Friday, September 30, 2011

learning by heart – sept. 30, 2011


The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.”

- Henry Ward Beecher

I am still struggling to find a way to fit our lessons into our busy weeks.  I am so thankful for these posts, where I’m able to focus on what we actually did, and see that it was enough, instead of only remembering what we did not get to.  I have heard that homeschooling pre-K and Kindergarten (I feel we have a foot in both of these places) can be done in just one hour per day.  And so 5 hours a week is my goal – you would think it wouldn’t be so hard to manage 5 hours, wouldn’t you?  You homeschooling mothers that do 5 hours every day… you are amazing!!

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to…



M has been writing up a storm.  We were recently given an old school desk that my husband had as a child, and we placed it in our breezeway for M:M's new school deskThe top opens and there is storage space inside the desk.  I filled it up with lots of goodies: notebook, dry erase board, markers, pencils, his ABC collage and trace book, game book, etc. 

The first thing he did was grab a pen and his little notebook and set to work writing.  Here is his very first all-on-his-own journal entry:first entry in his notebookNeed a translation?  :)  It says, “Matthew loves Mommy and Daddy  I’m 5 years old!”  Not bad, huh?  Some letters are missing and some things are written right to left instead of the other way around, but it is an awfully sweet first sentence if you ask the Mommy or the Daddy. :)  M did this mostly on his own, only asking me how to spell “years” and “old”.

We do a bit of copy work each week too (or more often, if he asks).  I let him decide what he would like to write, and he dictates it to me while I write it out on his whiteboard.  He then copies it into his little notebook.  Interestingly, this gives me a bit of insight into what 5 year old boys think about:another notebook entry“Car!  Go car!  Go scooter!”  Hee hee. :)   This is similar to what you would find in an early reader, isn’t it?  I find it interesting that he despises early readers and does not want anything to do with them because there is often no “real” story involved.  Yet, he LOVES writing similar things and is so proud of himself when he does. 

And, do you think the love of exclamation points is possibly genetic? (!!!)  I like to think we are just very enthusiastic about life around here. ;)  Actually M found out about exclamation points from a bottle of OFF! bug spray.  He recognized the word “off”, and was very excited to learn that an exclamation point gives emphasis to what you are saying, almost like shouting.  Let’s just say he likes to emphasize everything he says. It makes things much more exciting, you know.  :)



We did some fun science activities and experiments related to light and colors this week.  I’ll be writing about them on Sunday, and linking it up to Ticia’s Science Sunday post, so be sure to check back!

For now, I want to tell you about a great gift M received for his birthday in late August.  Have you heard of Snap Circuits

The set consists of metal connectors that snap together (so you don’t have to worry about your child playing with actual wires, although two “jumper cables” are included also), and you can build electrical circuits, using two AA batteries.  You can make the circuits do a variety of things.  There is a motor that makes a plastic fan spin, a music box, other sound boxes, lights, etc.  snap circuitsM has the junior set which came with a book of over 100 electricity-themed projects to do.  There are add-on sets too, which I’m sure he’ll be getting in the future.  He is really into batteries and figuring out how electricity works, so this is perfect for him!  You can learn more at the website I’ve linked to above. Sets of Snap Circuits have won a number of awards, and it is such a great tool for learning.  I’m not receiving anything for writing about this (although I think I may sound like a commercial), I just think it’s an outstanding product and I’m so happy we heard about it.  M works with his set every day, and it’s such a fun and easy way to fit a bit of science and engineering into our days.



I am finding math work to be the easiest to prepare and actually do these days, but that means some worksheets, and well, you probably know how I feel about worksheets. I am planning on using a lot of the great games found in Peggy Kaye’s book, in future weeks, to supplement: (Thanks for the recommendation, Kim!)

