Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: Starting a Nature Journal

We're still enjoying this beautiful autumn weather!  The windows have been open so we can enjoy the lovely breeze through the house.  Iron Man still likes themes to go along with his school work, so we are still doing the autumn theme.

Iron Man:  5 years old, Kindergarten
Hulk:  3 years old, Tot School

Science:  1st Nature Journal entry
This is something I have no experience with myself, but I realize a Nature Journal is an important element to enhance nature study in a Charlotte Mason education, so I wanted to at least try to get started.  I want to encourage more detailed observation skills, and I really think this is the way to go.  We are starting with a cheap sketch book (0.99 at a discount/buyout store) since I don't know how seriously he will take it.  I chose one that was half blank - half lined, so the blank space wouldn't be too overwhelming, and he can start writing information when he is ready.

I wanted to start with something simple, so we decided on fall leaves.  After gathering a variety of fallen leaves, he chose two to document.  He did a rubbing with one.  I asked if he wanted to draw the other one, but he only wanted to "trace" it and then color it in.

These are his two leaves side by side.  We're going to press the leaves he picked out, and affix them to his journal later.  He also asked how to spell "leaf" so he could write it in his journal.  I've decided I'm only going to give him guidance, not instructions.  I want him to really own this nature journal and have a connection with it.

He loves nature study and nature walks, so I shouldn't have been surprised that he really enjoyed this.  He asked what else he could put in his notebook, so I gave him suggestions for things we could do next.  He decided he wants to look for mushrooms to draw tomorrow! I'm excited that he is excited!

Math:  Addition and Subtraction
For a game, I was going to create a large construction paper tree and let the boys add fall leaves or acorns to it.  Then I realized I had brown paper bags with a fall tree on it already.  Less work for me!  We cut out the tree, and used a basket of acorns for our math manipulative.  Iron Man rolled and put a dice on each side of the tree.  Then he had to put the correct number of acorns on each side, and add them.

Acorn Addition

We later turned it into a subtraction game.  We started with the higher number, then the smaller (or equal) number was how many acorns fell out of the tree.
Acorn Subtraction

Math:  Patterns
I was initially planning to use this fall confetti as a sorting game for Hulk.  He wasn't interested, but Iron man was.  So instead I made up a few patterns for him to try...

He continued them by gluing on the next few sets before he decided he was finished.

Sight Word Nerf Shoot Out
We have been trying out a new program, Samson's Classroom (review coming in October), and focusing on sight words with it.  I printed their flash cards for the first set of words, laminated them and put them on the wall.  As he read/identified words, he was allowed to shoot them!

Iron Man picked out The Pumpkin Plant that Almost Ate Our School by Frederick B. Williamson, Jr. which I wrote a review on last year.  It happened to be our only seasonal book this week.

Hulk was sick at the beginning of the week, and not interested in much of anything later in the week, which is fine with me!  I never force him to do anything with us.  So there's not many pictures of his activities this week.

He does enjoy the iPad, and joined us for a music app we've been using for another review.  Here he is playing a Lego Duplo app that he enjoys.

He also worked on this Mickey Mouse Clubhouse puzzle, and was so proud when he put Minnie together!

Create a Jack-O-Lantern Lunch
One day the boys wanted a "fun" lunch, which is something I haven't done in a long time, but I threw together something quickly for them.  They had a grilled cheese sandwich cut out like a pumpkin, celery "vines" with orange ranch dressing, and banana slices.  Then the raisins were so they could make their own jack-o-lantern faces.

Iron Man's Jack-O-Lantern sandwich.

Hulk's sandwich...

Another light week for us, as we spent Thursday on the road.  We did get to visit the grandparents though, so that was a treat for the boys!

Linked Up:  Weekly Wrap-Up, Preschool & Kindergarten Corner, TGIF, Show and Share Saturday

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music Appreciation: Music Together

When it comes to music, I don't have much to fall back on.  I did play clarinet for several years in school, and I can still read a few notes, but I've lost most of it.  I never could sing in tune.  The schools never taught compulsory fine arts, so I don't have a lost of experience with various genres and musicians.  Beyond just playing various genres of music, I wasn't sure how to teach music, especially when my boys are still quite young.  Enter Music Together!

