Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Injured Monarch

We went out for a bike ride yesterday and didn't make it too far up the road before Madeline jumps off her bike in the middle of someone's driveway to look at something on the ground.  I thought it was probably a big spider or some other nasty bug.  When Travis and I caught up, we saw that it was a Monarch butterfly, slowly flapping it's wings.  I scooped it up and it walked a little in my hands, but couldn't fly.  We knew we couldn't just leave it there, so we carried it home and built a habitat for it.

Madeline and Travis gathered a few sticks and leaves to put in the container while I cut holes in the lid.  Madeline knew we needed to add a couple flowers since monarchs feed on nectar, so she snipped some from the bouquet the kids got me last week.  She also knew that this butterfly was a female, because it lacked the lower pouches on the wings that the male monarchs have, so she kept correcting me when I called it an 'it'.  I'm not positive, but it appears her wing is broken.  She can still flap both wings, just cannot fly. I did an internet search and also found that sometimes they act like that when they are ready to die.  Monarchs only live for about 6-8 weeks and this one may have hatched early due to the crazy hot weather and earlier blooming milkweeds.

We took her outside again later in the day and opened the lid of the container to see if she would fly, but she only flapped her wings a bit and didn't move much.  We'll do the same thing randomly throughout the day to see if she'll fly... if not, we'll bring her to the Children's Garden tomorrow morning to see what can be done, if anything.  If it is just time for her to die, then at least she'll be placed in the beautiful flowers of the butterfly garden.

Madeline had to run downstairs to say goodnight to the butterfly after she was all tucked in last night.  I really hope this butterfly doesn't die today.

A very concerned Madeline

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Middle Kingdom of Egypt

Chapter 12 in SOTW delved into the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.  The first section discusses how Egypt invades Nubia.  Egypt's new ruler, Amenemhet, a government worker -- not a pharaoh, was determined to make Egypt  bigger, so his first target was the kingdom of Nubia in Africa.  After fighting many battles, Amenemhet finally won, and the Egyptians renamed the land of Nubia to "Kush".  Over the next seven hundred years, the Nubians began to think of themselves as Egyptians, and some went on to become pharaohs in Egypt.  One Nubian woman even became the queen of Egypt through marriage.

The next section explains about how the Hyksos invade Egypt. At this point in time, Egypt was very weak and couldn't keep control of all the land.  The Hyksos were a wild and strange nomadic tribe that lived in Canaan, and they were always looking for new land to conquer. They used weapons that the Egyptians had never seen before and then took over the pharaoh's palace.  When the Hyksos became the new rulers of Egypt, it also became the end of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.

After a hundred years, the Egyptians were able to take control back by fighting the Hyksos by making the same weapons that the Hyksos used.

Our craft project for this chapter was making our own Nubian style golden bracelet!  We cut up some toilet paper tubes and spray painted them gold.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Workbox revisited

Ever since I heard about Sue Patrick's Workbox System a couple years ago, I have tried to figure out a way to make it work for us.  From what I've read about it, there are so many ways to use the idea and adapt it to your specific needs.  The first time we tried it was for preK; I spent too many hours cutting, laminating, and sticking velcro on little cards that I hoped would be helpful for Madeline, and it wasn't really useful for us at that time.  The idea worked out much better in my head than it did in real life. It felt like I was forcing her to do these "things" in the box that she would happily do not in the box, and I was getting frustrated when things didn't go as planned (like anything *really* goes as planned with a preschooler!)  Needless to say, we stopped using them.

When we got the schoolroom/playroom all set up in the beginning of the year, I thought we'd give the workboxes another try.  I had enough boxes for each subject to be stored in, and thought we'd use those little cards for the material we were to do that day.  Again, it didn't work out the way I was hoping it would and I wasn't about to force it.  The boxes were useful in the sense that each drawer held the book we were using and any corresponding material that was needed.  Madeline usually chooses which subject she wants to do, and although I completely support that choice, she hardly ever chose math.  Reading and math are the 2 subjects that are done every day, and the others are done a few days throughout the week.  When it came time for me to say we need to do math, or that math was to be done first or something, there was usually an attitude that came along with it (hers, followed by mine).  Especially being in her early learning years, I don't want her to associate learning with frustration, and I don't want Travis to view that "school sucks" notion.

