Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Week's Exciting Adventures.

So the funny thing with homeschooling, especially since I tend to follow more of the "unschooling" approach, is knowing what you're teaching/learning throughout the day. For example, Russ will come home and say, "What did you learn today kids??" And he is met with blank stares. And in all truthfulness, I also have a blank stare on my face. What DID we do today?? It's funny because throughout the day I am so proud of myself and my kids because we are doing SO many different things and learning so much, but come the end of the day, I can't remember diddly.

One day I did write down everything Sam and I filled an ENTIRE PAGE before noon! I will spare you the entire list, but some excerpts include:

-discussing melting points (thank you for sacrificing yourselves, little chocolate chips)

-units of measurement ("Wow Sam, I think 5 cups of granola might be enough...")

conducting experiments with bubbles and discussing their properties ("How about we take the bubble bottle OUTSIDE before we shake it and open it...just in case...")

-number recognition and writing (with the PLU numbers on the bulk bins at the grocery store)

-money management (the $5 1-pound chocolate bar is a better value than the $1.50 4-ounce one! And the kids love giving the cashiers the money to pay for the groceries.)

-life skills (I'm sure the 10 people waiting behind me to fill their cars up with gas at Costco appreciated me teaching my 3 year old the concepts of pumping gas.)

-physical education (the skate park is fantastic for running those kids ragged!)

-fine motor skills (scissors + scrap paper = at least a half hour of blissfully quiet time!)

The majority of our "lessons" come from, "Mom, ((insert one of a million different questions here))" or "Hey! I have an idea!" And it drives me crazy that there are SO many, I cannot possibly get to them all. I'm always amazed how fast each and every day flies by.

I've been trying to document more of the stuff that we've been doing, but I let Brooklyn use my camera one day and let's just say...she found the delete button. Whoops, guess I should have pointed that out BEFORE setting her loose with it. Alas.

The kids love making wrapping paper. This day they decided they needed hand and footprints on it.
Then they brainstormed on how to get their paint-covered feet to the bathroom to take a bath, and this is what the came up with.

We are at the library a LOT. We went to the family pajama storytime one evening and lo and behold, look who showed up. And I have to confess...this is the one and only photo that I have of either of my kids with Santa. True story.

Uno is fantastic for number and color recognition!
One huge thing I love about homeschooling is the amount of free time my kids have to persue whatever ideas pop into their head. I can't tell you how amazing it is to hear, "Mom! I have an idea!" and watch how they put their idea into action. I try really hard not to make any suggestions or anything unless they ask...not always easy, but it's so worth it watching the gears in their head and then seeing the final outcome.

For example, the other day Brooklyn wandered outside and decided she wanted to catch a bird with her bare hands so she can take a photo of it. She said she tried and tried, but couldn't. Instead of telling her that it was a crazy idea, I just asked what she planned to do next. Make a birdbath! So she got some water and put it in a bowl out next to her homemade bird feeder. She came in about 20 minutes later to report that that hadn't worked either and she'd decided to just take photos from far off. Off she went with her camera. 20 minutes later she comes back to report that her camera sucks. "Can I use yours?" Uhhhh.... I'm working really hard on trying to say "Yes" before automatically saying "No". So we decided it would be best if I set the camera up and let her use the remote.
I have approximately 150 photos exactly like this. Approximately 10 have birds in them. But she was SO proud of those 10 photos! "Now we can identify them!" Sure!

Do you see the two birds?
A Mourning Dove and a White-Crowned Sparrow.
Then she decided she needed to take photos of everything else under the sun. She got some pretty neat abstract ones.

Russ and Sam were wrestling and Sam decided he needed a photo of this pose.
Brooklyn still had bird-capturing on the brain, so decided to make a trap instead. Here's her setup. Then she sat inside eating her lunch, and waited. No birds showed up, but the neighbor's cat did! She waited as long as she could before yanking the string. That cat jumped a good 3 feet straight up into the air before sprinting out of the yard. You should have heard the hysterical laughter coming from my kids. It was awesome.
The kids love playing in our front yard. There are three small trees, and that is all they need for toys. They get swung on, climbed on, and jumped out of for hours each day. Sam loves to climb the pineapple guava trees, trying to get guavas, and has become quite good at it. Can you spot him in the photo below?
I was sick for a couple of days this week and wanted nothing more than to stay in bed. We didn't have anywhere to be, so we got some more pillows, a bag of books, my crochet stuff, the laptop...and set up camp. We snuggled in my bed until 1 o'clock in the afternoon! It was fantastic.
While snuggling, we decided we needed some gingerbread cookies, so we got to work!
Can't forget the frosting!