Music Together is a research-based, early childhood music development program.  It is designed for all children, from infancy through early elementary...and the adults who love and care for them!  It is designed to be developmentally appropriate and encourage young children to enjoy music and rhythmic experiences.

We were recently given the opportunity to try out the Music Together Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers and the accompanying Family Favorites CD.  This program is perfect for small group settings such as preschools, day cares, early elementary music classes, church groups, homeschools and co-ops!

What is Their Philosophy?
  1. All children are musical
  2. All children can achieve basic music competence
  3. The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child's musical growth
  4. This growth is best achieved in a playful, musically rich, and non-performance-oriented learning environment
What does that mean for me?  That my children can willingly and easily enjoy music, but it is important that I foster their love and enthusiasm through fun and engaging activities!

Using the Program
My first thought when opening the book was that it seemed overwhelming for a children's introduction to music.  However, once I dove in I realized it is not overwhelming, just wonderfully comprehensive.  The pamphlet included with the CD has a brief description of an activity or two you can do with each song, but the Songbook is much more informational!  It has a fantastic introduction to the history of the program, the philosophy, teaching principles, how to work with instruments and props, and even how to work with special needs children.  

The book has a full section dedicated to every song on the CD, with more than just the words and music.  There's a little information about the song itself, as well as very detailed information on how to adapt the particular song for different age groups, suggestions for instruments or movement activities, or how to explore the rhythm or lyrics differently over several sessions.

We started out by just listening to the songs together. I let the boys dance, stomp, sway, and "bum bum ba dum" along with the music. Now we do the structured activities once or twice a week, which I think would be similar to taking a class. We start with the Hello Song, and then I choose 2-3 other songs, depending on our activity level and interest for the day. We also listen to the music without doing any of the activities and just enjoy the music itself.

The great thing for parents is that these aren't your run-of-the-mill songs that you're already tired of singing repeatedly.  It's not "kiddie music" that will have your head spinning within a few minutes.  The songs are from different ethnic genres, are a unique way to introduce your children to different elements of music, and are actually kind of catchy for mom and dad too!

There are many instances where you can use rhythm instruments during the program, but that's one thing we don't actually we made some of our own.  This was a fun way to get the kids excited about the music before we even started.

We made the classic egg shakers, which were a big hit.

Hulk quickly realized he could turn a laundry tote over for some drumming and tapping too!

I also made small ribbon dancers after seeing how much Hulk enjoyed them during the music session in his new Sunday School class.  Iron Man enjoyed swaying them around too.

:::If you need more ideas for creating your own instruments and props, check out these homemade musical instruments or these homemade instruments.:::

What Did We Think?
The program is geared for children from birth up to about age 7 or 8, and while both of my boys enjoy the songs and activities, I've found that Hulk (young 3) is much more interested than Iron Man (almost 6).  I think this is definitely appropriate for the toddler and preschool crowd.  I also think Hulk just might be getting a nice set of rhythm instruments for Christmas to enhance this program even more!

I love the diversity of the music, and my kids love the music and the engaging activities.  The Caribbean Palo, Palo was a big hit with Iron Man because of the Spanish lyrics, since we've been studying Spanish.  John the Rabbit is nice because the boys can make hopping rabbits with their fingers; I don't know about your kids, but my boys love making shadow puppets!  Each song has something new and fun to offer, and is one more reason to love the program!

Interested?  Listen to Samples and read Reviews!
You can listen to samples of each song from this album (individual downloads are only $0.99!) or read reviews to get an idea of why parents and teachers love this program.

The Music Together Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers and album that we were fortunate enough to review are available individually or as a combo pack which for a discount, at only $39.95.  You can also use the special code "Schoolhouse" for an extra $2 savings.

My Recommendation
If you think it sounds pricey, consider the cost of enrolling each of your children in a music and movement class, and this is much more reasonable.  I have two children who are both enjoying this program in their own way, and with another on the way, I get to explore the program again at no additional cost utilizing the infant suggestions!  If this is within your budget, I think it's a wonderful investment for families with young children who want to explore music and spend quality time together.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of the Music Together Family Favorites program in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are based on our personal experiences and were not influenced in any way.  

Autumn 2012 Sensory Tub

The boys wanted to make a fall sensory tub and include some of the acorns that we didn't turn into acorn pumpkins, so I put together a quick sensory tub for them.  Without having time to think about it or look up inspiration for anything new, this is very similar to last year's Autumn Sensory Tub, with a few new things added in.

