Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nature Meet Ups With Friends

We are so excited!  One of our home school groups is starting a monthly Nature Walk/Hikes around our community.  Fortunately for us; there are so many places to visit and wonderful weather : D  Today was our first official meet up.  This is my daughter and her friend trekking the trail far far behind me and the boys.  They were busy observing animal tracks and drawing them in their journals.   Luckily, her mom stayed behind too and captured this sweet moment.  It was a gorgeous day and just right for taking in some beautiful oaks, tracks, rocks, bird sounds and just running through dry bushes with friends.  No plan, no objective, just a leisure walk and natural curiosity.

Nature walks are a big part of our science focus.  We have just come to enjoy and find that these outings are a natural part of our lives.  If you haven't had a chance to read Jen's new post on Science,  head on over there!  It is excellent and she gives such a great overview of science and nature study a la Charlotte Mason.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ships Ahoy!

My kids keep reminding me that I haven't  posted pictures of a field trip they absolutely enjoyed.  A few weeks back they had the chance to visit the Lady Washington docked at the Channel Islands Harbor.   It was a gorgeous day; did not seem like January at all.

While we aren't studying the 1700's this year, we did last year and the images are still fresh. They learned about parts of a ship, some sailing terms and even got to work with the ropes.

I love having the opportunity for field trips that give the kids a hands on experience.  Sometimes this is just the last bit they need to make a connection with something they've learned or want to learn ; )

Monday, January 23, 2012

Living Science Books

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy going about science through great living books and observation.  Both my girls are enjoying their science just a tad more this year.  I'm guessing it's because their books are leading them through some great hands on experiments and labs.  The beauty & simplicity of it all comes down to just how natural the experiments read within the context of the books or how the progression to want to find details on experiments of  what they are enjoying doesn't feel forced upon.  There is no separation of extra lab to do page with all kinds of comprehension explanations or questions before hand.

My oldest and another Chemical History of a Candle experiment:

This experiment/demonstration absolutely required adult supervision ; )

My 8 year old daughter enjoyed her way through an entire year of Let's-Read-and-Find-Out science books last year, just perfect for a beginning reader.  She basically kept a science notebook (you have to read Nancy's post on this) in which she recorded anything she thought was interesting - either by reading about it or actually observing it.

I thought I would be comfortable using a set curriculum for her science this year (aside from natural science assigned readings) because she wanted some more hands on, bang type of labs ; )  We did try it and within two weeks dropped it.  It just didn't feel right for us. We were back to living books, observation and a science notebook. 

I happened to find a thin 48 page picture book on our used library sale shelf  last summer called Magnets and How To Use Them by Tillie S. Pine and Joseph Levine.  At a dollar price I purchased it and thought my boys would find it interesting because of its simplicity and lots of illustrations.  Just didn't think it was a science book! daughter found this absolutely perfect for her new science this year.   It isn't that the book is simplistic but, rather, that the writing is just perfect for an elementary student.  It is talking to the student and giving all the information in way that they understand the subject while enjoying it too.  This certainly fits the description of a living book.

I ordered a magnet set and she got to work with her weekly science as usual.  I found two more titles for her by the same authors: Simple Machines and How We Use Them plus Electricity and How We Use It.  I read through the books and they both just required a few things we already had around the house plus a quick trip to the hardware store totaling $6.00 for a battery and little bulbs.  She has had a wonderful time going through her weekly reading and possible experiments, which seem to happen almost weekly.  Last weeks light bulb trick had all the boys (and older sister) taking a turn. Then when dad got home; we got to see it all over again.

The books are less than 50 pages each but I can honestly say that it is best to savor the books.  It is taking us two terms to get through the three titles I've picked.  Like I mentioned, they might be picture style books but they are full of great information and possibilities for further hands on exploring on your own.  While Mrs. Pine and Mr. Levine have other titles that they collaborated on, I think we are going to use a similar type of book for term 3 by a different author.  I'll let you know how that one goes when we get to it.  I keep being reminded that a good book can go a long way to giving my children a good education, even in the sciences.  I have two happy science girls this year.  One has already given me her requirements to what science she wants to study next school year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lewis Carroll: Term 2 Poet

We are on our way through term 2.  I had not chosen our Term 2 or 3 poet when we started our school year because I really wanted to let the girls give me some input. Over the break they chose Lewis Carroll.  While they enjoyed Ms. Dickinson last term; they wanted a more jovial poet for the next 12 weeks.  I had to giggle yesterday when I heard my oldest reading this poem to her sister.  Oh wait, she wasn't reading, she was singing:
Beautiful Soup by Lewis Carroll
BEAUTIFUL Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beauti--FUL SOUP! 
We are using Poetry for Young People: Lewis Carroll and it states: "The poem sounds best when you sing it to a tune that you make up for it."  My girls couldn't agree more. 

For some biographical reading on Mr. Lewis Carroll my third grader is reading The Other Alice: The Story of Alice Liddel and Alice in Wonderland by Cristina Bjork.  This is such a beautifully illustrated book and she immediately found the appeal.  My oldest is reading from the Lerner Biographies: Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass by Angelica S. Carpenter. She is also enjoying the Bjork book with her younger sister ; )
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
BTW, just in case you are looking for an illustrated, large print version of Alice books; my younger daughter enjoyed the Helen Oxenbury's illustrated version last year.  It can be intimidating for an emerging reader to read classics on their own with so many words. We've enjoyed Oxenbury's illustrations in picture books for years so this was a nice way to introduce the original Lewis Carroll works to her.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Getting Ready for Dia De Los Reyes, Epiphany

As the Christmas season continues, we always look forward to January 6th: el Dia de los Reyes (the Day of the Kings).  Epiphany was one of those traditions that I do remember of as a child.  I was always confused by it though.  There was talk of the baby Jesus being stolen at one celebration and then returned at another celebration.  I remember one get together after another December through February.  As I've gotten older I've discovered that these cultural traditions are actually very much rooted with our liturgical calendar.  Rather than trying to explain the whole thing, I found this site which does a pretty good job at it.

A few years back trying to instill our Catholic traditions along with some culture we began to celebrate the Epiphany with a simple snack consisting of our yummy Mexican hot chocolate or sometimes a Chapurrado (if I'm feeling up to making it) and the traditional Rosca de Reyes.  This, I think, is always the most fun.  It is a sweet bread in the shape of a ring with some dry fruit candy and a few plastic babies hidden in it.  The kids always hope they will be the lucky ones to get a baby.

While we indulge we always listen to our favorite Epiphany book by Tomie De Paola: The Story of the Three Wise Kings.  Visit Jennifer's blog Family in Feast and Feria for some other great Epiphany titles.  She is always a wonderful source about our faith and Liturgical calendar.

Now, why am I writing this tonight.  Well, I also discovered a few years back that if you don't buy or order your Rosca early, you might not get one.  One year my husband tried a few bakeries and they were either sold out or the lines were just way to long to wait.  He has been nice enough to buy it a day early now.  We have a few park days tomorrow with our homeschool groups so we'll be enjoying our story, hot chocolate and Rosca in the evening so dad can join us.  How do you celebrate Epiphany? I always enjoy learning about new traditions. : D