Fast forward to the past 2 weeks.... I found an incredible deal on a little Step 2 art desk at a yard sale.  There's no way I would have paid the $80 retail price, but couldn't pass up $5 (actually, that was my mad bargaining skills price... original asking price was $15).  I squeezed it in the corner of the living room, as tacky as it looks, because I hoped it would get the kids (Travis mainly) more interested in coloring and drawing with all the crayons, markers, and colored pencils on display.   Fast forward to the first day of school and guess where Madeline wanted to do all of her work?  That's right... on the tacky little desk.  I could foresee many trips up and down the stairs to the school room switching out the different subjects, and although my butt and calves would have thanked me, I was just not that thrilled about the idea.  So... I cleared the bookcase that is used as an end table and put the workboxes on the top shelf and cheapo Ikea magazine holders to store the additional subjects on the bottom shelf.  This makes it very convenient to switch out the material in the workboxes each night. Ideally, extra books associated with material we are learning about will be on the middle shelf. 

I am thinking the 3rd time is going to be the charm with the workboxes and really feel it will work out, for now anyhow.  I just have 6 'boxes' out instead of the 10 we had upstairs.  We're using the little laminated cards again, only this time, I switch them out on the box each day for what subjects we are doing instead of keeping all the materials in separate boxes.  For example, today we did 6 subjects so they were all on display for her.  She knew exactly what needed be done, yet still had the freedom to choose which order she wanted to do them.  When she finishes one workbox, she flips the card over so all you can see from the outside of the box is the white paper of the card.  That way, it's easier to see how many things she has finished and what she still needs to do.

Tacky little desk and workbox set-up squished into the corner of the living room.

Left side shows work to be done; Right side shows work completed

Storage for most of the subjects and binders.  I guess I could have straightened out the books on the middle shelf before taking this picture.

This set up has worked well for Travis, too.  I'm able to play trucks or puzzles with him easier downstairs while Madeline does her stuff, without it being too much of a distraction for her or her feel like I'm not there to help.  He gets really excited about a specific math puzzle he has, and always plays it when Madeline does her math. I'm amazed at his counting lately, too!  He has definitely improved on numbers and counts objects to 14, then skips around in the teens, then counts all of the 20's, most of the time.  My favorite number of his is twelveteen.... it's used quite frequently.  The kids' co-op starts next week, and I'll be teaching the preschool class.  The focus will be the letter of the week with associated fun crafts.  I'll continue working with him on letters at home, too.  We are starting more preschool material, but I don't have any specific curriculum for that.  Mostly just learning through songs and play.

The kids used to start the morning with a cartoon or two, mainly so I have a chance to get lots of coffee in my system, and I think that set the mood for arguments when it was time to turn it off.  Our new rule now is absolutely no tv until school work is done.  When I explained this to Madeline, she was initially worried she wouldn't get any breaks.... I reassured her she can take all the breaks she needs, but not to even ask me for a cartoon unless we are finished.  I anticipated this being more of an issue than it actually is, and I really think has a lot to do with how smooth things have gone the past week.

After doing the first 3 subjects today, I gave the kids some string cheese as a snack.  Normally, I can pretty much get them to anything for a piece of string cheese.  Madeline took 1 bite, then set it down on her desk and said she'd eat it when she finished all of her school work.  I couldn't believe it, she disciplined herself with her favorite snack!  With cooperation and focus, she was finished with her entire school day in less than 2 hours, and that was taking our time and making sure she comprehended the material.  I know that sounds like such a small amount of time compared to institutionalized learning. I assure you, a little goes a long way when some of the only distractions are your little brother.  Not to mention it helps tremendously that the curriculum is tailored specifically to you and your learning style/capacity.

The thing I like best about our set up, and homeschooling in general, is that I know what the kids understand and are capable of learning, and that it doesn't take up much of the day.  We were finished by 9:30am, and that gave us plenty of time to explore other things based on the kids' interest, go on a bike ride, read together, play games, nap, meet up with friends, cook together.... etc. That was just one day.   I don't know how long we'll end up homeschooling, that will be re-evaluated yearly based on our circumstances, but I do know that I'm going to enjoy every step of this path while it lasts. This may sound crazy, but the past few days have been incredibly joyous and I really feel proud to be able to say that I love homeschooling my kids!

