Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Leaf Unit Complete!

I have literally had company for an entire month and have not been able to update the blog at all. We're plugging along here doing our daily work without anything too incredibly exciting (besides hanging with Great-Grandma, friends from college, and cousins). We finished off our leaf/fall unit last week and then celebrated by doing something INCREDIBLY fun... we made a GIGANTIC pile of leaves and played in them! The kids had a blast and I got to play some more with my camera (another passion of mine).

The pile of leaves was huge! Papa, Daddy and cousin Matthew all played in the leaves with us over two days...one time at night thanks to Andrew's suggestion. I guess you could say it was an up-close and personal experience with science. :-)

The pile of leaves was so big that we were able to completely bury Daddy in the leaves. By the time we were done, he was COMPLETELY covered from head to toe.

Everyone enjoyed playing in the leaves. Even Andrew was up for getting mostly buried. Kate ran and jumped in them again and again. Benjamin enjoyed throwing leaves at all of the adults, including the Mommy who was on the sidelines with a camera.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Card Sorts

Once again I scored at Target's dollar section. I found a bunch of card sorts on clearance about a month ago and picked them up as fillers and fun hands on activities. Plus, sorting by attributes is definitely a good math skill to practice. The kids loved them! Ben was working on a "quick add" card sort where he had to count or add together groups of items and then figure out the answer. We have been working on adding groups (knowing that 5 is a group of 5 and can be counted like that instead of counting individual items), so I thought it would be a fun way to practice.

Kate sorted pictures into categories based on various attributes. I read to her the category heading and she did the rest herself! 

This has quickly become one of Kate's favorite activities and asks to do it just about every morning. Sure... why not? :)  I love when we find an activity that helps with an important skill but is also one of their favorite things to do.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Early Readers

Benjamin and Andrew both started reading before Kindergarten. Benjamin actually started reading without having to teach him. I pulled out the K-1 sight words because he was showing an interest and he read through most of them on the first attempt. Since he could barely talk at this point (he was 4 and hadn't started talking until he was 3 1/2, I was MORE than impressed).

Nowadays, my boys can decode just about anything that I hand them. They can answer specific questions about text. They do have some trouble with retelling the story, but I really am starting to think it has more to do with speech and attention issues more than an inability to do so. We are working hard on improving their retell.

Kate has been amazing lately. She is 3 years, 9 months old and has just started putting together letter sounds to make words. She does really well with simple words written out by themselves, so I thought I would try her on the very first BOB book. Check out how she did!! Not too bad for a 3 year old.

No, she isn't like those genius children that you see on infommercials who are reading Charlotte's Web at age 3, but still, I am impressed.

When the boys were little, I was constantly focusing on their speech. I often used flashcards meant for beginning readers for speech. Surprisingly, they picked up the words printed on the cards and could read them easily. Also, when they were learning to talk, I figured that it would be helpful for them to hear the sounds that letters made. So, from the time they were about 1 year old, I would play a game with them while in waiting in line, driving in the car, etc. where I would literally go through the alphabet and say, " 'A' says a a a apple! 'B' says, buh buh buh banana..." I would often put in a word that they would think was super funny like a word in Spanish. They loved the game and it helped them both with their speech and reading. When they were at the point that they were learning their letter names, they already knew the sounds that they made.

Now that I am homeschooling Kate for preschool, we spend some time reading Abeka's Handbook for Reading and are formally learning the phonics required for reading. We are just beginning, but she is quickly learning and is very excited about it.

I have not decided how I am going to educate Kate. She is catching on quickly to the reading and is already starting to learn her addition and subtraction since that is what Ben is working on. She can count well already and recognizes her numbers up to 20 (except for the number 16.... dunno why...). She is already starting to write her letters. However, she doesn't start Kindergarten for 2 more school years. I haven't decided if I am going to go ahead and start her on Kindergarten curriculum early or if I just let her learn at her own pace at home and then send her to Kindergarten in 2 years. Since I am currently homeschooling one child and have one in a very good public school, I am confronted with choosing between 2 very good options for Kate. Another option would be to have her tested to go to Kindergarten early, but she will be barely 4 1/2 when the next school year starts.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leaf Identification

What better way to celebrate the fall season than to collect leaves from our very own backyard? This is actually something that we have done every year since moving to NC. From CA originally, we really are not used to seeing the beautiful colors of fall or even having enough leaves in our backyard to make piles of and jump into. My kids really don't realize how lucky they are to grow up in a place that is so beautiful in the fall.

