Friday, September 30, 2011

First day of school 2011

Well, it's almost a month late, but I had to put our traditional first day of school pics for 2011 here! I love to click on "first day fun" and look back over the years. Crazy.

The annual Diet Coke and Mentos explosion....

Back to school celebration!

Cookie from Grammy and Grandpa.
We kinda like our traditions. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snowflake Bentley

We just completed Five in A Row's Snowflake Bentley. It's a sweet biography about William Bentley and his quest to photograph snowflakes.

We learned about a lot about Vermont, old-time photography, Caldecott Medal winners, negative space, and hexagons. We learned about crystals, weather, perseverance, and sacrifice. We learned about the miracle of snowflakes and were overwhelmed at how incredibly creative our God is. We learned about sun dogs. Do you know about sun dogs? I had never heard of this phenomenon. It's very cool!

We used these directions to make our own crystal snowflakes.

We even got enough snow to go out with our mini microscopes and examine some close up.

And of course, we had hot chocolate when we came in.
What a great book and great memories. Two things that make learning fun and meaningful!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Catalog Math

Last night when Cole was supposed to be asleep, he was in bed looking through his new Lego catalog, adding up what it would cost to buy everything listed. He is a bit obsessed with all things Lego.

This gave me a great idea today. I am going to make word problems for him to do using his Lego catalog. By doing these problems he will not only be practicing math, but he will have to use reading and problem solving skills as he looks for each item and reads through the descriptions to get information.

The options are endless, and you could even work in shipping costs and tax.

Here are some of the questions I have come up with so far.

-If you lined up the Police Helicopter, Police Boat, and Police Station, how many inches of space would you need?

-What would it cost to order 4 Ninja Training Outposts?

-If you had $35 and you ordered the Log Cabin, how much would you have left?

-What is the total number of pieces in the Tower Bridge and Fire Brigade?

-If you stacked King's Castle and Outpost Attack on top of each other, how tall would it be?

-If you had $300 and you ordered Diagon Alley and Rockefeller Center, how much would you have left?

You get the idea. I think I will do the same with the American Girl catalog for Riley.

It's an easy way to teach higher level thinking and real life application!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Little Nino's Pizzeria and The Salamander Room

Riley and Cole just finished the Five in a Row book Little Nino's Pizzeria. We spent the week learning about everything from relationships, to communication, to family businesses, to the homeless, to homonyms, to symbolism, and a lot of stuff in between! At the end, Riley and Cole made their own pizzeria. They combined their names and called it RiCo's. Their pizza was delicious!

They also recently finished The Salamander Room. This was a wonderful study that really brought out our love of nature!

This week was all about science. We learned all about the classifications in the animal kingdom and the life cycles of salamanders and frogs. Riley and Cole each researched salamanders and wrote a report on them.

We enjoyed a really fun nature scavenger hunt, and we found a great environment in nature to sit and read the book. We wrapped up the week by making salamander dioramas!

I love the richness the Five in Row activities give to books!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

History rocks.

History. I hated it when I was in school. I never learned a thing. Dry boring facts to memorize until two seconds post-test when they vanished into thin air.

I know that wasn't everyone's experience, but that was history to me. We definitely wanted something different for our kids. I refuse to waste their time with dry, boring facts.

Garrett started American history last semester. Although we will be spending more time on it than a lot of people would, we are incorporating literature and composition as well, so it's more than just history. I am very excited about it! We are using this book.

It has each stage in history and an extensive book list to go with the time periods, or people, or events. The book lists are divided into age groups as well, so if you are studying with different ages, you can get books on the same topic for everyone's level. The books are trusted, previewed, living books.

We started with Columbus and we've worked our way up to the Civil War. This year we will work through to the present. With each stage in history, we discuss what is going on during the specific time using summaries from this book. He then reads a biography or novel about the time period. As he reads the books, he either outlines the chapters on his computer (preparing for note-taking in college level courses), or he writes a summary or an extensive paper (allowing us to work on composition and grammar).

Reading biographies takes the dry facts that textbooks present and brings them to life! It's hard to get excited about memorizing dates and event names, but when you start to read about what really happened, all the gritty, messy details, you can't help getting roped in!

This style of learning history gives us the opportunity to learn about why things happened. To learn about the character behind certain leaders and how they became who they were.

I have a choice as I teach history. I can have my kids memorize the dates of the events that transpired during, let's say, the leadership of George Washington. Or I can use the opportunity to dive into a book like "The Bulletproof George Washington". Here is a summary:

Colonial George Washington's perilous experiences in the French and Indian War are chronicled in this riveting account of God's providence and protection. The only officer on horseback to avoid being shot down, young Washington openly attributed his miraculous escape from harm to the intervention of a sovereign God.

Now that's history that won't be forgotten.

We are also incorporating English literature into our history as we read classics that go along with the time period we are studying. This year we will read The Red Badge of Courage, The Jungle, To Kill a Mockingbird, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, and The Grapes of Wrath, to name a few. Right now we are reading Uncle Tom's Cabin since we are coming upon our Civil War study. Wow, classic literature takes on a whole new meaning when you are studying the time period alongside it.

As we read our books, we bring in quality videos whenever possible. We have been enjoying America, The Story of Us. And we will be watching Ken Burns' Civil War as we move into that event. I can't wait!

One of our educational goals is to enrich character through exposure to great literature and inspirational people.

We think history is the perfect place to put this goal into action.

Monday, September 27, 2010


This morning when we started school we were all talking about how happy we were that it was so cool it was outside. We kept looking out the window and making comments. And then we figured out that, duh, we should be outside. So we packed it all up, made some lunches, and headed to the park with what felt like enough bags for a week-long trip.
We found the perfect spot, put down our blankets and bags and picked up where we left off at home! There's just something more inspiring about working outside under the sun with the cool breeze.I put my coffee mug on the grass so I wouldn't spill it on the blanket, because I am brilliant.Of course.

We all need a change of scenery every once in a while. It always seems like being outside refreshes things. We always get a lot done.

Doing school outside is not without it's risks...

But who's scared of a little beetle poop?

Not us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Bee Tree and Septemberfest

Last week Riley and Cole did Five in A Row's The Bee Tree. We learned about everything from the life cycle of bees, to the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, to onomatopoeia, to analogies, and lots in between!

To finish off our book, I wanted to make some honey treats and go to a bee farm. I called a bee farm and found out they would be at Septemberfest. Septemberfest opened up a whole new experience for us! If you haven't been, it's free and amazing. They have all kinds of exhibits, living history actors, inflatables, and lots of other activities on the Governor's lawn. It was a great time!

Making Peanut butter honey balls

The bee exhibit at Septemberfest. They told us all about harvesting honey.

A chuck wagon!

Waiting in line to tour the Governor's mansion...
Their dining room

Their Oklahoma shaped swimming poolThe panhandle is a hot tub.

Tyler and George Washington Carver

Sawing logs
Everyone got to milk a cow!

Petting Kim Henry's dog
It was a great day!