Friday, August 31, 2012

First poem memorization

Lesson 2 in FLL (First Language Lessons) is introducing poem memorization.  For the first day, you are to read the poem to the student and discuss it before working on memorization.  Then, read the poem aloud 3x in a row.  Repeat the 3x reading twice more during the day.  On the second day, and each day thereafter until it is memorized, repeat the triple reading once during the day.  Also, on and after the second day, ask the student to repeat parts of the poem that they know along with you as you read it aloud.

This morning, I read "The Caterpillar" to Madeline 3 times in a row.  I told her to close her eyes and open her ears and try to visualize what the poem was about. A few more times during the day, I said the same thing and did the triple reading.  After dinner, she told me to close my eyes and open my ears so she could read the poem to me 3x in a row.  Then, I told her to try and say any parts she could remember aloud with me.  The first time through, she didn't say anything, just listened.  She asked me to do it again... and she said most of it with me.  I encouraged her to do it on her own, and she did!  She was so excited and had an awesome spark in her eyes as she realized she just recited the entire poem!  Of course, she had to repeat it for Jake and Travis, too.  When I tucked her in bed a few hours later, she repeated it again.  I'm so looking forward to the morning to see how much she remembers.

Here is the poem:

The Caterpillar
Christina G. Rossetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry; 
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk.

May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you; 
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Day of the new school year

Reading lesson
Miss Madeline was really excited for the first day of school today.  She put on her fancy purple dress and chose to start the day with handwriting, reading, and math.  She is now working on Handwriting Without Tears - Printing Power.  She did the first few pages, which were just review, and I'm curious how the rest of it will go since it's now at the next level and smaller handwriting... but she says she's ready for it.  There was a bit of a struggle with math, which also was a review, but when I explained that we wouldn't be able to make our plans this morning if it wasn't finished, she quickly remembered her addition and subtraction.  I've honestly not seen her work so fast!

Kennedy, Madeline, Nina, Reagan
We then went on to have a picnic lunch and a
fabulous afternoon at the KY Children's Garden with some of our friends.  If you are in the Lexington area, I highly suggest checking out this place.  It's beautiful, the workers are phenomenal, play and participation are strongly encouraged, and there are always different educational activities going on.  This was only our second time visiting, but we will be regulars until the season is over at the end of October.

We arrived at the Children's Garden just in time for a couple stories about panning for gold and fossils, and another about streams.  Then, Madeline, Travis, and their friends sifted sand for fossils and played in the creek to reinforce what was learned during story time.

Getting their nets ready
After a little while, the kids grabbed some butterfly nets to help a lady who works there, Emma, try to catch a Monarch butterfly.  Emma and some of the other workers have recently started tagging the Monarchs and she was trying to catch one all morning.  Everyone headed over to the sunflower area to catch their own butterflies.  Each of the big girls (Madeline, Nina, and Reagan) caught a Tipper butterfly on their own and had help putting it in the bug jar.  The other girls caught theirs first and Madeline became very determined to get her own.  She snuck around a flower bush and did it all by herself!  She also told me that was her favorite part of the day and that she was super proud of herself.  :)

Madeline catching a butterfly.... terrible editing, but I had to include this picture.

Fishing buddies
The kids did a little fishing after that and played in the creek some more.  Finally, Emma caught the Monarch and asked if the kids wanted to watch her tag it.  They all gathered around, and she let Madeline put the sticker on the wing.  She also showed all of us how to record the data and explained how it contributes to the overall understanding of the dynamics of the monarch population.  For example, there has not been a year in the 117 years of climate records for the United States that has been close to what we've all experienced in the last 12 months.  It has been incredibly too hot and too dry for good monarch reproduction.  If the milkweeds were all past their prime due to flowering earlier everywhere, it could possibly diminish the size of the migratory generation.  There are many questions regarding how this past year will affect the fall migration, and it was fantastic fun learning about it.

The Monarch in the net

Madeline placing the tagging sticker

What a wonderful way to start the new year!  Looking forward to many more awesome days like today.

In front of the recycled bottle cap art
Ok... I've learned from today's photos that my phone takes decent pics (viewed on my phone), but they look totally sucky when I edit from the phone and upload to the computer.  I'll try not to do that again. I did take other pics which would have been adorable had I not played with the editing stuff.  My bad.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I have a blog?

