Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Gershwin

This composer's birthday is a great excuse to post part of another, even more wonderful film in which his music is featured:

Visit the official Gershwin site for more music, and take a look at what I've had to say about this composer in the past if you have a minute or three. Happy Gershwin Day!

Happy Birthday, George Gershwin

From Funny Face (1957)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Workbox Wednesday, Pt. 2

More highlights from this week:

The book is A Pocket Dictionary of Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses, by Richard Woff. The idea was for O (11) to thumb through, pick a couple of favorites, read & write about them and then draw a picture of them as he sees them. Everything but the drawing happened. Sigh. Kid has major issues when it comes to artistic confidence.

Geography flash cards by region and a worksheet to reinforce the information learned.

A consistent favorite: an audiobook of Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth.

E (8) loved reading about the contrast between light and dark in Looking at Pictures, by Joy Richardson. Revised edition due out October 1st, though already in stock at Amazon. We currently have it checked out of the library, but will be buying our own copy.

Review of telling time to the quarter hour with Time & Money.
Interesting experiment--I'd never asked E to do anything like this. I think she'll like it better the second time, now that she knows what she's aiming to do. It was surprisingly difficult for her to draw a mirror image of the pictures shown.

Workbox Wednesday, Pt. 1

Week three with workboxes is going pretty well, though I am still up way too late at night (or early in the morning). We've tweaked a bit here and there to get some more group time, and I split up the older two on a couple of subjects with which E (8) was getting frustrated working at her older brother's level, which basically means I am sitting down with someone (or several someones) at all points of the day. Good thing I enjoy my job.

Here are some highlights from this week:

corn meal, a small cookie sheet, and a chart of patterns to make

M (4) loved this activity. I did not like the clean-up, though, so I'm thinking it will make a good on-the-deck activity until it gets too cold. Maybe then we'll try something that doesn't resemble beach sand quite so much.

Clip the clothespins to the tongue depressors craft sticks. Each stick has a number and the corresponding number of spots to clip (except nine--that one was an oops as a result of late night workbox-filling).

Someone in the workboxes yahoo group gave me this idea, so I made up a card (it's laminated now--have I mentioned how much I ♥ my laminator?), and showed M. what I meant. The result is below.

More after I've slept a little and had a lot of caffeine.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good finds of the week and Book Sharing Monday

Since my good finds are all books, I thought I might kill two birds with one stone.

1. The Roman Army--the Legendary Soldiers Who Created an Empire, by Dyan Blacklock with illustrations by David Kennett. DS (11.5) loved this award-winning book--snatched it from his workbox and ran to the sofa with it, in fact. The illustrations have a refined graphic novel appeal, and the information about a specific part of Ancient Rome was a perfect focus in what can be an massive unit study. Another book by this team is Olympia--Warrior Athletes of Ancient Greece, which appears to be OOP.

2. National Geographic's Photography Guide for Kids by Neil Johnson. From "All about Cameras" to "How a Camera Sees," and from the composition of photographs to the choosing of subjects, this guide was enjoyed by both DS (11.5) and myself. DS had the book (with pages marked to read), our camera, and his nature journal in a workbox, with the idea that he would take photos of nature, pick his favorite, and tuck it into his nature journal, since getting him to draw in it has not been successful at all. The book doesn't have an overwhelming amount of information--just enough to catch the bug. Shutterbug, that is. ☺

3. Geography through Art--International Art Projects for Kids, by Sharon Jeffus and Jamie Aramini. I must admit we are in the early stages of investigating this book, but I like what I've seen so far. I've had the two older kids reading about chiaroscuro (the contrast of light and dark--such a fun word to say) in art in preparation for our first project (on deck for tomorrow), which is to create a representation of the Earth in shadow on black construction paper. Art-happy DD (8) will likely love this undertaking, and I'm hoping at the very least for cooperation from DS (11.5). I love that it ties in with our Earth Science studies, as well.

Book Sharing Monday is hosted at Serendipity.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Timeline of Planet Earth

Today we read about the history of the universe in general, and of our Earth in particular. Then, as suggested by Our Dynamic Earth, the older two made a timeline (38 feet long!) that delineated events from Earth's beginnings in the solar system (around 4.6 billion years ago) through the arrival of human ancestors such as Australopithecus (about 4 million years ago) and on to a couple of "recent" events, such as the end of the most recent Ice Age (10,000 years ago) and the most recent eruption of Mt. Vesuvius (1944), which had to be crowded into the last .001 inch and the last .0002 inch of our timeline, respectively. We had to go outside to stretch the whole thing out--our house is not that wide!

