Monday, February 28, 2011

What time does school start?

There is a great article on thepioneerwoman today about school hours.  I find myself telling my kids all the time, "Remember, it's school hours!" when we have to go out and about during the day.  I'm always aware that some people wonder "why aren't those kids in school?" when we are out during normal school hours.  Luckily, we live in an area where there are a large number of homeschoolers and most people are accustomed to seeing us :)  I'd rather get our errands run early in the day, then come home and do schoolwork, projects, etc. right up until suppertime.  We also participate in a support group, and we usually have a field tip, art class, or other cooperative activity at least once a week.  Sometimes my kids bring schoolwork along with them to work on while we are out.

My family homeschools year-round, with breaks here and there.  We don't take summer off or even a long Christmas break.  We find it works for us to keep the momentum going and take vacations when school is in session so we don't have to deal with big crowds at the beach, etc.  My kids "do school" on the weekends sometimes too.   My oldest son, the night-owl, does most of his independent reading assignments late at night after he's gone to bed.  I usually have to tell him to turn his light off, or he would stay up and read all night! He likes to sleep late and work on his schoolwork later in the morning.  My youngest is a morning person, and does his most productive work first thing after breakfast.  My middle one needs to "chill out" in the morning for a half hour or so, bounce around or run off some energy, and then he can sit down to do some written work. 

I give each of my boys an assignment list of their independent work each day, and they check each item off as they complete it.   This is usually the first thing they do, and then we all sit down together for group projects, usually related to science or history or whatever untit study we might be doing.  We do our read-alouds at night, before bedtime, when we "do books."  Each night we gather in my oldest son's room and sit on the floor while we let his bird out of her cage.  I read our school read-aloud (usually about a chapter each time,) a picture book, a story from the Bible story book or devotional, and about a chapter from  our "fun" book.  Last night, we read half a chapter of The Journeyman, a chapter from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," 10 pages from Nate the Great, and a story from The Child's Story Bible.  Depending on our day and how late we sit down for books, we may do more or less.  One great thing about this time is that my older two still get to enjoy picture books, and this year my youngest has listened to books such as Johnny Tremain, Treasure Island, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and The Sign of the Beaver.  When he revisits these books in several years, I think they will seem like old friends.

I love the flexibility of homeschooling and that we are not tied to a clock or a calendar for learning.  Learning happens all the time, and we consider homeschooling to be a regular part of our daily lives, not a scheduled activity.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Biosphere Update

Day 27

Day 27
When you compare our biosphere today (Day 27) to how it looked on Day 18, you will notice that it has many more black spots in it.  There is a layer of dark gray fuzz on top of the mud layer.  The water is still clear, but there is a layer of gray powdery-looking stuff on top of the water.

Day 18

Day 18

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Biosphere Update--Day 18

Biosphere Day 18

We are following along with The Magnifying Glass on their Make-along project:  microbe biosphere .  Our biosphere is starting to get very colorful.  The dirt where we live is reddish orange, and ours is starting to show some black spots all around. Though it's hard to tell from my photo, there is a layer of clear water on top of the mud, and a fine layer of sediment on top of the water.  A darker layer has also formed around the top edge of the mud layer.

Biosphere Day 1

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's that time again...already?

We are gearing up for baseball--practices for coach's pitch started last week!  It must build character for parents to freeze to death at nighttime practices.  It won't be long before we are trying to shield ourselves in the shade, but for now, a sunny practice would be so nice.
It is a challenge to fit supper planning in with evening practices that run right through suppertime--it's time to pull out the crock pot.  What are your favorite meals in a hurry for nights when everyone is on the run?  My easiest standby is bbq chicken wrapped in foil and baked potatoes all cooked in the crock pot together.  Now that I've invested in a larger crock, I can even add a dish of baked beans on top of everything for an all-in-one-pot meal.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Did you know that the crocus is the traditional St. Valentine's Day flower?  We learned this and more from Robert Sabuda's beautifully illustrated book about the legend of Saint Valentine.

Bulla's The Story of Valentine's Day describes the legend of St. Valentine as well as other ancient legends and celebrations from around the world and includes instructions for making old-fashioned "pinprick" Valentines, old-fashioned acrostic Valentines, and a recipe for Valentine cookies.

My kids always have questions about why we celebrate certain holidays and what they mean.  I try to find books read together for each holiday that comes along, and we enjoy pulling them out and revisiting them every year.  I have a small section on one of our bookshelves just for holiday books.

Everyone is hard at work this afternoon making Valentine mailboxes and signing cards for our homeschool group's Valentine party and visit to a local nursing home.

I hope your Valentine's day is full of love!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nature Walk: Pisgah Forest

We visited a wildlife education center and trout hatchery in the Pisgah forest last weekend. These bold birds were hanging around waiting to have a meal, and they weren't skittish at all around us. One of them was greedily eating a fish as the others waited for a turn. We enjoyed watching these birds as much as looking at the fish in the hatchery.

This trout hatchery raises the fish for about two years and then releases thousands of them into area streams.  It was fascinating to see so many of them so close together. We learned that during the spawning season, eggs are stripped from the female trout and mixed with milt from the male trout. The fertilized eggs are kept in stacks of shallow incubation trays until an embryo develops, and then they are moved into different sections of the hatchery as they grow.

Along the nature trail, we were amazed at how this huge tree seemed to be perched on top of a rock, with nowhere for its roots to be planted. We  learned that lichens  grow on the rocks over time, and as soil sticks to them, they become places for trees and other plants to cling onto. Here is more about lichens.

This field trip provided so many learning opportunities in science and history: the Civilian Conservation Corps, conservation, geology, wetland ecology, and wildlife management. The wildlife center is also free to visit! 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Making potions

We are following along with The Magnifying Glass on their Make Along Biosphere Project .  For part 1, we gathered our materials, which were all things we already had around our house (and in the yard.)  Last weekend, for part 2, we mixed our concoction and sealed it in our jar.  Now, we are patiently wating and observing for our microbes to grow.  It's not too late to get started on this project and follow along with us.  If you mix it up this weekend, you can still follow the weekly updates and will be on track.  This is a fun project for all ages to participate in, and even my youngest helped prepare the ingredients for mixing.

We have our jar in the schoolroom on a shelf next to one of our frog tanks--it will get some indirect lamplight from the frog light and a little bit of daylight from a nearby window. 

We can already see where the water has risen to the top and has started to look less cloudy.  The dirt where we live is very red, like clay, so ours looks a little different from some we've seen online. 

I found some educator's resources about the Winogradsky Column here , and we are heading to the library today to find some books about microbes.

Imagining the possibilities...

Hurry on over to Imagine Childhood to enter for a chance to win a $75 gift certificate to their shop.  It is filled with so many lovely things, you won't have any trouble spending it, but you might have a hard time deciding which wonderful things to choose.

I am in love with this: