trumpet of the Swan" by E.B White, learned about when to use commas when addressing a person, reviewed conjunctions, learned about compound sentences, worked on antonyms and learned about the suffix -ful. He did some shape analogies for enrichment.
His math this week focused on thousands, millions, and place-value notation. He also reviewed how to find the area of a square, triangle, parallelogram, and trapezoid.
D worked from his Presidents and States workbook this week, learning about the three branches of government and the system of checks and balances. The material is a bit dry, but he was a good sport about it. We watched some School House Rock episodes to relieve the tedium, specifically "I'm just a Bill" , "Three-Ringed Government", and " Conjunction Junction". We had a history lesson planned, but D had a lot of fun building a civil war camp out of KEVA planks, so I let the lesson go. We will save it for next week.
He started the next level of Latin this week, and reviewed some verbs and the first conjugation.
D read about inclined planes from "The New Way Things Work" by David MacAulay and also watched Brainpop videos about inclined planes, Sir Isaac Newton, and Newton's three laws of motion. We did an experiment with lego cars and blocks of wood to show how using an inclined plane lessens the effort needed to move an object. We used a spring scale to measure and compare the force of lifting an object, and pulling an object up an inclined plane. Good to know, I guess, in case I ever decide to build a pyramid or hoist a piano up to the second floor of my house.
At Monday Funday D built with LEGOS and made a simple motorized robot using LEGO Mindstorms. He also took a gym class. His activities this week included hockey (4 times this week, I might add!), theater, art, and drum lessons.
D is listening to "Water Street" by Patricia Reilly Giff on CD, and is reading "Over the Waves" by Marianne Olson, and the first book in the "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" series.

It was a busy week. I am exhausted, too exhausted to cook eve, which is rare for me, and am looking forward to a nice dinner out with my family. Wow, this was a long post - I may have to rethink this brilliant week in review idea, or at least learn how to condense things for next week!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

yes, we have no bananas

Actually we do have bananas. Lots and lots of bananas. They were looking rather forlorn and left out in my cabinet today so I decided to put them to good use and whip up some delicious vegan treats. We began our morning with some vegan buckwheat banana pancakes and then moved on to some buckwheat banana bread. Can you tell I like the pairing of buckwheat and bananas? The bananas sweeten buckwheat's earthy flavors and add potassium to buckwheat's fiber and magnesium. And they taste yummy together. Two great tastes that taste great together. What could be better?

Vegan buckwheat banana pancakes from Vegetarian Time's Healing Foods Cookbook can be found here http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/10043

I veganized my tried and true all time favorite banana bread recipe from Epicurious using egg replacer and earth's balance vegan butter. I omit the chocolate chips but add a tablespoon or two of ground flax seeds. I used half buckwheat flour and half all-purpose. The kids gobbled it up so quickly, I couldn't even get a picture before they'd began taking slices! You can find it here

Today was our last day of vacation and it was great to spend it in the kitchen with my four favorite people. And lest you think we eat nothing but sweet treats around here I added a picture of our dinner - braised seitan cutlets in mushroom and red wine sauce, also from Vegetarian Times. This was so delicious I have been dreaming about it ever since. I made a chicken version for my carnivorous husband as well. It is destined to become a family favorite and I can't wait to make it again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

hellooooooooooooooo 2011

Seeing as how 2010 was an absolutely terrible year for me and my family, I'm very excited that 2011 has arrived, a crisp and sunny day bringing with it the promise of new beginnings and fresh hope. Don't you just love New Year's Day? I love that one can promise to be their best self - thinner, kinder, healthier, gentler, more patient, and what have you. Yet by Jan. 2 those things seem like a long-forgotten dream as you bark at your kids to just 'hurry up and clean up their rooms or we will cancel Christmas for next year!!!' while scoffing down another cookie. Ah, New Years.

DG and I spent a quiet night at home with the kids last night, hearing their new year's resolutions and thinking up some of our own, from the serious to the not so much. (like mine that includes finally organizing our art closet aka 'the closet from hell' or as my husband lovingly refers to it, 'the fred flinstone closet' My hope is that by the end of 2011 it will not take us 45 minutes to find the correct paint bottle.)We made some delicious homemade pizza and fried dough, a delicious, artery-clogging family favorite. I had meant to go to the party store and at least pick up some party hats and blowers, but never did get around to it, so suffice it to say that our night was very, very quiet, and very, very nice. D was the only one to make it to midgnight! We tucked two sleepy girls in at 8:30, DG was right behind them, and I surrendered at 11. I blame it on the martini and Christmas-induced traumatic stress disorder. Perhaps next year I will actually make it to midnight. There you go, a new resolution.