Sunday, March 15, 2009

Learning is fun!

It's pretty much been party central around here lately. The term "learning is fun" has been an understatement. I'm convinced they don't even think they're learning some days because they are just having too much fun. It's come about because I have actually been quite a slacker lately in my planning and therefore I have been looking for more learning opportunities in our daily experiences. Up until February break I had everything planned out to the minute but I think I slept through February vacation when I should have been planning for now and I have been planning week to week since then. It has it's pros and cons. One pro was that when I received a giant shipment of vitamins and supplements I saw the packing peanuts as a perfect medium for art later in the week. These are the edible kind that are made of corn starch or rice. We all ate some, just because we can, and then we made some projects with them. If you dab a packing peanut onto a wet paper towel you can stick another peanut to it. They stay together like they've been glued and they are stuck instantly. The kids loved making crazy creations with them and I loved having a use for the packing peanuts and an art project with virtually no mess.

This is Bella's bathtub and faucet with a tiled wall on the side

Ian has continued to do his school work diligently. He is asking to do his "phonics" all the time. This week he completed his Kumon workbook and got a certificate of achievement. He is now moving on to another workbook that has less letter tracing and gives him more independence in his letter formation. He's officially writing with his left hand so I am in uncharted territory in helping him make his letters. His natural inclination is to make his letters opposite of how he "should." I'm realizing it's party because he's lefty and partly because, like most things, if I tell him how to do it, he likes to do it a different way. For now, if a G looks like a G then it's good enough for me. In addition to Ian's hard work, everyone has been working a lot on their story for the Reading Rainbow contest. We are all working through the story writing process like Isabella did last year and the kids have come up with some very creative stories. This week we will illustrate them (also very creatively) and send them off next week to the contest. We've also been reading Mr. Poppers Penguins over the last week and doing lessons to coincide with that. The kids love this book!
Last week was Nova's birthday! She turned 6. We of course had a fun party here at the TLC academy. Nova's friends Quimby and Clementine joined us for the afternoon too! Nova and Seven made a delicious cake, they had fun destroying the rainbow pinata and they made a cute Penguin craft that went along with our study of penguins and Antarctica. See, we even slip "school" activities into birthday parties!

St. Patrick's Day is a very celebrated day for us. I'm 1/4 Irish and my dad is 1/2 Irish so we have always celebrated St. Patrick's Day with my dad's side of the family. Up until recently I didn't realize that it wasn't a big holiday for everyone else. On Saturday my sister hosted the family St. Patty's Day dinner at her house. I co-hosted. We had to make corn beef and cabbage for about 30 people. My mom was away for the weekend so we had to accomplish this daunting task without her. I think we did a pretty good job. I only called mom once and it was more for reassurance than anything else. I even sliced the meat w/ the electric knife. My dad usually does this but he was busy. I felt very accomplished to be trusted with the "power utensil." I don't normally do well with other power tools like drills and such (you should see what I did to the window frames trying to hang curtains) so I was very proud that I cut the meat well without losing a finger. The weather was beautiful and it was a nice day indeed.

Hannah and Bella in their matching St. Patty's Day shirts.

Me, Crystal and her Diet Coke thought these feathered antlers were no laughing matter.

But Madi did!!
The kids all loved their Irish dinner!

After a long day of playing outside on Saturday it took a very long time to untangle Isabella's long hair. The tangles and tears have been a common occurrence over the last few weeks and Isabella decided it was time to chop it off and donate it. She has been growing it for this purpose for a long time. On Monday afternoon. Seven came over and did the honors of snipping the 12 inch ponytail and fashioning an adorable haircut for Ms. Bella. She is simply elated with her new "do" and was very excited to share her hair. We are learning about generosity this week and have been talking about different ways that we can be generous to others with talents and things we have been blessed with. Bella has certainly been blessed with lots of hair and it was a perfect way for her to show generosity. The Locks of Love website gave us the instructions on how to properly donate (you need at least 10 inches to donate to them) and we got to see pictures of some of the recipients and learn more about the wigs that they receive. It was neat to learn that 80% of the hair that is donated for these children comes from other children. It's such a great organization and a great way to help others.

Yesterday was officially St. Patrick's Day and we had some friends over for another round of corn beef and cabbage and some fun activities. Amy and Nancy came and joined us for a fun filled day of school. Nova arrived dressed as a little leprechaun/elf in a little suit her mommy made out of sweaters. It was soooo cute!
We watched a funny little movie about St. Patrick and his perseverance that is on one of our favorite Veggie Tales movies (Sumo of the Opera). After that we did a brief discussion of the holiday and some of the leprechaun legends associated with it. We estimated, counted and graphed bowls of Lucky Charms for a math activity. I love to see how well the kids worked together with groups of kids that they don't have school with on a regular basis. So much for "unsocialized" homeschoolers. Nancy taught the kids a little bit about Ireland and they colored the flag of Ireland and did a Celtic Cross craft. Amy read them some adorable fairy tales about Leprechauns. We all enjoyed corn beef and cabbage with Irish soda bread and shamrock cookies and then headed outside to enjoy the beautiful day.