Honestly, I forgot all about the blog.  My husband did some sort of computer reconfiguration and it removed my bookmark tab.  Not blaming him, of course, just stating my reason.

Anyway, we've had a fun summer.  I originally planned on schooling all through out summer, but stuff happened and things came up.  I could update on our summer happenings, but I'll just focus on the next year for now.  Speaking of which.....

School starts tomorrow!  Madeline is entering Kinder-first.  That's the non-official name we've decided on as to not confuse ourselves.  It may confuse you, but makes perfect sense to us.  Madeline is convinced that she is starting 1st grade, since we started Kindergarten back in February and are currently working on 1st grade content, but I want to also keep up with what grade she is in age wise.  So there you have it.  We'll be picking up where we left off in our curriculum.  We will be using the same of everything, only we're onto the next level in handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears - Printing Power), and will add in grammar and writing (First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1 and Winning With Writing Level 1).  Should be interesting.  Cheers!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Woe is me: total panic to happiness in 3, 2, 1

Being a mother is hard. I've known this information for the past 5 years, however, nothing had prepared me for the multitude of emotions that I felt over this past weekend.  Everything from worry, confusion, dread, and extreme fear, to elation, relief, and happiness was felt by yours truly in a matter of just a few minutes. 

Allow me to explain.....

Last Friday, my family met up with my husband's side of the family for a camping trip at Clifty Falls State Park for the weekend.  It was tons of fun, but boy was it hot!  On Saturday, my lovely sister-in-law, Sally, and I decided to take all of the kids (her 2 girls, Mikayla and Marissa, and my 2 kids) to the pool to cool off and relax.  The pool was really nice with the zero entry and a tall water slide, but not too big. Turns out that everyone else and their uncle had the same brilliant plan to beat the heat, so it was beyond crowded.   We were hanging out in the zero entry area just getting our feet and legs wet without getting too deep.  The kids were having a blast walking around and just being able to play with each other.  Then, all of a sudden, I couldn't find Madeline.  Looking around for a few seconds, I finally saw her coming towards us from the concession area.  Before I could even tell her she needed to stay close by, which I assume was a given since I say it so frequently, Travis wanders off.  I go after him.  Once I catch up to him, I pick him up and carry him back near Sally and the girls.  I look around.... and don't see Madeline.

Before I began to panic, I did a quick scan of the area, trying to peek through the mobs of people.  I walk towards the concession area and don't see her.  I start walking back to Sally and can't find her.  Sally noticed Madeline wasn't there and asked where she was.  Neither of us could find her.  I swallowed a huge lump in my throat and told myself she had to be there.  My eyes were darting all over for her.  Still holding on to Travis, I went up to a few high school or college aged lifeguards sitting in a little room.  I told them that I can't find my daughter and they all just looked at each other, then got up and started looking for her, too.  They went over and told the other lifeguards, and soon we all were looking... and not finding her.

At this point, I'm imagining the worst.  I run over to the fence that looks into the parking lot to see if I can see her being loaded into someone else's car and listening for her screams.  I start looking at the bottom of the pool to see if I can see her down there..... I was beyond terrified.  Finally, after what felt like an eon, a female lifeguard comes up to me and points to the stairs for the waterslide asking if Maddie was the one coming down the stairs.  Thank God she was!!  My cocktail of emotions washed over me once again as I walked toward to base of the stairs.  Sally got there first, and I shortly after.  I grabbed her hand and pulled her off to the side.  I dropped to my knees and told her NEVER to do that again, then I started crying. Then she started crying, and finally Travis started crying. I was so mad and so incredibly relieved at that point, that I now completely comprehend how you can yell out of anger and cry out of joy at the same exact time. I don't think she understood the severity of the situation right then even though we've talked previously about safety issues and what not.  Still though, I never imagined Madeline to be the one to just walk off like that. 

On our drive home from our camping trip, we discussed it again and I told her how scared I was when I couldn't find her.  I asked why she decided to climb the stairs and she said she just wanted to see how high she was.  I felt a little melancholy at her answer....  we've been hanging out dowtown more than usual lately and every time we park in a parking garage, she wants me to lift her up to see how high up we are.

Moral of the story:  motherhood is as frightening as it is rewarding.