Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Busy, Busy Spring!

What can I say. It's Spring, and we've been busy!

We finished up our math block by building and exploring multiplication tables with the math board. We traced around our largest mixing bowl, hammered in ten nails, wrote in the numbers, and started wrapping out some number patterns with different colored yarns. Below is counting by 1's, 2's, and 3's. Math is a beautiful, magical thing!

And then we trucked right on into a Saint's and Heroes block. I'm pulling resources for this block from several places-- singular library books (for example The Man Who Loved Books, Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and some Tomie dePaola books,) collections (The Giant at the Ford, and The Lady of Ten Thousand Names) and a bit of curriculum-in-a-box (Christopherus Saints and Heroes.) So far, so good. Rather than just pull these stories out of the air, I decided to ground them with our story heroine Clara. These are the stories Clara treasures, and she wrote them all in a purple book which she carries in her satchel at all times. Right now she's sharing them with Beremiz, and hence, Sunburst as well.

Sunburst has been knee-deep in the embroidery zone since I picked up a charming Japanese book that I saw over at SouleMama's blog. Oh, how easily I can convince myself to spend money when I'm thinking in terms of homeschooling resources! Sunburst hungrily combined two designs from the book, and because she was so smitten with it, as a joke I suggested she embroider her entire Saints and Heroes block rather than making a book. She thought it was a great idea, but still wants to make a book, too. A purple one, of course, just like Clara's! So we're doing both.

Here's how we're doing the embroidery. I tell a story. She tells me what representational picture she would like to embroider. I cut the 6x6 square of linen and freehand the design for her with a #2 pencil. She sticks it in her tambour frame, selects her colors, and goes to work. So far she's just doing plain backstitch. Here are the representational images of St. Francis (the bird singing praises to God) and Elizabeth of the Roses:

I'm thinking at the end we'll sew them all together into a wall hanging. Perhaps a ready reminder of folks who chose a higher path isn't such a bad idea for wall art for a child dipping her feet in the waters of the nine-year-change.

In the last two weeks we've also been throwing belated birthday parties (check out Moonshine's cupcakes, both regular and gluten-free varieties, replete with faux sweetheart roses,) hiking/biking, letterboxing, and trying to suck up every ounce of sunlight we can-- weeding the yard and planting flowerbeds.

We've also been doing a ton of clay modeling and wet-on-wet painting now that I've FINALLY found a resource that speaks to me-- but that's worth another post on its own.

But for now, the vegetable garden needs planting, the grass needs mowing, and the children want to go outside! Ah, busy, busy Spring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A big attitude and a little math (Part 2)

Our next math story juxtaposed the behavior of two eight-year-old girls named Clara. Our regular Clara, the one that Sunburst readily identifies with, played the compassionate helper. The other Clara was mouthy and rude, though she came around in the end. It was an interesting lesson to create because Sunburst's behavior has dipped into this other Clara category lately, and it was remarkable to watch her listening and sympathizing with both Claras. I think it helped.

In this story, the other Clara mouthed off to the King's son. Luckily, her punishment from the King was merely a challenge. She was to report to the royal palace for some sort of mathematics quiz. Unfortunately, the other Clara didn't really know much math, so we spent some time helping her prepare. -- A welcome chance for me to see exactly how much Sunburst has really retained.

First we timed ourselves using holey cards. This was great for Sunburst to practice her time-telling skills timing me. And I noticed that she uses her fingers more often when adding certain numbers, so I had her make a couple of flash cards with those problems. Next we played around with some Math Wrap-ups, printed out a couple of worksheets, and broached the subject of place value again, because you never know just what the King's quiz was going to entail.

Sunburst, being my bigger-faster-louder child, was thrilled with the prospect that the numbers could just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. We learn most things under the guise of "Clara's love of learning" so it was really great when Clara shouted from the rootops, "I can count to ONE BILLION!" It certainly got Sunburst's attention.

Then we had another day of gorgeous weather, and not sure what to do next, I ended up creating a game called "The Human Calculator." I gave her the sums, and Sunburst enjoyed jumping from number to number to create the problems. She even game me a turn on the calculator, though admittedly I'm far from being able to jump just yet. All in all it was great! She replayed the scenario for Einstein, her dad, when he came home.

As a last fun thing, I presented Sunburst with a computer game that Einstein came up with using NetLogo. It's actually an Ed/Psych experiment designed to explore learning patterns, but once I saw it I knew it was perfect for our story. He helped me create an interactive Clara at the bottom of the screen that flaps her arms up and down with every correct answer.

As the Royal Quiz approached, everyone in the kingdom fell ill with the same intestinal illness. Everyone except our Clara, that is. The royal well had been contaminated, and our Clara always carts along bottled water wherever she goes. So Clara, with her knowledge of herbs, became the caretaker to everyone in the kingdom, including the king himself. In order to take care of everyone she had to manage her time extremely well. In the end everyone was nursed back to health, including the other Clara. Both Claras were ordered to appear before the King. The other Clara gave a heartfelt, sincere apology and the royal quiz took place. For the quiz I used the Martha and John math story from Path of Discovery Grade 1, which I had meant to use last year but never quite got around to it. Great fun! Then both Claras stayed for the Royal Feast where the King thanked our Clara for her loving heart, hard work, and impeccable ability to manage her time well. As a token of appreciation Clara was given this:

It was a huge surprise for Sunburst, and she has been keeping us apprised of the time every few minutes ever since.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A big attitude and a little math (Part 1)

Do you ever get the urge to flush them down the toilet?*

Sunburst has been driving me crazy! There, I said it. It's true. She's been mouthy and rude and inattentive to oh, everything we say. Her nose is almost constantly plugged into a book. And when it's not she's inadvertently doing something to make Moonshine and Kitty Bill screech! Sunburst has hit this pinching, pushing, tripping, tricking, ignoring, goading, annoying stage... and oh! I'm just at a loss with her. It could be that she's eight, do you think?