Walking in the woods. Evidently caught Ben by surprise.

To celebrate the season, I have chosen to work on seasons and leaves for science in our homeschool. We started with making observations about the leaf changes of fall. We are lucky enough to live on a wooded lot.  So, we went for a walk in our very own backyard and talked about the changes in the leaves. I brought along my small point and shoot camera and had Ben take pictures of leaves (with a little help from me of course).

Then, he dictated to me his observation journal entry. I had him draw pictures of what he saw. After that, he wanted to label the pictures!! He actually wrote two words. He wrote "hole" for the picture of the animal hole that we found in the woods and the word, "leaf" for the leaves he drew. I was sooo proud of him! It is seriously the first words that he has ever written independently. And, his drawings are pretty good too if I do say so myself (yes, I'm very proud of him).

If you look closely, you can see "HOLE."
If you look closely, you can see "LEAF."

After collecting a variety of leaves of different colors and shapes, Benjamin laid them out on paper towels so that I could dry and press them. I found a couple of kid identification pages to help identify the leaves, but really, they were pathetic and didn't even have 1/2 of the different leaves we found. I went online and found a really cool website that helps to identify leaves! We worked together and identified the leaves that we collected using this website. We will be doing a craft with the leaves early next week.

In this science unit, we also read two earlier readers about leaves. This explained what leaves are used for and also a simplified version of photosynthesis. It also explains why the leaves turn colors based on the seasons. I followed up with our science curriculum on seasons and leaves and had him complete worksheets to check for understanding.

As a fun science activity on Friday, I had all three kids watch "Sid the Science Kid: Don't Forget the Leaves," streaming on Netflix. It was a great way to follow up on all that we learned. Plus, my kids love "Sid the Science Kid" and tend to learn a lot from the episodes. 

I am going to be finishing up the leaves unit in the next week or so. I will post those activities as we complete them.

Used for this lesson:

  1. I Am a Leaf by Jean Marzollo (lexile level 70L)
  2. Colorful Leaves by Maria Fleming (no lexile level available, but is more difficult than #1)
  3. http://lib.oh.us/tree/leaf/byleaf.html
  4. Leaves from our backyard

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Special Halloween

Like all kids, my boys get super excited about their Halloween costumes every year. They start talking about them months in advance. My husband, also starts talking about their Halloween costumes months in advance. However, his reasoning is that it takes literally months for him to build their costumes.

Andrew's in a wheelchair most of the time. He can't trick-or-treat by walking up to the doors. Unfortunately, many people see the wheelchair and won't see the kid wearing the costume in it. My husband's solution: build his wheelchair into the coolest costume in the neighborhood. 

Last year, Andrew wanted to be a construction worker. My husband decided to make him a bulldozer to go with it. He could move the bulldozer and use the scoop. He LOVED it and it was definitely the hit of the neighborhood.
Andrew as a bulldozer, 2010

Benjamin was a firefighter last year and after seeing Andrew's bulldozer, decided that he wanted a fire truck. So, Benjamin was a firefighter again this year and Daddy built him his very own (gigantic) fire truck. Ben and Kate rode in the fire truck the entire night, lights flashing and all.

This year, Andrew wanted to be Wall-E, one of his favorite Pixar characters. Daddy quickly sketched up a Wall-E costume.  Once again, he could maneuver it on his own. It had flashlight eyes, moving arms and a working trash chute. Andrew would open up his door and say "trick or treat" and have his basket waiting for people to put candy in.

Andrew had a cooler than cool costume that everybody noticed. He got lots of attention and loved talking to people as he went down the street. Overall, it was a successful Halloween. The problem: My husband is going to want to try and top this next year....