Friday, September 25, 2009

Chillin' With the Children

With the advent of homeschooling Gabriel, Annika has wanted to be involved in everything we do. Gabriel has been wanting to learn cursive, and Annika wants to learn too, but she hasn't learned her letters yet. I bought her some workbooks to work on tracing and mazes, and she ate them up. So we've begun printing out worksheets from the internet and letting her go at them. She loves doing worksheets! I have trouble printing them out fast enough. I found some simple kids' Sudoku puzzles off the internet, too. Gabriel liked them and asked for harder ones. I had to stop printing them out after several pages. I think this will be a good way to work on math logic for him. It amazes me how quickly he picks up on stuff.

Gabriel has also been working on making some paper airplanes out of The World Record Airplane Book. We thought he should do a contest with the planes he makes, and see which ones fly the farthest. I think that will be on the schedule for tomorrow. Then at dinner he said we should put up a notice on the internet and let people all over the world participate in the contest. So if anyone out there still reads this blog, and you want to participate in a flying airplane experiment, shoot me an email and we'll work something out.

Today Aaron took Gabriel out for a special guys' outing to a movie. So Annika and I had some girl time. We made playdough and played with it. She was thrilled that I would actually play with her with the playdough.

Then after lunch we watched a movie of her choice before nap time. So sweet to have time with my sweet girl.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Dragonfly in the Hand

Yesterday we went on a short safari to a small lake a few blocks away. I am embarrassed that I have never explored this little area. I think I have been reluctant because I wasn't sure what kind of people would be hiding in the bushes, but it really is a sweet little pond in the middle of the city. It is a peat bog, one of the last in the area, and thus swampy and humid. We've had such a dry summer, though, that the trails were fine to walk, and we were able to walk the paths all the way around. There is a section that has some boardwalk over the lake, and we spent several minutes there, trying to find the frogs among the grasses, watching the ducks and dragonflies, and enjoying the sunshine.

My goal for the outing was to collect some pond water to take home and see what was in it (if anything), but the kids really weren't interested in that, so I nixed the idea. But the trip wasn't a waste, because we found a dead dragonfly in the middle of the trail, just before we got back to the car. We took the thing home, and today we spent some time drawing it.

The brilliant colors were already starting to fade, and it was pretty fragile, but I was surprised how long both the kids spent working on their illustrations. We also watched a video on YouTube about the dragonfly life cycle - it has some great footage. From there we watched other videos about different insects, all of them from the same producers.

Otherwise, we have been trying to figure out a schedule and routines for our new way of life. I am encountering some resistance from my free-spirited son, but I know he needs some structure and there are just some things (like math) a kid's gotta learn in life, whatever schooling method he chooses. I am praying he will relax into accepting my authority, and keep in mind that he has more freedom than some of his friends.

I do like how he chooses to spend his free time. He has been busy this week with a new book from Grandma and Papa, building paper airplanes and flying them.

He has also been building forts with Annika, reading books, and building with Lego and K'Nex. I hope I can relax some more and enjoy this time, and try to keep in mind what's important.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Evolution vs. Creation, Seven-year-old Style

Today I had the honor of discussing evolution vs. creation with Gabriel. He asked about why the dinosaurs aren't in the Bible, and why it doesn't talk about us evolving from fish. How in the world do I explain these concepts to him? I don't mind him questioning our faith; I know the probing will come. I just expected these issues to come up in the teen years, I guess. How do I explain my view of how evolutionary theories fit in with my faith and belief in the Bible? Over the years I have come to a comfortable understanding with myself about these topics, but trying to distill such concepts to a seven-year-old, who hasn't even studied basic genetics, was tricky. I really wish Aaron had been home for dinner to back me up on that one. I don't even know where to begin. I hope the answers I gave him hold him off for a bit until I figure this one out. Boy, this kid sure knows how to keep me on my toes!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Engineering and Art

We've been trying some different things with our homeschooling this week. I got the kids an abacus to help with math concepts, and we took a few minutes to work with it yesterday. I'm not sure exactly how this will fit into our daily plan, but I know it will help the kids visualize problem solving.

Today Gabriel got out one of his special Lego kits that he got a while back as a gift. It has some gears in it and some instructions to make a few simple creations. Gabriel experimented with the pieces in the kit, not bothering to look at the instructions too much. He made a gear assembly, and then told me that the top gear goes faster than the end gear. He was learning about basic gear stuff on his own, just by observing. That's what I like to see!

We did a fun art project today, from one of the recent issues of Living Crafts magazine. We dyed wool with food coloring. We used plain, white wool (Cascade 220) and soaked it in vinegar water for about half the day. Then we squeezed the excess water out, and made little dishes of dye using food coloring and water. The kids used spoons to drop the dye onto the wool.

It was a good review on color mixing and both the kids enjoyed the process. Annika sweetly said she was making some wool so she could knit a shawl for Gabriel. I guess I'm rubbing off on her a bit.

The wool turned out bright and cheerful; it is steaming in the kitchen at this moment. Later I will rinse it out and let it dry. I have some ideas for what to do with the finished project. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bird Fest

We had the chance to visit Bird Fest in Edmonds today. I wasn't sure what to expect, but they had a bunch of activities for kids and displays for adults as well. We played a migration game, where we pretended to be birds migrating, and the kids did some coloring and made bird feeders. We got to pet real animal pelts, and the fellow who had them told the kids all about them. I was surprised that the fox was so soft and the raccoon was so coarse.

Gabriel was really interested in the display about a local bird banding project. I have a feeling we'll be checking that study out some more and seeing if we can get him involved somehow. We came home with piles of papers to look through and some web sites to dig through. We didn't go to any of the bird watching trips, since we were pretty tired from our trip yesterday. I think we need a day off tomorrow!