This week however, we did a 1-100 dot-to-dot page, for numeral recognition and practice counting.  M loves dot-to-dots, and he’s working very hard to get to the point where he can work one of these all the way to 100 on his own:Dot to dot page

I’ve started posting some blank pattern block puzzles on our fridge for M to work on throughout the week, whenever he wants.  I also place the blocks he’ll need next to it (which means I have to solve the puzzle beforehand, not always an easy thing to do!).  He has done great so far and really enjoys this:pattern block puzzle

puzzle finished with pattern blocks  

We also played “store”, which is great for learning about money and making change, as well as grouping items into categories!sept. 2011 011 Where are my sofa cushions, you ask?  You’ll find out below. ;)



M and Daddy had fun this week working on more engineering skills.  They built a huge (HUGE!) airplane out of Tinker Toys:

making a tinker toy airplane with Daddy  finished airplane

And M spent a little time aboard a ship he made in the living room:   ship made from sofa cushions Ah, that’s where those sofa cushions went!  We are currently reading The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting.  There is plenty of ship adventure involved.  Very exciting stuff. :)  I so enjoy seeing him act out books he loves.



We went on a little field trip to a local art center which has gardens and trails on its property.  We’d never been here before and it was a wonderful experience.  We had perfect weather and were surrounded by beauty.  There were trails splitting off in every direction and we wanted to stay and explore them all.  We’ll definitely be going back!

There was a pretty little creek with lots of bridges:M on the trail

We walked along the creek, through a little tunnel, which was very cool:walking along the creek, through a tunnel

And found ourselves here:beautiful, unexpected lake 

Beautiful.  Perfect for sitting and reflecting:Sitting and watching the lake

We talked a bit about how lakes and ponds, and creeks, rivers, and streams are different… water that is always going somewhere vs. water that stays in its home. :)  I wonder which is happier? 

The art center was next, but we were not overly impressed with what it had to offer.  We liked these two pieces best:

hanging artwork made up of fabric pieces cut to look like clothingA hanging sphere made up of fabric pieces cut to look like clothing…

pony encrusted with beads, buttons, etc.and this pony, encrusted with beads, buttons, and all kinds of things.

I hope you all had an interesting and sparkly week as well. ;)

Linking this post up to Preschool Corner and Weekly Wrap-Up.  Check them out for some great homeschooling posts!

Have a beautiful day! :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

autumn apple pickin’

sweet apple,  sweeter boyThat’s a sweet apple, and an even sweeter boy!
M with a freshly picked bucket of applesM, enjoying the fruits of his apple-picking labor.
Fall is upon us here in Minnesota!  I can not believe how quickly summer went this year.  I felt like I was just beginning to get into a good routine and whoops!  It’s over, and a new fall routine needs to be figured out.  {Sigh}
We are fortunate to have our very own little apple orchard at my in-laws’ farm a little north of us:One of our bountiful treesThere is nothing better than picking a fresh, crisp, oh-so-sweet, scrumptious apple and eating it outside on a fall day, yes?   The ones pictured above are Sweet Sixteens and oh my goodness, so delicious!!
M eating an apple right in the middle of the orchardI think M could have eaten a whole bucket full by himself!  Just sit down on the grass and enjoy it right where you are – it tastes even better that way. :)
I hope you are all having a glorious fall, or a lovely spring if you happen to live on the sunnier side of the world. :)  our beautiful orchard

Have a beautiful day! :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning by Heart – Sept. 23, 2011

 Butterfly Unit

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom”
– Henry Ward Beecher
M holding a butterfly on a flower, just before releasing it


Butterfly Unit

We are in love with butterflies here. :)  We ordered our own set of Painted Lady caterpillars and watched them grow, form chrysalides, turn into butterflies and hatch out. We fed them and watched them for a few days, then released them. 

The caterpillars came in a jar with food, and we were told opening it could introduce bacteria into the jar and kill them.  Because of this, I wasn’t able to get any good photos of the caterpillars, but we really enjoyed watching them move around and grow (they grow fast!).  Once the first one started forming her chrysalis, we kept a sharp eye out and when they were all finished we opened the jar and transferred them into their little butterfly home (a net pavilion that came with our kit, found at Walmart):Chrysallides hanging in the butterfly home And then we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  I was worried about the one on the top right, because when I transferred it I had to pry it away from the side of the jar and was afraid I had torn a hole in her chrysalis.  Turns out I probably did, as she never hatched.  As you can see in the photo above, that one looked less healthy than the other three.  Also, if you look closely at the bottom left chrysalis, you can see the pattern of the wings through the thin shellThis was the first one to hatch.