With the weather so nice and warm a couple of weeks ago, I made an executive decision to drop our language arts block and forge ahead. I was hoping that giving her some "headier" work would give her that challenge she was constantly looking for. I got the feeling that she needed to control something. Own something. Feel bigger, in a sense. And I think it worked, sort of.

We returned to our math story I was telling back in November just before the car accident. Poor Clara! You see, we had abandoned her at an inn during a terrible storm, where she and Beremiz were playing dice games to pass the time. We revisited that lesson, and then moved on to another dice game they had played in our absence, The Matterhorn. (I love how these story people seem to go on without us sometimes.)

The Matterhorn is a great game for teaching number values. The jist of the game is to get up and down the mountain via rolling three dice. The mountain is comprised of two number lines, 1-12 (which is the peak) and then 12-1. You have to roll each value to climb and then decend the mountain, but luckily you can add the dice values. For example, if your first roll gives you the values 1, 2, and 2, you can make the sums 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Then you would roll again. It's supposed to be a contest between players, but we just played singularly with much shouting and cheering.

Then the weather got really warm. When it's so nice outside the kids are out the door before I've finished my morning coffee, so our next few lessons were totally off the cuff. Standing there on the back walk I eyed the sidewalk chalk and remembered how impressed Sunburst was that her friend The Artist has his own watch and is learning to tell time. Voila! A lesson was born.

I drew a huge circle on the back porch. That alone brought the kids running over with curiosity. As they walked around and around the circle I began the story.

It was finally time for Clara and Beremiz to leave the inn. He told Clara to meet him at 8:00 sharp the next morning so they could eat a quick breakfast and set off. But Clara had a problem. She didn't have a watch. Nor did she know how to tell time. Beremiz loaned her one, and we set to work on the "learning" portion.

First we added the numbers.
Next I handed Sunburst a kiddie-sized rake and set her to working the hour hand.

Once she had that down, then Sunburst set to work marking off the individual minutes.

Then, with a bamboo stake, she worked the minute hand.

The rain washed away our clock and Sunburst drew it back, every minute accounted for. At that point it was clear that Clara was ready to meet Beremiz on time, and we were off. Again. And though I didn't plan for it, a lesson emerged that touched on Sunburst's atrocious behavior. Clara and Beremiz met a bereaved mother on the side of the road. Her eight-year-old daughter had taken her own boasting and rudeness too far. She mouthed off to the King's son, and now the whole family was in hot water over it. Unless the girl would come forward and hear her punishment from the King, the family would lose its farm.

Tsk. Tsk.

Sunburst thought surely there must be something Clara could do to help.

*Larger than life toilet brought to you by Kid's Commons, a children's museum we recently visited. That's me living my dreams as I attempted to flush Sunburst down the toilet. The kids really DO love to climb down inside of it, spurred on by the actual flushing noise it makes, where they enter the bowels of a house and explore all the hidden staircases and so forth. Very cool.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Moonshine is FIVE!

Moonshine is five.
Hair to her knees.
Not really, but she begs it
Five today. Eyes alight.
She dreams of rescues by a knight
So shining. Shining!
It's such a shame that tomorrow
She'll be seventy-two.
Or Peter Pan.
She has it all memorized anyway.
Every word, every song.
She'll want you to sing along
And you will
drink the chocolate in her eyes
because she's so shining.

Moonshine, my life-is-about-the-details "middlest" child, turned five today. I was up all night sewing the dress just the way she wanted it. And of course the other dress for her doll Ella. It's a small thing, really, catering to her need for all the fancy details. She's still so incredibly dreamy and sweet I can't help myself.

So from sun-up to sundown it was a day fit for a fairy princess. Complete with waffles, wings, fairy books, flower garlands, and a cake that seemed to have grown right out of the ground! Imagine that!

Farewell Wonder Homeschool

Did you see? Have you heard? Did you know?

I just did my daily click over to Wonder Homeschool, and... I'm speechless. Almost everything is gone. Really gone! It's all going away... forever.

I don't know about you, but this shocking realization is like a kidney punch. It's like the abrupt loss of a dear friend that you see every day. Because really, I do go there every single day. Wonder Homeschool has been a huge source of inspiration for me, and I'm sure, countless many others. And now... well, it's going away.

I can't blame Lucie. I'm sure it was a ton of work. I don't know how she found the time and the resolve to keep on it for so many years. And for free, at that. But all the same... its absence will be noticed. In a huge way. Especially in this house.

Farewell Wonder Homeschool, my dear friend. And thank you Lucie. For everything!
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