Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meet Bunny

While doing some rearranging and reorganizing in our schoolroom I came across Grace's preschool curriculum.

Yep, the bunny Anna and I made from a shoebox and leftover craft materials taught Grace just about everything she needed to know. She fed Bunny letters and numbers, sang songs with Bunny, and read stories with Bunny. One day we were horrified to learn the dog loved Bunny too -- a little too much. Bunny had a big hole chewed out of her back side. Now Grace is a big girl, learning big girl things, so we haven't used Bunny much lately. It makes me a little sad.

But really the paper Bunny is only a copy of the real Bunny.

Bunny was a "welcome to the world" gift from her big brother and sister. The real Bunny has been everywhere Grace has been for the last six years and has lost quite a bit of her pinkness. When Grace turned one I realized it would be a disaster if we ever lost Bunny. So I searched every store in the metro area for a backup Bunny but never found one. We just learned to be extremely protective of Bunny. I can't count how many times I had to go hunt for Bunny at bedtime or how many times I've looked over my shoulder to make sure we weren't leaving Bunny behind in a restaurant booth.

Lest you think I'm poking fun at my child's obsession with Bunny, you should know I still have my baby blanket and my favorite stuffed raccoon, Jason, tucked away in my closet. Grace comes by it naturally.

Friday, February 20, 2009

See what I mean?

I'm not complaining, really. It would have been fun to report a dozen Cedar Waxwings for the count on Monday, but watching them today was fun nonetheless.

Okay, enough about birds for a while. I promise I will find something else to blog about!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Flop

We've been planning for weeks to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. The event started last Friday, but we had the Mini Town field trip all day and then swim practice. Saturday we were at a swim meet for 12 hours, so we were never home during daylight. On Sunday by the time we went to church, Sunday School, and had dinner, I was dead tired and opted for a nap. So that left today, the last day of the event. And it was a bee-yoo-tee-ful day! Perfect for being outside. On any given day we can see plenty of birds in our backyard. So what happens when a mom tells her kids they're going to spend the day watching birds?


Hello, anyone home?

Your home looks like it belongs in Narnia, but I bet you're really pretty.

By now the kids had given up on seeing any real birds and went off to play in the woods. Defeated, I headed back to the house. But then...


Someone took pity on me. I'm guessing she's a mom too, so she understands days like this.

So I hope that dispels any notion some of you had that I am a bird watcher. I'm sure Charlotte Mason would be shaking her head in shame.

I also have an excellent bird resource to share. My friend Carrie, who sometimes comments on my blog, first showed me this book, and I was immediately captivated by its beautiful illustrations and the ability to hear the call of each bird. We gave it to Anna for her birthday, and she has spent hours pouring through it. I will give a warning, however -- your kids will love to play pranks with this book. One night I almost fell backwards down the stairs when I heard a screeching sound come out of her room! It does have a volume control though, so don't let the sound thing be the reason you don't buy this book.

If you did the bird count, I hope your bird watching went better than ours!

The best field trip!

We've been on some great field trips, but this one will be hard to top. The kids took a trip to Mini Town to learn all about operating a small business. I do not know the history of this place, but it is an educational center that has been set up to look like a miniature town with different shops and businesses.

Once we signed up for the trip, we were given a reading list of picture books with economic themes. We read through most of the list in December and January and I will post links to our favorite books at the bottom of this post. We also were given "job application" forms for the children to fill out.

Then in January we had a planning day with all the other participants. Each child had a "job interview" which they had prepared for at home. The moms (and grandmas) were the interviewers. Then the children received their job assignments. I was so thankful that Ryne, Anna, and I were all assigned to the same store, The Sweet Shop, so Anna and I could both help Ryne succeed with this project. On our team was another adult and three other children. They spent the rest of the planning meeting working on their store sign (Anna was chosen to design the sign) and fill out their loan application. The children who participated in the planning day were called Producers. Kindergartners and preschoolers, who were not part of planning day, could participate as Consumers on Mini Town day.

Once we arrived at Mini Town and listened to detailed instructions for the day, we were shown to our shops. The Sweet Shop was selling rice crispie treats, ice cream cups with optional M&M topping, and Kool Aid. The kids did all the work! They prepared the treats and drinks (each shop had its own work area -- we even had our own fridge!). The kids were also given their first paychecks so they would be able to purchase goods on their break.

And then it was time to open shop. Gracie was one of the first in line at The Sweet Shop, and I've never seen a happier customer! Later Anna and Ryne took their break, stopping first at the bank to cash their paychecks. Midway through the day the businesses were closed to check on their progress. How much money did they collect? Did they have enough to pay off the loan? What product was selling the best? Did they need to adjust their prices? After a quick trip to the bank to make a deposit, it was time to open business again.

The afternoon selling was frenzied as stores tried to quickly unload their goods. Think Black Friday times ten! And then it was time to count the money again, calculate the profit, visit the bank again, and clean up (they even washed the dishes!). The day concluded with an awards presentation and an auction for prizes (based on each store's profit). The Sweet Shop did well with over $80 in profit.