And here she is:Our first Painted Lady butterfly!

She was all alone for two whole days and we were beginning to wonder about the others.  However, they did just fine and both hatched out within an hour of each other.  Here is a photo of the final one pushing her way out:final butterfly coming out of her chrysallis
Isn’t that cool?!  All three of us hovered over it and were fascinated as she struggled out.  It was like watching a tiny miracle happen. :)  We are sentimental folk and not afraid to get all gushy over a caterpillar turning into a butterfly right before our eyes. ;)

We placed beautiful red carnations in the bottom of their home and dropped sugar water all over them for the butterflies to eat:butterfly drinking sugar water on the carnationsIt was very cool seeing them unroll their long straw-like tongues (proboscis, if you want to say a big word instead of tongue) to sip it up.  Unfortunately, with the netting in the way it was hard to get a good tongue shot with my camera.

We watched and marveled over them for almost a week, then we released them.  This was not an easy thing to talk M into doing.  He didn’t want to let them go.  He loved them, as only a child can. :)  But when he realized that they would die soon anyway (Painted Ladies only live 2-3 weeks once they are butterflies), and it would be awful if they died without ever having flown out in the big wide world, he agreed to let them go.

So we took them to the backyard, near our St. Francis statue, and read this little (modified, by me) blessing.  (I tell you, we are sentimental!!  But really this did make it very special):
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds and butterflies in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless these butterflies. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures!”
M had named each one, so we took them out one by one and let them fly away.  The final one was busy having lunch when I picked her out of the net, and M got to hold her for a very long time.  He whispered something to her, and gave her a sweet little kiss:good-bye butterfly kiss   
Then he set her in the little bowl:butterfly on an orange

Finally, she flew away and posed on the ground for me before taking off again:butterfly on grassBeautiful, no?

We left the carnations out for them to come back to, if they were so inclined:st. francisThis was a wonderful experience!  I highly recommend it.  We ordered our caterpillars through Insect Lore.

We took it easy this week, and did only a few simple activities related to butterflies…

M made a life cycle wheel (click on the link; the printable can be found towards the center of the page) for butterflies:butterfly life cycle wheel
butterfly life cycle wheel

We learned some new vocabulary as we talked about the parts of a butterfly, and worked with our 3-part nomenclature cards:Parts of a butterfly 3-part cards

We talked about the compound eye of a butterfly, just briefly (really is there much to say?) and I showed M how to look through a crystal at an object and see many of the same thing… this is a little bit like what the butterfly sees all the time. 

In our nature center class this week we also just happened to be talking about insects, butterflies in particular, and M made this little butterfly out of air-drying clay:clay butterfly

We also learned that all insects have 6 legs, as well as three parts to their bodies: head, thorax, and abdomen.  There was a very cute song we learned, sung to the tune of “Head and shoulders, knees and toes” which went like this:
Head and thorax, abdomen (six legs!)
Head and thorax, abdomen (six legs!)
Eyes and tongue, and exoskeleton,
Head and thorax, abdomen (six legs!)
It takes a little work, but if you sing it correctly exoskeleton and abdomen rhyme (kind of).  And the “six legs!” part is said in a little afterthought sort of way. :)  M loved it. 


We talked about what “symmetry” is and how butterflies are symmetrical – their wings are perfect mirror copies of each other.  