::popcorn kernels
::leaves, pumpkins, gourds and other fall decor
::two brown baskets
::large brown beads and small green beads
::small pine cones
::scrapbooking pumpkins and leaves

On the Side
::Leaf shaped plate
::scoops, plastic tweezers, spoon

I was unsure about sensory tubs when I first started them.  However, there's a reason preschool and Kindergarten classrooms include sensory tables in their play areas.  They provide wonderful sensory and fine motor experiences.  Plus, this got over an hour of play when it was introduced!  It's hard to find something that can entertain both boys for an extended length of time together, so even though some Lego people landed on another planet during their play, I consider this a success!

Linked Up:  Tip Toe Thru Tuesday, Tuesday Tots

Friday, September 21, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up: Fall Changes and Acorn Pumpkins

We've taken several weeks off with vacation, packing and the move itself, so this week was kind of just getting us back into the swing of things.

Iron Man is 5 and in Kindergarten
Hulk is 3 and is in "tot school"

Since autumn is starting to appear, we started with the book Fall Changes by Ellen B. Senisi, which talks about the many signs of fall and has real photographs of those changes.  Very simple, but a good introduction to the autumn season for preschoolers.

We talked about the changes in the book that we are seeing:  cooler weather, earlier sunsets, migrating birds, the leaves changing colors and seeds and nuts falling to the ground.  We used to have apple trees in our backyard before, but no nut-bearing trees immediately nearby, so having oak trees at the edge of the new yard made for a good opportunity for nature study.  Iron Man enjoyed spotting all the oak trees and examining the differences between the fallen acorns.

We spent some time gathering acorns and then we did a few activities with them.  (We did the sink/float test for weevils, but I still froze them in a ziploc bag first, just to be safe.)

First I set out the balance scale.  It turned into Hulk making one side "heavy" and Iron Man working to balance it out.  Hulk would sneak in a few more acorns, and Iron Man would determine how many/what size acorns to put on his side to balance it out again.

Then we made these Acorn Pumpkins from Family Fun.  It was very simple.  Pop the caps off, paint them orange, let them dry, and then draw faces on with a black marker.  My little artists are only 3 and 5, so they needed help with some of the faces...I'm no artist, but they didn't seem to mind.  You can also paint the point of the pumpkins brown, but we haven't gotten around to that.

Iron Man painted 15 pumpkins.

Hulk was finished after three!
Sorry about the glare from the overhead lights...I'm no photographer either!

I'm going to paint another set orange just to have as pumpkin counters for Math this fall.  These would also be cute painted red with green tips for apples.

Iron Man has been trying out Zoo Whiz recently.  {I recently wrote a full review!}  He is enjoying it, and it's been a great way to work in some "school review" since I'm not ready to dive back into full-on lessons just yet.  There's no pre-planning, so that has really helped right now.

The boys received these 3D puzzles from my stepmom awhile back, and they put together the whole box one morning then created their own little zoo.

Hulk wanted to play with the teddy bears one morning, so we did some counting and by the end he had all the bears out for teddy bear land.

Hulk also spent some time in an intense coloring session with his Star Wars coloring book.

This Roll, Add and Color page is from the Fall Math Pack Freebie from The Moffatt Girls.  We don't do a lot of worksheets, but Iron Man likes all things with dice, and he's suddenly into coloring right now, so I figured this seasonal game would work for him.  He chose some fall colored crayons, and it was an easy way to get some addition in.

This was a light week to help us get back into a routine, but it was still fun!

I'm Linked Up:
TGIF, Preschool & Kindergarten Corner, Read.Explore.Learn, Read Aloud Thursday, Weekly Wrap-Up, Link & Learn, Tip Toe Thru Tuesday, Tuesday Tots, Tot School Tuesday

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Family Time Fitness = FUN

It's no secret that children need exercise, and a lot of it!  Obviously, it's important for the health benefits.  However, I also see a difference in my children's attitudes when their bodies are worked along with their minds!  That being said, I'm not always the best about making sure my children get *enough* physical stimulation.  I have two very active boys, though, so I jumped at the chance to try Family Time Fitness!