Yesterday, we braved the San Jose Children's Museum (and rush hour traffic...). It was worth it though! More on that later!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Never A Dull Moment.

Thanksgiving was different this family, no friends...just us. And it was good! We really enjoy our family time, so a 4-day weekend with Russ (and a full 9 days with Brooklyn!) was awesome. We ended up coloring some rocks while waiting for our turkey roast to cook. It was more fun than Russ OR I gave it credit!

We put the rocks in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, then took crayons without paper on them and put them on the hot rocks to melt. It was really neat! There were only a couple of minor burns, but we got some pretty sweet rocks in the end.

Our Thanksgiving feast--turkey roast, mashed potatoes, gravy, olives...I think there was a real vegetable in there somewhere. Oh, do you like my hair? Brooklyn, my personal hairstylist spent quite a bit of time on it...and this is minus about 3 additional bows...

Over Thanksiving weekend, Russ decided that he and the kids needed to build a "medieval siege weapon" other words a trebuchet to launch pineapple guavas into the fence. Awesome? I think so.

"Look Mom, BUBBLE HANDS!!" Life doesn't get much better than this...

Last weekend they were having the Fungus Fair at the Lawrence Hall of Science at Berkeley. One very cool thing about this's on top of everything. Here's Alcatraz and Golden Gate.

And the Bay Bridge.

Aaaaaaaand who could forget balancing on top of a baleen whale??

HAHA, do you see the amazement on that kid's face?! "You mean you can make a mushroom....WITH A POTATO?!" Just astounding.

I didn't get many other photos of the Fungus Fair, but it was neat. Everything from identification booths to vendors selling mushrooms, mushroom kumbacha, felt mushrooms, paper made from mushrooms, hand-dyed clothing and yarns from mushrooms...and of course a grow-your-own-mushroom kit for $5!! SWEET! A little hydrogen peroxide, some straw, some some oyster mushroom innoculant...put in cool, dark spot for 1 month and check for small mushrooms. WOOT!

Sam loved riding the example of the Hayward fault line (which the Berkeley stadium sits on...who was the genius that thought THAT was a good idea?! Needless to say, it is under construction...), and has MANY TIMES asked to go back to "the earthquake riding place."

I've learned that before I put anything in the recycling bin to always ask Brooklyn if she needs it first...9 times out of 10 I get a, "You were going to throw this away?!" Then she snags it out of my hands and shuffles off to her art kit and with a threat, "Don't look, OR ELSE." Today she turned a Costco milk carton box into a portable art kit!

While Brooklyn was working on her portable art kit, Sam decided to make smoothies. And eggs. And re-heated pancakes. With peanut butter, chocolate chips, and honey. Mmmm, can you say Breakfast of Champions??

We also started tracking the weather. Brooklyn came up with her own symbols for sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy, snowy, frosty, partly cloudy...and a couple of other things that I'm not sure of. The morning after we put this up, Brook was up bright and early, "I NEED TO SEE WHAT THE WEATHER IS LIKE TODAY!!!" Oh-kaaaay.

It's also led to discussions on temperature scales. So now we've started adding the low temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius to each day as well (which is fun because if she sees frost outside she automatically knows we've hit the freezing point). Sigh, this kid now knows more about the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales than I knew in 6th grade...

It's time to replace all of our fall decor with snowflakes! I did my big one, and Brooklyn did about ten million smaller ones and taped them up all over the house, and Sam just practiced cutting his pieces of paper into a thousand little pieces.

The other night, Russ and Sam ran to Costco for me. So I told Brooklyn that the evening was ours--GIRLS ONLY. Let's go crazy! Do whatever we want!!! What did she choose to do?? Snuggle on the couch and write out a book. I would read a page, then she would write all of the words in her notebook. Then she wanted to watch me do it.

