Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back to School!

School is officially back in session! Our first two weeks back have been great and here is your peek at what we've been up to. We have a new student this year!! We are so excited to have Miles join the TLC Academy clan. Isaac and Ian are particularly happy that they are no longer out numbered by girls. I must say that I am so honored to be the teacher of these beautiful children.

We got right to work on the first day. I was amazed at how fast everyone flew through their review work. These little smarties didn't forget a thing over the summer, in fact, they kept right on learning! No back tracking for this bunch. We are doing a fun Spanish curriculum together and learned some of the rooms in our house. I minored in Spanish in college and I am really enjoying speaking it with the kids and using (and refreshing) some of what I know. We are also doing a nice music curriculum that goes through some traditional hymns. Everyone got started on their spelling, math and language arts and it's going well. Overall, I am excited about all of our curriculum. I am trying to focus on making sure the kids know how to use what they are learning and apply it to other situations when necessary. I am steering away from rote drill-type work and moving toward more critical thinking skills. I think it's going to make the year a lot more productive and fun for all of us.
We did a simple and fun art project the first day of school. I gave everyone a blue circle and told them to incorporate it in their picture as something. I just loved seeing how different everyone thought and created. Bella's was a blueberry on a bush, Hannah's was the center of a flower, Lexie's was the sun setting on the horizon, Isaac's was a tractor wheel, Ian's was a head and Miles' was the sun in the sky.

My friend Alison gave us a Monarch caterpillar. I was so excited. I love watching this amazing process and we didn't get to do it last year. He was already a big fat fatty caterpillar when we got him and he went into his chrysalis the next day. The amazing thing was that we got to see it! It's a pretty fast process (only about 5 minutes from beginning to end) and we just happened to be looking so we got to see it happen. You can't get better science than that!

One of Ian's major accomplishments for the first week of school was riding a two wheeler! He was a pro after only a few tries. Now the challenge is keeping him inside to do his work! He wants to ride all day!

But alas, there is some bookwork that needs to be done...and everyone has been doing it diligently.

...and even with a smile!
Sometimes we need a bookwork break though and the tactile fun of a bin of dried rice and beans is a perfect activity.
...unless of course you are in 4th and 5th grade and then it's work, work, work, work, work...
...and then do a fun craft. I gave the girls step by step instructions on how to make a 3D apple. They followed them perfectly with very little help. I was impressed.

We are very excited to be a part of many activities in addition to our regular school time. We will host a book club once a month. This month we read the first half of Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen Taylor. Next month we are reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We are also going to be a part of Research Group again at a local library and will be hosting an Art Club. As if that isn't enough, we are also doing science clubs! My children have a science group after piano twice a month. We will be studying physical science. At our first meeting the kids learned about the Scientific Method. This is a tough area of science for me, one that I lack interest in. I am grateful that two of my very good friends have graciously invited us to their group and will be doing most of the teaching!
All of the TLC Academy is also doing another Science Club once a month. This month the topic was water and we learned so much! We did experiments on evaporation, condensation, a cloud craft, talked about the percentage of water on the earth and many more awesome activities! My friend Michelle did a great job packing tons of active learning into a few hours and the kids came away excited about what they have learned. They have been applying it in other areas which is always an indication that they "got it".

Now this is going to look like a food blog from here to the end. We did lots of cooking this week. For History the girls were learning about the Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs. An optional activity was to cook something with corn. Bella chose to cook corn chowder. It was soooo yummy.

Hannah made corn pudding and it was also really delicious!
She and her awesome mommy also made us an apple pie. Hannah's mommy Amira is the crust master. I envy her crust making skills, for I am a terrible crust maker. Just look at that beautiful whole wheat crust with no hydrogenated oil. I have mostly banned hydrogenated oils from our diets, with the exception of store bought pie crust from time to time because I am such a terrible crust maker. Lame, I know...but enough about crust!
Let's move on to cookies! Those I am better at. Isaac and Ian are pretty good at them too! They made a delicious batch of pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

We have been learning a bit about the traditional MA hero, Johnny Appleseed this past week. Hannah, Bella and Lexie made these delicious Johnny Appleseed treats. They were very easy (if you are lame like me and buy store bought pie crust that is) and very delicious. We had made caramel apple butter earlier in the week and they combined it with some diced apples, plopped a spoonful in little pie crust circles, sealed them and baked them!

All this fun fall baking and eating is not really conducive to maintaining my weight loss plan, however. It took a lot of running to burn of all these treats (especially trans fat loaded pie crust).
The next few weeks have some great things on tap, including a trip to the apple orchard, watching our butterfly emerge from it's chrysalis and lots of other hands on learning fun.

Monday, September 6, 2010

end of summer

Today is labor day and the summer is officially winding to a close. I am pretty much ready to start school on Tuesday. Blogging our last summer events will help give me summer closure. I think this was the best summer I have had since I was a child. I am sad to see it come to a close. The last few weeks have been spent trying to balance enjoying the rest of summer and getting ready for school. No small task for a homeschooling mom, let me tell you. When I was teaching I had 2 weeks in my classroom with no kids to get ready. Now that my classroom is my home and the kids are always here, challenges are aplenty. Then again, so is the fun, so it all works out. Last week with the awesome weather it was wonderful to "have" to take the kids to the pool, rather than staying in front of this screen planning.
Here are some of highlights from our last few weeks.
When we first got back from our vacation the kids were still in vacation mode and apparently so was Jason because he decided to pitch the tent in the backyard for some camping. The kids LOVED it. The cool Berkshire nights made it a little uncomfortable for me and when it dropped below 50 degrees I went inside. This is our fire mascot. I think his name is Corbert (named by one of the youth group kids). He's been with us all summer. I am very proud to announce that my little writers have won another contest! My kids and Hannah all won awards in the library contest for their short stories. Isaac won 1st place and Ian won 2nd for their age division. Hannah won 2nd place and Bella got 3rd place (honorable mention) for their age division. The library had a delightful ceremony and the kids received beautiful awards. They also received money for winning which they were all very excited about. We visited our Germain friends last week. This enormous dragonfly visited them too. He was sooo cool. He was at least 4 inches long!! We also made applesauce while we were there with apples fresh from one of their apple trees! Jen and I have been pretending we were pioneers like Laura Ingalls since we were little and we thoroughly enjoyed going through the applesauce making process together like Mary and Laura. This gigantic spider was on one of our windows. He was amazing to watch. We were totally creeped out but interested at the same time. I have been doing lots and lots of school prep the last few weeks. None of it is really interesting or worth noting to anyone but myself except for our history time line. I am really excited about our history curriculum this year. We will be studying ancient civilizations and my curriculum came with instructions on how to make a time line out of a sewing board, contact paper and duct tape. Its really huge when it is all folded out but folds up conveniently. I am also very pleased with our lovely green contact paper and teal duct tape. I can't wait to start adding the information! Yesterday afternoon Isabella and Hannah decided they wanted new looks for school and Amira obliged and chopped off their hair! Bella will be donating her hair to Children with Hairloss so that they can use it to make a wig. Amazingly it has been less than 18 months since the last time she donated her hair and she has another 12 inch pony tail to send!! At this rate I may look into selling it haha! Hannah's hair will be donated to another cool site called Matter of Trust and they make mats to absorb oil from oil spills using hair. Two adorable girls with sassy new cuts! T So school starts tomorrow! I love that all the kids have asked to start sooner because they can't wait! I hope that excitements lasts after they get a few assignments under their belt...