Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wrapping Up Most of April

We've started into one of our marathons of field trips, so I decided, before we get into that, to go ahead and wrap up most of April, and then another post (or two) about all the field trips.

We started April by celebrating the girls' birthdays with the grandparents. Which I, apparently, didn't take any pictures of.

For school, Little Bit and I are learning about "form drawing", a pre-writing skill (that grows into some rather complex drawing skills as children get older) taught in Waldorf curriculum. To help practice the form before writing it in her book, she draws it on the sidewalk with chalk.

Then, after I've smoothed out the form, if needed, she practices walking the form, using movement to help her brain remember it better :)

Another event that I didn't get any pictures of was the little birthday party Little Bit begged me to do. In general, we keep birthdays simple, and family-centered, but this year she begged to invite a couple friends over for a party. She argued that we could do an "American Girl party" that was the same as what we do for co-op each month. So I gave in. And then I was sick on her birthday, and had to postpone it. So finally, 2 weeks later, we had a fun little party for her and 2 of her friends. They made glass paperweights, and Lexie made petit fours that they ate with ice cream and lemonade. Then they played outside, and with their dolls.

With spring finally here, we met friends at a nearby (ish) zoo! There's a playground at the zoo, so all the kids convinced Lexie to push them on the merry-go-round and generally took a break from animals to play.

The zoo doesn't have giraffes yet, but they're working on building a place for them, and taking donations to be able to get them, so Little Bit had to pose as a baby giraffe. We enjoyed the animals that were there, ate our picnic lunch, and then the kids spent an hour or more pretending to be wolves at the "wolf den" (rock overhang for kids to play on), and rolling down a grassy hill while us moms (and teens) got to visit.  It was a pretty awesome day!

There's a store near us called "Art of Recycle" that sells recycled junk as art supplies, and also has various workshops and classes. Recently they had a "miniature fairy garden class" that the girls thought sounded fun, so all 3 of them went to it. It was really cool. For $5 each, they got to choose a teacup (or similar) with a succulent in it, and some small "toys" as props and some sea glass/marbles/rocks etc for additional decorations. Then at each table there was additional plants and dirt and water.

Each of their little fairy gardens turned out different, reflecting their different interests, but all 3 are really cute. I should have thought to take pictures of the final products.

We've been enjoying lots of park days while the weather's nice. One of the parks near us has lots of paved paths right near the playground, so I can sit on a bench and read while Little Bit rides her scooter on the paths and plays on the playground. Ashlyn can sit on the bench and watch for people to walk by with their dogs :) Lexie can read her book, or swing on the swings, because even big kids like swings, and that park has some swings that are tall enough to be worth swinging on.

Now that Lexie finished making the pioneer  doll dresses for Little Bit for her birthday, I thought maybe she'd sew some wipes I've been wanting done. I cut them out for her, and left them for her to do. I heard the sewing machine going and thought she might be working on them, but no . . . a little while later, she came down and showed off the doll dress she'd made. Rather than just making one she had a pattern for, she'd taken pieces of various patterns and put them together to come up with this dress. I had fun giving her a hard time about making a doll dress instead of the wipes I asked her to make. Her response was that sewing plain squares are boring :)

When Little Bit was younger, she watched quite a bit of "tv" but it was mostly things like Wild Kratts and Martha Speaks and other shows that were teaching her something. As she's gotten older, she's tended to prefer less educational things, which means I'd prefer she watch it less. So a couple weeks ago I made up a system (putting together 2 or 3 different ideas I saw online and then tweaking them) where she earns "jewels" (the little flat marble things that we seem to have millions of) for doing the things she's required to do anyway, like feeding the cats and putting her toys away, and also for doing things I'd rather she do instead of watching tv. Like playing outside or "creating" (drawing, painting, etc), provided she cleans up after herself when she creates. Then the idea was she could use those jewels to "buy" tv time. The one exception being, if the whole family is watching tv she can either watch what we're watching, or watch something she'd rather watch on her tablet. That was the system as I designed it. When I presented the idea to her, I also pulled a small mug out of the cabinet for her to keep her jewels in until she used them to buy tv. I was fully expecting her to pretty much "spend" the jewels as quickly as she earned them. . . She asked what would happen if she filled the cup? Could she have a "second date" (each month each of the girls gets to choose to go on a "date" with either their daddy or me. Little Bit generally goes for instant gratification and the first time we're anywhere near Auntie Anne's pretzels or an ice cream place, she decides that's what she wants for her date. Then she spends the rest of the month planning elaborate things that will be her next month's "date"). I said sure! Still didn't really think she'd be willing to give up tv enough to fill the cup, and figured if she was willing to do that, I'm more than happy to buy her an ice cream cone or pretzel to help her break the tv habit. Ummm . . . I think she only "bought" 2 or 3 shows since then! She still gets to watch tv in the car (but that's usually What's in the Bible or Friends & Heroes). She started asking for audiobooks a lot more. . . and the commented that she wished there was a way she could listen to stories while she played with dolls in her room, so I set up my tablet so that she could listen to audiobooks on it, and once she could do that, she's been perfectly happy to listen to librivox audiobooks instead of watching tv. It's meant I've spent more time reading to her, and on the nice days she gets me to go sit on the porch swing while she plays in the yard.