Best of all my kids loved it and learned a lot! Grace can't wait to be a Producer some day and Anna is eager to participate in a similar program the center has for older children. Ryne did fantastic!!! He helped prepare food, waited on customers, and in general did what the other kids were doing. He interacted with other kids, and I didn't see a single "what's he talking about" expression from any of them! What a great experience!!!

Click here to see a list of our favorite books for this project.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ever feel like you're being watched?

While writing my previous blog post I saw out of the corner of my eye some movement in the woods. I grabbed my camera and captured the well-hidden spy. I wish I could take pictures like Darcy or Beth, but considering this is through a window and at the highest zoom my camera will do, I was just happy to get a picture this good.

Hey fellow, do you think you could make another appearance next weekend for The Great Backyard Bird Count?

I would love to go... the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati (April 16-18, 2009).

My local homeschool convention is the same weekend, and it is a great convention. But the local convention will not have Dr. Susan Wise Bauer or Dr. Christopher Perrin. No, they will be in Cincinnati. I'd go just to hear those two, but you can see who else is speaking here.

Now the exhibit hall is why I really go to the conventions, and the Midwest Homeschool Convention has a huge list of exhibitors, including many I have not seen before.

The one thing that is keeping me from packing my bags for Cincinnati is cost. Their registration fees are actually quite reasonable considering what they are offering, but I would have to include travel and hotel costs. If I stay in town I pay nothing because registration is free for members of the group that sponsors the convention.

But there might still be a way. You see, there is this little contest going on over at the Midwest Homeschool Convention blog. Now, don't go telling anyone about this contest, because I'd really like to have a shot a winning! But since you have been such great blog buddies, I thought I'd let you in on the secret. Consider it an early Valentine gift.

Weeks 18-21 in Review

My poor neglected blog is not the only thing that suffered in January. I'm just going to chalk it up to a mid-year slump. I think for next year I will try to restructure our schedule to give ourselves more of a break after Christmas. I was exhausted by the time we were supposed to start school, and my planning was incomplete, so it was hard to get going in Week 18. We mostly did a lot of read-alouds together for history and a new project we're working on that I will blog about at the end of next week. Individual subjects were mostly ignored that week.

Then Week 19 was interrupted by a trip to Chicago. The purpose of the trip was multifold: we saw Ryne's doctor and spent a little bit of time with our RDI consultant. Anna's swim team was in Chicago for their annual travel meet, so we stayed an extra day for her to swim on Saturday. All in all it was a productive trip, but it was also full of not-so-fun surprises. Our first night there we ate at a horrible Chinese buffet (horrible tasting and horribly expensive), and Grace ended up throwing up her dinner at the hotel pool area. The next morning when we got in the car the temperature was 17 below zero (my car might exaggerate, but it was still well below zero)! On Saturday as we were getting ready to leave town I had an adventure with a flat tire. Marc and Ryne had flown home by this time to participate in Ryne's Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, so after more than an hour of crying to Marc on my cell phone, AAA finally came to the resuce. The last straw was getting stuck in the snow in the middle of Iowa (never drive I-80 in January). We should have been home no later than 10:00 p.m., but actually rolled into town about 3:00 a.m. So our biggest education that week was in dealing with the unexpected!

I don't even remember Week 20 anymore.

Week 21 we finally started to recover from our mid-year slump. I had to completely re-do our lesson plans from having gone so far off track with our individual subjects. But we did get back on track, especially in motivation. Math went especially well for all three kids. Gracie finally mastered adding 9's! Anna finished another Mind Benders book. We worked on a wall map for the Iditarod project we'll be doing the next couple of months (thank you to Donna at Go Alongs for the great tips).

Even though we had a bad month, we're still in great shape to finish out the year. We ate up most of our wiggle room in our schedule for grammar and science, but that is what wiggle room is for! Anna is extremely behind in Latin if judged against TWTM standard, but I kind of gave up on that standard a while ago. And, no, we didn't start the French yet. This is something Anna really wants to do, so she was excited to inherit Auntie Kristin's French materials (my sister just moved back to the states from a job in Switzerland). We tried to get started, but have had all sorts of technical difficulties loading the software and then getting our new headphones to work. So hopefully after I go buy some gadget this week, she will be ready to start French.

And even though on paper January might look like a disaster, one of my main goals for their education was still accomplished: instill a love for learning. In history we read about the discovery of the Americas, and look what I found Ryne and Grace drawing in their free time -- their own explorer maps.

And then there was the surprise of Grace doing her own copywork from a book we've had for years (not part of our current history lessons).

If this is what they do for fun, we must be doing something right in our homeschooling.

Happy Homeschooling!

P.S. Just to clarify, everything in this post was from January -- we're actually on a scheduled break this week. We really do homeschool around here. You do believe me, right?