Books read about the topic:

Planet Earth Inside Out, by Gail Gibbons (4 y.o. & 8 y.o)
The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth, by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen (8 y.o)
Shaping the Earth, by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (chapters 1-2) (11 y.o)
Earth, by Isaac Asimov (Isaac Asimov' 21st Century Library of the Universe) (11 y.o.)
Earth's Crust and Core, by Amy Bauman (chapter 1) (11 y.o)


Earth (DisneyNature)--stunning, if sad in spots. DD (8) asked to watch it again the following day.
Amazing Planet (National Geographic)--our Friday Family Movie Night pick this weekend, along with The Court Jester starring Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone (1956).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week 1, part 3

And finally, the four-year-old's boxes. Trickle-down homeschooling is not this kid's only choice these days, thank goodness.

Feel and Find by Guidecraft, a classic Montessori-style preschool activity.

The letter of the week, with a printable book from Enchanted Learning.

We've had these sorting bears and pattern cards since O was in preschool. So glad M is getting use from them now!

Another classic Montessori-style preschool activity. I printed and laminated a twelve-part color wheel on cardstock, colored in one side each of twelve clothespins with Prismacolor markers, et voila! a great sorting activity that strengthens the oh-so-important pincer grasp.

Reading time with Mom: Our Earth, by Anne Rockwell.

Did I mention the letter of the week was A? ☺ This activity required some help, as each sticker has a very specific spot on which to, ehm, land.

I wasn't as ready with the camera during group time as I would have liked this week, but here is one I thought to catch (as we didn't save the bisected spheres), a science activity from Earth Logic: Our Dynamic Earth, plus the control cards from a Montessori card set, which is just a small sample of the many free resources at Montessori Materials.

I've got tomorrow's boxes all ready to go--hopefully I'll remember to take some photos as the week rolls on.

Have fun!

Week 1, part 2

On to the eight-year-old's boxes:

E. is my natural speller, so I'm taking it easy on her right now. Worksheets from Enchanted Learning for spelling and alphabetizing.

This girl loves her geography. She had a great time with these flash cards this week.

Why is it my children seem to forget math over the summer? We are doing a review for this very reason. We've tried both the Miquon and the Singapore math programs, and needed to keep looking for both kids. Right Start Math is an excellent match for my visual-spatial learners.

E's favorite one day was her nature journal with a new set of compact binoculars (to replace the ones her little brother threw across the room and broke). She sat on the deck and drew happily for half an hour.

Science reading. She read about half one day and half the next.

The Usborne Latin Words Sticker Book was fun for E., too, though she requested help a few times.

Besides the nature journal, E's favorites this week were the States and Capitals flash cards, Draw Write Now, and math (once we switched to a review of what she did last year). Only one day did she have a least favorite, and that was to read a few pages of Who Were the Romans? (Usborne Starting Point History), which surprised me a bit.

Part three coming soon!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Week 1, part 1

I tried to take lots of pictures this week, and here are the highlights, mostly of the workboxes since those are such a new and fun aspect of our homeschooling.

Here are some of the 11-year-old's workboxes this week:

We're making a switch from Sequential Spelling to Spelling Workout for O. I liked how SS has the kids check their own work, but it was very time-consuming. Spelling Workout has some independent activities after the pretest, and then the lesson culminates in an end-of-week spelling test. So far, this is DS's favorite subject along with Latin (which is a group activity, so it didn't make it in the workboxes).

Okay, maybe this was his favorite--he snatched it out of the workbox, read what was required and then requested to finish it when he was through with the boxes. Lawrence is a very prolific author--the series has at least sixteen books in by now. O is devouring Book II (The Secrets of Vesuvius) under the covers with a booklight right now, probably.

Handwriting is not a favorite, but I don't hear the moans and groans I have in years past. We alternate handwriting and copywork 3-4 times a week. We use the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting course.

Even though the poetry club is now defunct (sigh), O. still memorizes a poem a month, or thereabout.

Great, great book. Just right for logic stage Earth Science. Shaping the Earth by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.

I had thought that Beginner's Japanese on his iPod would have been right up O's alley (he's been mentioning learning the language for a year or so), but he did not like the format of this program. So glad I decided to try via ILL before buying. Now I'm looking for a DVD language program for Japanese, or something with more visual components. Any ideas?