Bella and Hannah were very responsible traffic cops in the driveway with so much bike and scooter traffic coming and going. They managed to avoid any major collisions.

Unfortunately my curb attacked Nancy's tire and she got a flat. We tried to fix it ourselves, being three capable women, and we (mostly Amy and Nancy) did a pretty good job but in the end we just couldn't get the lug nuts off with the flimsy wrench thing they give you to change a flat (really it was the wrenches fault, not because we are girls so don't even go there) and I had to call my sweetie to come save the day. He did. I love having a husband who can save the day.

I'm not 100% certain about what's on tap for next week. I know we'll be working hard to finish up our stories and I think we'll be moving on to study Australia which I know will be fun, it's such an interesting place. I am still praying about what direction to go in for the kids Bible time since we have finished the curriculum I was using since September. I am in the process of writing a Bible curriculum for them but I'm not nearly done and not sure I should start it now...anyway, just thinking as I type, writing stream of consciousness which means it's time to sign off before you get a real glimpse into my odd mind...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

100th day of school!

So, its almost spring and I can't wait. There is no good blog background for the 100th day of school so I decided to go with the uplifting beauty of grass in all it's glorious greenness. I can't wait to see, smell and feel the grass again! I'm even looking forward to dandelions this year because I am planning to make dandelion root tea, and add the leaves to my salads. I also read that you can make magenta colored dye with dandelions! I think a natural tie dye day may be in the works this summer. Who knew such a pesky weed could be so useful?!

We had a great February Vacation, very relaxing to have some down time. The highlight of the week was seeing our cousin that lives in NY and visiting the giant sandbox in the mall near my mom's house which has been a February Vacation tradition for 3 years now. Bella and Angelique bought matching shirts and flip flops while we were at the mall, how girly and cute!!
Our first day back to school after vacation we had a super fun field trip to the local Karate Dojo. Many of the kids in our homeschooling group take karate there and they got to demonstrate some of the things that they are learning. My kids loved it and Bella and Ian are both interested in taking karate in the future when time and money permit. We really enjoyed watching Hannah and our friends Declan, Corey and Samuel show us their moves and getting to try some too!

We have been counting...waiting...and it finally arrived! We had our 100th day of school! The TLC is together 3 days a week and everyone has "homework" to do on the days that we aren't together so all 5 days of the week are school days. When we are together we add popsicle sticks to a can for each day of school and count them during our morning meeting making a bundle every time we get to 10. We knew it was coming up and over vacation the kids had to make their 100th day of school projects.

Hannah made a 100 piece puzzle, Nova made 100 paint dots, Isaac glued 100 Kix to a paper and Isabella made a spiral on her paper with 100 beads. They all loved having a project to do and everyone did a great job.

I put the kids in charge of the camera first thing after they arrived and told them to take 100 silly pictures throughout the day. They didn't get quite 100 and most were super blurry close ups that I couldn't make out but we did get some pretty funny ones too.

After free time we settled down for morning meeting and officially counted our 100 popscicle sticks. They were so excited. I don't think counting by 10's to 100 has ever been so celebrated (except by every other classroom of kids celebrating their 100th day of school lol).

We started working on our 100 piece puzzle right away, know it might take all day to finish it. We also started a 100th day of school book that included pages like "What would you do with $100.00 and what will you look like when you are 100 years old. Priceless answers as you can imagine.

We had a fun snack. I set out 10 bowls of different things to make a snack mix and the kids had to count 10 of each thing into their bowl. They were so diligent and patient to count each thing, some of them were really small, like rice krispies and hard to grab just a few but they did a great job.

We worked our snack off by doing 10 sets of 10 different excersizes. How pathetic is it that I was actually sore the next day (that's what happens when you can't afford to renew the gym membership, have a living room too small for workout videos, and 2 feet of snow on the ground, a lazy butt and someone that's good at making excuses)!

Some of our other fun activites included a list of 100 things we are thankful for and a beautiful pattern block design using 100 pattern blocks. We also had 100 seconds of complete silent (a delightful part of the day in my opinion) and estimated how many times we could write our name in 100 seconds. I was impressed with the estimates and how close they were to the actual amounts. It showed a great understanding of the length of time and of their own ability. I was particularly impressed that Ian guessed he would be able to write his name only 3 times, knowing it takes him a little while. He usually estimates 45 for anything and everything, this showed thought and consideration on his part and he was close, he was actually able to write his name 5 times in 100 seconds. Everyone else was very close to their estimate too.

To end our day we decided to bake 100 chocolate chip cookies! I was particularly excited about this because my friend Don Farley recently blessed me with with a brand new stand up mixer!! I have always wanted one, and despite my affection for baking and how often I would use it, I could never justify the expense. Don redeemed many many Coke Reward points for this beauty, for which I am so thankful! It made cookie baking w/ the TLC so easy! The kids made cookies of all sizes to get to 100. They all enjoyed eating them and taking some home to share with their family.

Last but not least everyone worked fast and furiously to finish the 100 piece puzzle. Seven came in and saved the day by helping. In the end it turned out to be a 99 piece puzzle because we lost a piece somewhere, but it was a great accomplishment and a great way to end our 100th day of just 80 more to go!