That was fun and all, and I was very proud she wanted to do that, AND her writing is getting better...but after the first book, I vetoed the second and declared it time for Chocolate No Bake Cookies instead.

I recently showed Brooklyn how to use tracing paper. My "kid's artwork drawer" that I use to store all of their creations to scan them at a later date is reaching Full capacity extremely quick.

Tracing things (dinosaur and frog) and creating patterns with different art mediums...none of which was my idea. This girl is SO art-minded...while I like art, I do not live and breathe it and look for it in every.single.thing. like she does. I'm grateful to have her by my side, pointing out many things that I miss from my point of view.

We got some dinosaur rubbings that the kids both enjoy doing. Sam was the first to want to turn his into a book, then Brook mentioned maybe they should paint their rubbings. I was surprised that this all kept Sam's attention for as long as it did--a record 30 minutes between the rubbings, book making and painting. Brook sat there for over an hour from start to finish, and then told me the story of her dinosaur: the volcano erupted, and the dinosaur was so afraid because his nest was next to the volcano, so he's running to rescue the eggs.

These are just some of the examples of the many things we do each day...for those of you who aren't aware, we made the decision to pull Brooklyn out of public school and homeschool. I cannot tell you how amazing this has been. Yes, some days are harder than others. Yes, I get completely and utterly burnt out. But I am SO happy with it. I really enjoy my kids and their perspectives on life, and it's not just them learning, I am learning so much right along with them. I may not be the world's best teacher, but I firmly believe that Russ and I are hands down THE best teachers for our kids.

Anyway, enough with the PSA. If homeschooling is even an inkling of appealing to you, a couple of books that helped me figure out what I wanted to do include: The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, Deschooling Our Lives by Matt Hern, and Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keeping Busy!

The kids and I have been having a great time this past week or so--Brooklyn had all of last week off of school, which I was so excited for!! Some days we did a ton, and others we did absolutely nothing. So in other words, it was fantastic! Here are some of the things we've been up to...

Bubba brought the kids some finger lights and I showed them how to take long exposure photos in our pitch black bathroom. I showed Brooklyn how to press the button to snap the photo...
...and let her at it...
...until the kids couldn't decide who was going to push the button and I was afraid my camera would end up in the Momma had to intervene. Done for today, kiddos!
Brooklyn saw a magic show at her school last month, and she LOVED it. She was SO excited to come home and show me how to bend a spoon...I had an inkling she thought she truly possessed the magic to do it, so hinted that magic isn't entirely real...but she HAD to show me how it was done.

The look of excitement on her face was heartbreaking as I knew it wouldn't last long. She waved her hand magically above the spoon and said proudly, "ABRACADABRA!!" First came the look of confusion, and then the heartbreaking, alligator tears streaming down her face. At that moment, I wanted to punch that magician in the face, lol. But she got over it and despite the trauma, she is still intrigued by magic.

There was a children's magician performing a couple of towns over this past week and both kids were SO excited to go! This theater was PACKED with kids under the age of 6 and their parents. Fun fun.
Here is the fantastic Zappo himself. I personally wasn't extremely impressed, but the kids adored him. I'll give him credit though--he did squeeze in all sorts of educational stuff: numbers, letters, colors, animals, countries, etc.

And he was really good with the audience--lots of of which was Brooklyn. And her mom... I KNEW I should have changed out of my breakfast stained shirt that morning. Sigh.

He had her draw a picture of what her mom looks like first thing in the morning on a piece of fabric. He then cored an apple, and wrapped the apple in a paper napkin. I was given the apple to hold on my head ala William Tell, while the magician made Brooklyn's picture turn invisible. She then took the invisible picture, and threw it at the apple on my head. The magician then pulled the picture out of the apple. Voila! Brooklyn was in seventh heaven, especially since she got to keep her picture. Then we got to go sit back down with Sam, who was expecting to be able to go up next...whoops, sorry dude.
The kids have been interested in video recording things lately. Well actually, Sam likes to record lots of things, but Brooklyn doesn't care to--she just likes to look at how things look in the camera screen. So be it. So we've been taking the camcorder to all sorts of things lately.
We made a trip to the Oakland zoo, which was great! Not too big, not too small, lots of big spaces for animals to move around, no crowd, perfect we got in for free instead of the 50% discount I was expecting. We had a BLAST running around, each of us taking turns choosing which way to turn and which animal to see next. It was actually really amazing--nearly all of the animals were out and about. The elephants were AMAZING. And the giraffes were RIGHT THERE. And there was this crazy monkey who was swinging all around the trees in his exhibit. And the bats! Wow! Way fun.
The local rock climbing gym was having a special for kids--$10 for 3 hours of climbing. And I've been wanting to let both kids try it out as I figured they would love it, with the way they whip across the monkey bars and shimmy up poles at the playground.