One afternoon she brought her paints out to the front porch and painted the Mary, Joseph & Donkey who are traveling to Bethlehem for the 40 days of counting the Omer.

It's been great and she doesn't seem to miss watching tv in the least. Within a few days she had filled the cup to the top and we stopped for pretzels the next time we were near Auntie Anne's. Since then, she hasn't even bothered to collect her jewels. I'm still a bit in shock at how simple it was to break the tv habit!

And that gets us caught up to the middle of last week, which is when I STARTED writing this post. The rest of the month, is pretty much back-to-back field trips, so those will get their own post :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Math Gnomes

I mentioned in my last post, that we've moving toward a more Waldorf approach with Little Bit and that it was doing a unit on Math Gnomes that got me started thinking about it. So I thought, today, I'd share about the Math Gnome unit we did. I roughly followed the first grade math blocks from Ancient Hearth.

Since Little Bit already knows how to count, I did a quick "intro"/summary of the first block. We only spent a week or so on it, I just wanted her to become familiar with Roman Numerals. So, I set up the entryway shelves to be a forest scene. 

The 2 children follow a squirrel through the woods to the big green tree, where the squirrel disappears down a hole at the base of the tree. The children follow the squirrel and find themselves in a pinecone forest . . . 

They follow the squirrel through this forest until they find a fairy guarding a cave door. She tells them that if they learn the "secret of numbers" it will open the cave door and allow them to enter the Land of Numeria. 

The secret of numbers was the Roman Numerals 1-10. I used glitter glue to write the 1 I on a piece of cardstock and "hid" it in the bottom of the plastic container of salt/glitter that we use to trace letters/numbers/forms, etc.  You can see the container (red lid) on the shelf under the pinecone forest along with the white shell the fairy gave the children to dig in the glitter sand. Once she found the glitter numbers she copied them into her school notebook, then we did the same with  2 II and so on up to 10 X. Once she'd learned these numbers the fairy gave her some little black stones with regular numbers and Roman Numerals on them (I bought small black rocks at the craft store and wrote the numbers on them with a silver Sharpie). Her job was to match the regular numbers to their corresponding Roman Numeral in order to unlock the cave.  Once she did, she (and the peg children) discovered the Land of Numeria . . . This begins the second Math Block on the Ancient Hearth site.

I set up the land of Numeria on the cedar chest/coffee table in the sunroom. It was covered by playsilks until she unlocked it. When the children entered the land of Numeria they met a wolf who would guide them through the land of Numeria. They traveled through the land and met "Gnome Share". He taught them how to share things equally (otherwise known as division). Gnome Share gave the children a treasure chest full of jewels so Little Bit had to help the children divide the jewels equally between the 2 children and the wolf.  

After Little Bit divided the jewels evenly. Gnome Share gave her a plate of strawberries (red like he is) to divide evenly between her, her sisters, and me.

We spent the rest of that week dividing other red snacks, and practicing dividing the jewels more and such.

The next week, Little Bit woke up to a new part of Numeria on the cedar chest.

Gnome Share traveled with the children and wolf through more of Numeria until they discovered Gnome Plus. We spent the week playing with addition, and eating green snacks.

The 3rd week's journey through Numeria took introduced us to Gnome Minus Takeaway who had, unfortunately lost the shepherd boy's sheep. The wolf called his friend, the Collie to help them track down the sheep. But first we spent week 3 learning about subtraction, and eating blue snacks.

The final week, the collie led us to a different part of Numeria, where it was snowy.

We met Gnome Multiply and he helped the shepherd boy find his sheep, hidden in the snow (Ashlyn painted the sheep & collie for me, aren't they cute?). And 4 lost sheep had multiplied into 6 sheep (2 lambs)! 

 We spent the week learning about multiplication and eating yellow snacks!