Field Trip to Padilla Bay and Anacortes

One of the best things about homeschooling is being able to take field trips on beautiful days. I'm trying to take the kids on field trips most Fridays. Gabriel would ask to go somewhere every day if he could. But a mom has other things to do, too.

The autumn weather has been glorious the past few days, and I know that we have to enjoy it now, because pretty soon the rains will start and we won't see the sun till next summer. A trip up north to the beach was in order. We stopped first at the wonderful Padilla Bay Estuary Interpretive Center. This was the first time I have been there since I had kids. It seems small, but they really pack a lot of accessible education into a small space. We looked at creatures in the aquarium,

viewed slides of plankton under a microscope,

checked out the stuffed birds,

examined fossils and whale vertebrae,

learned about tides and eelgrass and other stuff. Gabriel liked the photosynthesis exhibit, since he is getting into molecules and atoms and chemistry topics.

They had a large area for younger children with plenty to touch and play with. I was impressed with the center, and we'll be back often.

After the Interpretive Center, we drove over to Anacortes to visit one of the beaches there, in Washington Park. We had planned to spend the afternoon there and have lunch, but the yellow jackets were so aggressive we had to pack up and move somewhere else. We ended up going down to Deception Pass State Park to spend the rest of the day. The weather was warm and there was no breeze, so the beach was really pleasant. The kids waded in the water and enjoyed the rocks and sand.

They ended up meeting some other children and playing till sunset. We found out when we were leaving that they are homeschoolers in the area, so we exchanged numbers and emails and hope to meet again when we go up north.

It was such a great day! We packed a lot of learning and fun into the day. It amazes me how many questions Gabriel can come up with when we have the time to talk and think. We covered topics as diverse as the color of the sky, the purpose of weigh stations, geography of the Skagit Valley, oil refineries, casinos and gambling (which led to discussions of debt and entertainment), and other things I can't even remember. I will have to try harder to get us home earlier, though.... but then again, we have to enjoy the days while we can, right?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Canning Applesauce

When we went to Grandma's on Monday, we picked a large box of apples from one of her trees. I wanted to make applesauce, since we go through so much here with the kids. Yesterday I started on the project. A lovely friend loaned me her fancy apple slicer/corer/peeler gadget. It was fun to work and more interesting and quicker than doing it by hand. Plus I got to sit down for that part of the work. This was my first time canning by myself (not counting helping my mom when I was younger) and things took longer than they would have because I had to read instructions and call my parents, and of course I had to deal with dinner and bedtime too. But I finished with 5 1/2 quarts of golden sauce to go in the pantry. I still have some apples to do up, so I might get another couple of quarts.

I had one issue with some of the jars, when the applesauce bubbled out through the lids and out into the water. They seemed to seal OK, so I think they'll be all right, but if anyone has any advice about this, could you leave me a comment? Thanks!


I had my first class at the Homeschool Resource Center. They are going to help us figure out how to plan curricula and studies and stuff. I look forward to making new friends and getting help. I brought some things home from their library to try out. I feel better today than two days ago. Tomorrow is a field trip to enjoy the sunshine and nature.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

School Starts

Today was our "official" starting day for homeschooling. We never really stopped learning over the summer, but I had to give my son a beginning date so he would stop bugging me about when we were starting. I've made up a general schedule and some basic curriculum plans for the next week or so, but am otherwise gingerly stepping into the waters of homeschooling. We started with a bit of math from the workbooks Gabriel brought home from first grade. We'll review in those until I figure out if we'll use a curriculum and which one. Then we worked on some chemistry experiments. Gabriel really wants to learn chemistry, so I looked up a few simple exercises in our science books. We did some oil and water plus soap and salt experiments, and I had him write down in a new science notebook what happened. He's a tricky kid, because he wants to do real science, but doesn't like me pushing him to do things he doesn't want to do. I'm sure this is just the beginning of our struggles to find the balance between me being mom and teacher.

I also had Annika do some simple sorting activities; she loved that she was "doing math". She wants to be right up there with us while we do things. I'll have to make sure I'm planning stuff for her to do, too. The kids also listened to two books on CD and played a lot together. We worked in the yard this afternoon, enjoying the autumn sunshine.

Last Friday we joined some friends downtown at the sculpture park. What a beautiful day it was, with the warm sun and the clear air, the views of the water and the city skyline, and the freshness. It kind of surprises me that the kids were so excited about the park, since there aren't really traditional kid activities there, like a playground. But there is something about the art and the surroundings that captures their interest.

I have to share a photo of my kids at an event we went to recently. Gabriel chose his outfit, including the top hat from the costume box. He got several comments about how well he was dressed!

I'm off now to do more homeschool planning. I really feel like I don't know what I'm doing, but I am trying not to panic. At least tomorrow is a new day!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Rain and Hope

We buried one of our cats today, in the rain. We've had such a wonderful summer, but the change of seasons is beginning here. Our poor kitty Jaz was sick for some time, and finally succumbed. We had a little funeral for her, which was helpful for the children to connect with what had happened. Then I went back to bed. I'm going to miss her sleeping on my legs every night. We feel a hole in our family.

School starts in our district this week. We will begin our "official" homeschooling then. We've been easing into it over the past month, trying to figure out a schedule and routines that will work for our family. I really like having my son home all day. I am excited about what we will be learning (he wants to start with chemistry!). I am nervous about the commitment, and about all the areas I need to grow in to make this work. I hope I will know how to find the help I need and get the time to myself I need. Wish us luck!