Monday, March 29, 2010

A little square of sunshine

Happiness!
After a rainy day yesterday with thunder and lightning and hail, we are happy to have a little sunshine today. 

We're heading outside, with nature journals in hand, to check out some spring buds that are starting to appear. Whenever I see them on sale, I collect sketchbooks and blank journals for the boys to use for various projects.  

The spiral bound, hardback journals are nice to use outside because they open up flat and provide a sturdy surface for drawing. You can also download and print smaller nature journals here and here. (It's nice for Mommy to have her own nature journal as well.) My boys like to include drawings, rubbings, photographs, pictures cut out of magazines or brochures, and even specimens like leaves, seed pods, and feathers taped or glued on the pages.

The boys have nylon mesh beach bags we found at Target a few years ago stocked with the journals and a pouch with scissors, glue stick, tape, pencil sharpener, regular pencil, and colored pencils. Whenever we're ready to go exploring and observing, they just grab their bags.  

My oldest also carries a couple of field guides, and all three have small binoculars. I usually bring my camera along, and hopefully soon the boys will all have their own cameras to carry. The mesh bags are great since they can be dumped out and washed in the sink after treasures are collected.  

We've included nature journaling as part of our routine beginning in preschool. And I've been collecting a few field guides, handbooks, and drawing books to have on hand for reference. My kids like to simply record some things, and at other times they want to do further research and study.  

Sometimes, one topic of study leads right into another. A feather once led to a study of  birds which led to a study of flight, which led to studying airplanes . . .

Observation and attention to detail are much needed skills in science and, really, in everything -- and my boys all have such an appreciation and respect for nature and all living things. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Great American Postcard Swap {Arkansas}


Facts about Arkansas:

  • We were curious about the pronunciation and spelling of Ar-can-saw, and I found the history behind its name here.
  • The South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink tomato is both the state fruit and the state vegetable of Arkansas. Botanically, the tomato is a fruit, but because it is usually used as a vegetable, the state legislature adopted it as both in 1987. (Tennessee's state fruit is also the tomato, but not a specific variety.)




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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Swords and Shakespeare




Join me for a moment as I flash back to the late 80s -- I am sitting in a college English class marking up my Shakespeare text, furiously taking notes as my super-intimidating prof. lectures, and I can barely keep up. Shakespeare -- AARGH! 

Flash forward to life as a homeschooling Mommy, so happy I saved that book!  

My boys and I went to see the play Macbeth performed by a local theater group last week. All three boys are Harry Potter fans, and they were looking forward to hearing the "Double, double, toil and trouble" scene since the choir sings it (with accompaniment by a giant bullfrog) in one of the Harry Potter movies. My oldest two have learned how to actually play this song on their guitar/drums. Who knew that Harry Potter would inspire three boys to take an interest in the works of Shakespeare?
"Double, double, toil and trouble . . ."
Macbeth in graphic novel form.
So, we decided to read the play before going to see it. I scoured the library and used bookstore bookshelves to see what we could use and found so many different versions to choose from. From this graphic novel version, to simple story-form retellings, I have found something to entice both a kindergartner and a sixth grader, as well as a reluctant third grader. 

They were all sold as soon as they found out that there would be swords . . .

Below are some of the resources I like:

Shakespeare's London: A Guide to Elizabethan London
Shakespeare condensed in story form in
A Young Reader's Shakespeare: Macbeth
Poetry for Young People Shakespeare
is nicely illustrated.
The Shakespeare Can Be Fun! series
is perfect for elementary ages, with
illustrations done by kids and an
understandable re-telling of the play.
Shakespeare Stories
A nice read aloud version
Two volumes cover
a wealth of plays

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Great American Postcard Swap {Arizona}




Facts about Arizona:


  • The Grand Canyon State's capital is Phoenix.  
  • The beautiful Saguaro Cactus Blossom is the state flower, the state bird is the cactus wren, and the state tree is the palo verde. 
  • The largest solar telescope in the world is located in Kitt Peak.  The London Bridge was pruchased from Britain by an Arizona buisinessman in 1968 and was reconstructed in Lake Havasu. 
  • 5 million people from around the world visit the the Grand Canyon, but Arizona is also home to the Saguaro National Park and the Petrified Forest National Park.  
  • The famous gunfight at the OK Corral occurred in 1881 and is reenacted daily in Tombstone.
  • The beautiful Two-tailed Swallowtail is the state butterfly.  
Books and Activities:

  • You can make a pretty butterfly picture by drawing one half of the butterfly on the fold of a piece of cardstock, then cut it out, open it up, and color it in with markers or colored pencils following the picture in the field guide.






  • Along with the book The Train of States, we are using Fast Facts About the 50 States to find information for the state notebook pages.  This book is full of fun trivia, and the boys love its colorful layout.



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Friday, March 12, 2010

Great American Postcard Swap {Alaska}







State flag
Facts about Alaska:

  • The capital of Alaska is Juneau.  
  • Alaska's most northern point is Barrow, and the sun doesn't set there for 84 days in the summer.
  • The state flower is the forget-me-not, the tree is the Sitka spruce, and the bird is the willow ptarmigan.  
  • The name "Alaska" came from the Aleut word "alyeska"  which means "great land."  
  • Alaska didn't become a state until January 3, 1959, making it the 49th member of the US. 

Books and Activities


  • We have a few books on our shelf, which although they are not all set in Alaska, they are relevant to read along with this state study. The first is The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett, which is set in the Arctic. Jan Brett has some great printables and activities on her website to accompany this book.






  • Another beautiful book is Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews and Ian Wallace which is set in an Inuit village in northern Canada.










  • Mama, Do You Love Me! has a section in the back with facts about the Inuit people and Alaskan animals.






  • Here is a good resource for printables and an Alaska unit study.
  • The Anchorage Museum website is a neat source for Alaskan art and history. 
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Great American Postcard Swap {Alabama}

We are participating in the Great American Postcard Swap with other homeschool families.

We are sending out postcards all over the country, and we will hopefully receive 50 in all!

Our first postcard arrived today from Alabama. The boys were so happy to have mail! We will be learning about the states and filling out notebooking pages (found here) as we go along.

Here are some facts about Alabama:


  • The capital of Alabama is Montgomery. 
  • In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, and the Montgomery bus boycott began. The state tree is the southern longleaf pine, the state bird is the yellowhammer, and the state flower is the camellia. 
  • The state motto is: "We dare defend out rights."



The United States and State Birds and Flowers Dover books are affordable and informative -- the kids can color while listening to read-alouds. They are a nice addition to the state notebooking pages or for a change of pace and are also easy to bring on-the-go with a pouch of prismacolors.





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Monday, March 1, 2010

Hello Monday {Schoolroom Treasures}



Hello Monday is our place to welcome a brand new week and reflect on the old one. 

We had some weekend fun at the thrift store, which turned into a schoolroom treasure hunt!

A big Wild Thing to keep Max company, and the complete original Boxcar Children series. A shiny row of glass paperweights...





A cool spinning display rack (snagged for $3.00), perfect for holding readers and read-alouds. And a lighted globe, still in the box with the light bulb included -- a splurge at six bucks!

We never know what we'll find on a treasure hunt, but it sure is fun to add some pizzazz to the school room.