Also each week I draw a gnome picture and poem either on the chalkboard or on paper. Only managed to take a picture of the last one. Little bit copied the picture and at least part of the poem into her school book each week.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Wrapping up March

Sigh, I'm behind again . . . March . . .

Starting in January we've been hosting a monthly American Girl Club for our homeschool group. In January, one family came. In February, 2 families came. In March . . . there were 21 people at our house! It was awesome! I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about how that many people would fit . . . and if/when we end up having a rainy day, it will certainly be loud, but it really worked out wonderfully! Altogether there were 8 girls there for the club, which is the maximum that will fit around our table. We were focusing on Samantha's time period, so we did a craft and ate a snack from 1905. Meanwhile the moms and younger brothers hung out in the sunroom, and the older siblings hung out in the living room. Once the craft and snack were done, the girls played with their dolls in the living room for awhile and then most of the kids migrated outside for the last while. We had a great time, and I was happy to see that our house can handle a "crowd" without feeling claustrophobic.

The next day, it snowed! After a winter of no real snow, we got a BUNCH in March! Go figure! I really didn't mind. It came when we didn't need to be anywhere, and we could just enjoy it's beauty while snuggling up indoors and staying put. And the nice thing about March snows is they tend to melt pretty quickly :)

I had to laugh at Moccasin. We had set a bowl out in the snow to catch snow for snow ice cream. After we brought it in, I walked into the sunroom to see Moccasin waiting to come in, sitting in the indentation from the bowl. Guess he thought it was a cat seat LOL. I'd say it was because he didn't want to sit on snow, but pretty sure there was still snow under him, so who knows . . . he's a silly cat!

The girls took advantage of having Daddy trapped at home with us, to play Monopoly with him. It's fun to listen to them argue . . . Daddy's risk-taking and Ashlyn risk-aversion tend to clash . . . it amuses me :)

Our church hosted a game night at the school gym one Saturday night. The "main attraction" was human hungry hippos. People also brought board games and Lexie and Ashlyn helped with setting up and supervising minute games (I think that's what she called them). Quick little challenges. They were a hit. My kids won't let me post the rather amusing pictures I have of them participating :)

 One of the snacks was sour patch kids. Not sure any of my kids had ever had them before. Little Bit's face when she tried one for the first time was PRICELESS! :)

It was a fun evening.

One night when I went to tell the girls goodnight, I found Tracy sleeping on the American Girl doll bed. Apparently she thinks she's an American Girl doll. Or maybe she just thinks that everything in this house is for her pleasure and comfort LOL.

I managed to not take any pictures of birthdays this year. They were pretty low key. I came down with a bad stomach bug 2 days before Little Bit's birthday, so lost my final "prep time" completely and was still moving pretty slow on her birthday. It was a nice day, just quiet and low key. Lexie & Ashlyn's birthday was also "low key" because they don't like a fuss being made AND don't like pictures taken, so I didn't push it this year.

We'll finish up this brief summary of March with a couple pictures from Little Bit's school. We're doing a slightly structured waldorf-ish approach and she seems to be enjoying it. In January and February we did a math gnomes block that I'm still planning to do a separate post on. Once we finished that we moved on to Form Drawing. This is something I didn't know much about, but it's recommended that we "catch up" on the first grade forms before we start the second grade curriculum that we're planning to start in July, so we'll be doing a long Form Drawing block with breaks for holidays and such, from now until July. We read stories, and I draw the form on the chalk board. We practice it in the air, on each other's back, in a "fairy sand box" (that is actually salt & glitter), Little Bit practices "painting" the form with water on the chalkboard, and drawing it on the chalk board. We also go outside (weather permitting) and draw the form on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk big enough that she can walk the form. Once she feels confident that she can draw it accurately, she adds it to her school notebook.

One of the things about Waldorf that I knew would be a good fit for her is all the art. We are learning the wet-on-wet watercolor technique as well as drawing with block crayons, and some days I'll draw a picture on the chalkboard that she copies into her school notebook with regular crayons of colored pencils. We will also eventually be sculpting with modeling beeswax, but I have to admit, *I* am still really struggling to figure out how that works, so don't want her getting frustrated with it until I understand it better.

She still has days when she doesn't want to do school. And of course, with it being spring, on gorgeous spring days we forget about book work and go outside and soak up the spring! But I feel like we're getting into a good groove. With the modifications I've made to the "prescribed" Waldorf method, it provides the structure that she needs but tons of creativity and the block schedule means it's not always the same (the block schedule would have not been a good fit for Ashlyn, but seems to be working well for Lina. Lexie just wants to be moving and doing hands on stuff, she doesn't care if there's structure or not LOL).