I assumed Sam would walk right up the wall to the top first thing, as Brooklyn is usually a bit more reserved about heading into something like this head on. This girl just WENT FOR IT. It took a time or two to get the feel for it...
And then there's this monkey who wasn't as crazy about shimmying up the wall as I thought he would be. He had a tough time figuring out that he needs to climb with his feet as well...he uses mostly upper-body strength, and then started using his KNEES to climb with, lol. Anyways, he spent the majority of the time scaling the smaller wall and dropping to the mat below. ...and playing with all of the other kids there.
Brooklyn went up this wall and run the bell at least 7 times before the volunteer told her she could probably do the next harder one took her a time or two, and a little encouragement from the volunteer who was belaying her, but she did it! And again. And again...
Sam would occasionally decide to give the big wall another try, and each time he would make it a LITTLE farther. Well finally, with a bit of help and encouragement from the girl belaying him, he made it!!! He got down and said, "I do it again?" Both kids closed the place down wanting to go again and again. And they have been begging to go back again...I would LOVE to get a family membership...if they offered one, and it wasn't a kazillion dollars. Alas, once or twice a month will have to suffice.
After rock climbing, we headed over to the library where Brooklyn was signed up with the Paws to Read program. Turns out it was Crafting Friday too! So my two turkeys got to make some turkeys. Aww...
Here's Brooklyn when she went to her first Paws to Read. It's neat--they have a large room int he back of the library and they bring in 6 dogs and their owners and the kids get to pick out 3 books to read to the dog. It's so sweet! And then at the end, they are given bookmarks with a photo and info about they dog they read to so that they can collect all of the bookmarks. She absolutely loves it.

I am an avid reader of the Play At Home Mom blog, and they are big on sensory development stuff. Although both of my kids are a bit older than theirs, I thought I'd try a few ideas, just to see what kind of curiosity it piqued in both of them...

The first thing we tried was shaving gel. I just squirted a bunch in the bottom of this bucket and let them do whatever. I thought it interesting that neither ever even touched the gel, or even wanted to after suggesting it. Sam quickly decided it needed ice and water. Brooklyn decided a bit later that it needed paint. Lots of paint. So they mixed colors and whisked and scooped and had fun.
After a break, I thought it would be fun to see how they reacted to vinegar and baking soda. Of course Sam loved it. I noticed that Brooklyn would get intrigued for a bit, and once she'd seen something, she was pretty much done. Occasionally she'll later suggest adding something else--usually paint.
I loved all of the bubbles that it made!! Russ and I had fun doing it as well--we got out funnels, vases, marbles, rubber bands...just for fun. We actually ended up using 2/3 a gallon of vinegar...hehe.
Sam had had so much fun that day doing the sensory stuff, Brooklyn and I took a trip to The Dollar Store to see what sorts of stuff we could find there. I was so excited to find water beads there! And food coloring! So we added the water beads to the bucket and I made some "spray paints" for Sam to experiment with. Russ soon suggested the garlic press...
SQUIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISHHHH............ The end result of the garlic press-ing was a sloppy mess of gloop. Blech. But seriously, if you have the opportunity to play with water beads, do it! They are so much fun!
Haha, just had to show Russ's...invention, I guess? It worked pretty well, actually, lol.
"Mom, I need my OWN avocado."
More Dollar Store crafts...give the kids some popsicle sticks, some googly eyes, and some glue and you're good to go for a good while.
Of course you are required to see each and every creation...fortunately, when googly eyes are involved, they are quite hilarious at times.

Well, today was officially the last day of Brooklyn's Thanksgiving break, and I'm really bummed about it. We've been enjoying having her back at home with us SO much...15 more days of school and she's all mine! Yippee!!