At the end of each day I have the older two write a list of what was in their boxes and what they liked most and least that day. So far O's least favorites have been math and his nature journal, with which he doesn't feel like he excels.

Tomorrow, week 1, part 2: the eight-year-old's boxes. I have only so much patience with Blogger's image uploader/formatter.

Good finds of the week

1. Lively Latin

I don't know if it's Harry Potter Syndrome or what, but my kids have been after me to study Latin for a while now. We started with The Big Book of Lively Latin, v. I this past week, and it's been a big hit so far with both of the older two (11.5 and 8) and myself. I love how Magistra Catherine Drown has laid out the lessons--vocabulary, pronunciation, history, even diagramming (in Latin)!

2. PBS and David Macaulay's Roman City on DVD

We really enjoyed this DVD this week. I even stayed awake through it, which is saying a lot since I had about four hours of sleep the night before, and we watched at that sleepy time of the afternoon when it's hard for me to stay awake when I've had a good night's sleep. Narration by Macaulay as he walks around Ancient Roman ruins is interspersed with the animated story of a young Roman architect (voiced by Derek Jacobi), and it kept the interest of all three of my kids (11.5, 8, and 4.5). There are three more DVDs in the series: Cathedral, Castle, and Pyramid.

These made it into DD(8)'s workboxes this week. Each card has a yoga pose or activity or game on it. The ones I put in the workbox were ones she could do by herself, but there are also partner activities. The cards are divided up into the following groups:

Standing poses
Forward bending poses
Twisting & stretching poses
Balance poses
Partner poses (such as "Warrior Friends")
Time in cards (guided meditations)

The oversized cards come in a sturdy flip-top box. I expect to get a lot of use out of them!

More on our week of workboxes once I get some photos uploaded. Hopefully soon. . .

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Coming soon

A new book by Richard Dawkins called The Greatest Show on Earth will be hitting libraries and bookstores on September 22nd. Chet Raymo says that, in this book, Dawkins writes "with such an eclectic gathering of scientific illustrations, personal anecdotes, and snarky asides -- that the mix is irresistible even to someone fully apprised of the evidence." I'm looking forward to reading it, myself.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Mission: Organization, the Homeschool Edition

Since first hearing about workboxes from fellow eclectic/Charlotte Mason-style homeschoolers in the SecularCM yahoo group, I've been working toward getting our homeschooling/living space organized. It's been an interesting shift--I'm seeing toys being brought down from upstairs during the day and actually being played with, instead of being strewn throughout the first floor rooms and largely ignored. The living area is much more peaceful to look at, as well. Gone are the one-per-child homeschooling cubes that quickly became overfilled with just about anything, and (mostly) the sideways stacks of notebooks that wouldn't fit in the fourth cubbyhole.
the eleven-year-old's set

the eight-year-old's set

the four-year-old's set

everyday resources

Sue Patrick's Workbox System grew out of her work with her autistic child, and, while I did purchase her book through Amazon, I also found a huge outpouring of ideas and resources from the many homeschooling parents in the Workboxes yahoo group. The general idea is that kids will have visual reminders of what needs to be done on a given day (or week, depending on how one tweaks the system), which help improve time management skills and increase self-reliant learning. In theory, anyway. ☺

Being someone who usually follows a recipe pretty closely the first time I make something new, I'm planning to keep with the "fill x boxes per child per day" idea as long as it's working for everyone. I've also kept the "schedule strip" idea, which you can see here (with names blurred out courtesy of iPhoto):

Activities on the schedule, besides delving into their boxes, will include group time (for lessons the older two have together), tea time (thanks, Bravewriter), nature walks, mental breaks like crab-walking around the room or rolling across the carpet, music lessons and practice, online educational games, Skype-ing a friend or family member for a few minutes, and more:

While I think my kids will benefit from using the system, I think they will benefit even more from my use of the system. No more printing out pages while the kids sit at the table waiting, or, worse, wander off and get distracted by something else. No more really cool materials sitting on the shelves, unused, because we've forgotten about them or just don't have time to make use of them. Time for me to harness that creative gene I know is somewhere in my 23 pairs of chromosomes and fill the boxes with a combination of must-do homeschooling work, possible rabbit trail beginnings, and miscellaneous fun stuff. Once I have a solid idea of what's going in this coming Tuesday's boxes (this weekend's task), I'll post more. Wish me luck, and a firm grip on my sanity!