Fitness 4 Homeschoolers is a complete K-8 physical education program!  The introduction includes safety information, an equipment list and other important information you should know before beginning.  There is an (optional) assessment that helps you track progress throughout the program.  Additional tools include a daily food diary, grocery list, meal planner, nutrition log and a tracking calendar.

The Lesson Plans
There are 260 professionally designed lesson plans with detailed instructions for every warm-up, game and cool-down exercise, as well as video demonstrations.  I will say, the video demonstrations are very helpful for this pregnant mom who can't always explain/demonstrate certain activities!  The lessons are in PDF format, but they are so thoroughly detailed it would be cumbersome to print, so they have also included a one page summary of each lesson to reduce printing costs. 

Most of the materials used in the lessons are probably things that families already have around.  These are the recommended items needed.
  • Bean Bags
  • Jump Rope
  • Hula Hoop(s)
  • Playground Balls (or volleyball, soccer ball or basketball)
  • Foam Balls/Beach Balls are good alternatives for indoor play
  • Cones (we use large rocks so the dog doesn't carry them off)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Stop Watch (I use the one on my cell phone)
  • Exercise Mat, optional
As you can see, most of these things can easily be picked up at a dollar store or substituted with things from around the house.

How We Used The Lessons
It's recommended to use the program 3-5 days a week to get the most benefit, but with the chaos of our move, we aimed for 1 or 2 days a week.  I imagine we will pick up the pace once we get settled down.  The activities are designed so they can be completed inside (except the extra outdoor activity to extend the lesson), which is a real bonus for this winter, but we do prefer to do them outdoors right now.

Frog Squats

Iron Man is on the youngest end of the recommended age range (Kindergarten) but still really enjoys the activities.  Nothing has been too hard to discourage him, for which I am thankful!  Hulk is only 3 and some of the activities are too much for him, but he tries his best to keep up!  It certainly helps that Superman, Popcorn, Frog Squats, Crab Walk, Rocking Horse, Airplane, Monster Walk and other fun names are used to make it more exciting for the little ones!

I love that the variation of activities within each lesson keeps the program from getting monotonous.  Each lesson provides a great workout, and covers many different physical skills:  mobility, coordination, balance, and rhythm just to name a few!  It already appears to be a very thorough program that provides a great workout while feeling like fun!

Are You Interested Yet?
I think the low price of $57 for the Core 1 K-8 Program is a great one-time investment for a lifetime (including updates) of physical education curriculum that can be used with all of your children!  There will also be a Core 2 program released in January 2013.  The elementary series workbooks  are available if you need an even more comprehensive Fitness/Nutrition program.  There is even a  Foundational Strength Program ($27) is for the high school crowd!  Family Time Fitness really is designed for the whole family, and I'm so glad we have a great physical education program to carry us through our homeschooling!

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a complimentary copy of the Core 1 K-8 Fitness for Homeschool program in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed in this review are based on our experience and were not influenced in any way.

Playing Catch-Up: birthday, beach and a move!

Because of everything going on, I haven't really posted much in the last several weeks, so here's a recap of a few big things.  Hulk had his 3rd birthday!  We had a very small Incredible Hulk themed party at his grandparent's house.

balloon fight!

Happy Birthday Song


Incredible Hulk ring


Our Beach Vacation
We spent a lot of time playing in the sand, swimming and collecting shells!  The beach offers so many wonderful opportunities for nature study.  Before we left, we read several themed books, including What Lives in a Shell?

So we spent a lot of time examining different shell types and colors, and making sure not to take any that were still homes.

Hulk has a love-hate relationship with the ocean, but started getting braver by the end of the week.  Not a lot of pictures of ocean or pool time, since they require our full attention.  I do have some on husband's phone...but he's at work and I haven't transferred them over yet.

We had a fair amount of rain that week, but not enough to ruin our fun.  To combat a few downpours and storms, we took the boys to an indoor arcade, MagiQuest and Wonderworks.

My 3 favorite boys!

Moving Day
We just moved over the weekend, so things were a little hectic for awhile.  For the time being, I'm still slowly unpacking, and each empty box is a treasure for the boys!

Hulk turned his into a "zoomer" originally, and Iron Man's was a robot.  They also served as a drive-thru window at one point, as someone was serving chicken nuggets and milkshakes!  ;-)

Things are starting to settle down, and I'm hoping we'll be back into a routine in the next few weeks.