We worked on some symmetrical pattern block patterns we have:symmetrical patterns, with mirror

I showed M how to hold the little mirror upright in the center of each pattern and see how the mirror reflected the other side.  We went through several patterns, doing this to see if they were symmetrical or not.  If the part behind the mirror looked exactly like the image reflected in the mirror, it was symmetrical.  We found that some patterns were symmetrical both “sideways” and “up and down” (horizontally and vertically), but many were symmetrical only one of the ways.  This was a hands on activity, so there are no action photos… but I’m sure you get the idea. :)  We also filled in the patterns with our blocks.more symmetrical patterns
Note the bottom pattern in the photo above, does not have clear lines showing where pieces go, but it does have the colors of the blocks for guidance.  M loved doing this, and I think is ready for more of a challenge.  He also realized that if he didn’t have a certain shape, like a yellow hexagon, he could use other pieces to make that shape.  (It is sitting on a cookie tray because our pattern blocks are magnetic.)

In case anyone is interested, we have this basic set:beginning patterns for pattern blocks
and this more advanced set:Advanced patterns for pattern blocks   And these magnetic pattern blocks:Our magnetic pattern blocks

For another activity about symmetry, I used this set of butterfly cards from Prekinders (look at the bottom of her printables section; also, she has a whole section on bugs that is really great!); this is supposed to be a matching game, but I cut all the cards in half and we used one half on the mirror to see what the entire butterfly would look like.  This was probably M’s favorite thing of the week; and such a simple activity to set up:Butterfly symmetry activity with mirror 
butterfly in a mirror

We used our chenille (pipe cleaner) letters to practice letter formation, using all the letters that are in the word butterfly.  I would have preferred using lower case, “baby” letters for this, but can’t find them anywhere.  Now, I’m starting to question whether I ever made them in lower case!  It is too late to make them now since M seems to be getting past the need for them pretty quickly, so we just used the upper case ones.butterfly unit (5)

To do this activity, M traces the letter on the card with his finger, then practices writing it in a tray of flour:butterfly unit (4)

After doing all the letters, we played a little game with these cards.  M shut his eyes, and I took his finger and traced the letter on one of the cards; he tried to guess, from touch alone, which letter he was tracing (I gave him a choice between 2 of the letters to make it easier).  This was a fun game and he enjoyed it enough that we actually got through all of the letters!

Then onto a little play dough fun.  I printed out a page with “butterfly” written on it, all in lowercase letters.  M rolled some play dough into “snakes” and used them to form the letters.  I explained that we normally would write butterfly in lowercase letters, like this:butterfly unit (3)
I am not proud of what happened next, but at this point we were getting a bit silly (that never happens in your house, right?), and in the interest of pursuing knowledge with a 5 year old boy, I told him what the first 4 letters of butterfly spell by themselves.  Then I told him what it spells with the “er” added.  And soon there were all kinds of jokes about butt butter and “Oh, would you like some butt butter on your toast, sir?” and that sort of thing.  I am not winning any mother of the year awards this year, but I am also not really trying.   And, yes, he did actually learn something too. ;)

Here is a list of the books we read during this little unit; not all are listed, only the ones we liked. ;)

Just for Fun:
I whipped up a quick roll-and-draw game to go with our butterfly theme.  It reinforces some of the vocab for parts of a butterfly, and works a little on those fine motor skills too.  You can print our Roll-a-Butterfly page, if you are interested! butterfly drawing game
All the players get a blank sheet of paper.  Each player rolls the die and draws the part of the butterfly that the number corresponds to on the guide sheet.  The first to draw a complete butterfly is the winner.  M actually liked this, and started singing the “Head, thorax, abdomen (six legs!)” song again. :) 

There were a few other things I planned to do with M this week – another math game, and an art project – but it was a really hard week on us.  I don’t know if we just need to get back into the swing of things or what, but neither M nor I were really into much that we did.  I was very discouraged by week’s end, and ready to give up!   However, writing and then reading over all that we did helps my perspective a bit.  What do you do when you have a very discouraging week and feel like anyone else in the world could do a better job of teaching your child than you are doing?  Feel free to give me a pep talk, I definitely need one, and am not too proud to beg. ;)

Linking this post up to  Preschool Corner and Weekly Wrap-Up, and 
abc button
Check them out for some great homeschooling posts!

Have a beautiful day! :)


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