Sunday, April 06, 2014

Wrap Up: Miss Rumphius

I love the story of Miss Rumphius, who sets out to make the world more beautiful by sowing lupine seeds throughout her hometown.



When I first read the book, I was reminded of the Texas bluebonnets that make the fields and highways throughout that great state more beautiful every spring.  In fact, the Texas bluebonnet is a type of wild lupine (lupinus texensis)! I decided that I'd save this book for spring when we could take a trip to Austin during bluebonnet season and row it with with a Texas twist and a visit to grandparents.

During our first week with Miss Rumphius, we started by finding the places that Miss Rumphius visited on our map and put the story disk on Maine on our USA map for an approximate location of her home "by the sea".

We took a little field trip to the Mrs Heather's Strawberry Farm to pick some berries and play on the many playthings there.

We also read a few go-along books to tie Miss Rumphius into our upcoming trip to Texas, the bluebonnet, and another lady who tried to make the world more beautiful, first lady Lady Bird Johnson.


Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers is such a lovely book! They really enjoyed the Legend of the Bluebonnet, as well.  We talked a little bit about President Johnson and (generally) the office of the president, and Charlie was particularly interested in the go-along book pictured above.  It's very entertaining! Lots of fun facts about the different presidents. 

We painted bluebonnets using this tutorial.


And then we went to Austin! I'm kicking myself for not taking some pictures of the fields we passed between Houston and Austin.  They were covered in a lush mix of bluebonnets and indian paintbrush (my personal favorite wildflower).  It was a gorgeous drive!!  We got to my dad's on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we hit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Perfect!  



the nature classroom for kids at the Wildflower Center was the biggest hit as far as the kids were concerned.  They could have played in there for hours!
Can you see the owl at the base of the plant?
The next day we just enjoyed some beautiful Austin weather at Zilker Park.



train!
kites!
Dad happened to have a few bluebonnets growing in his front yard, so I decided it was OK to pick one to bring home for our brand new wildflower collection.  In just the past couple of weeks, we've found and identified seven species, and I have one more pressing to add soon.  I'm not sure we've landed on the best method of display (using our home laminator), but it's durable, and the kids seem to like it.



After we got home and unpacked and back-to-normal, we spent a few more days focusing on plants.  We watched the Magic School Bus episode on seeds and made this sunflower craft:


We planted sunflower seeds along the fence in the backyard, too! We're taking bets on whether or not they outgrow the fence by summer's end. 

We took Tuesday and went out to the Barataria Nature Preserve for a day of swamp hiking and nature study.  




elevated swamp trails 
quite the green forested picnic spot!
crawfish chimneys! These were EVERYWHERE.  Fascinating!
We also planted grass seed in plastic plant saucers to put in our Easter baskets.  Here's hoping they grow! I tried this two years ago and it flailed miserably, but Pinterest says it should work!!


There were a few other garden-themed books that we read during this row and enjoyed. I highly recommend The Curious Garden. This is probably the 3rd or 4th time we've checked it out of the library and everyone loves it.  The Gardener was a new one to us, recommended by a friend.  It's very sweet, and a Caldecott honor book, so it has lovely illustrations.  Miss Maple's Seeds was one I chose randomly off of the library shelf display and thought was adorable!  Kids enjoyed it, too.  


In other news, Friday was our  homeschool group's field day!  I was in charge of Charlie's group, so I didn't get many pictures, but they all had a lot of fun! Here are pictures showing off their ribbons. 




We start a new row with Mrs Katz and Tush this week, which will take us up to Easter.  This year is flying by!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wrap up: Papa Piccolo

Papa Piccolo was one of my kids' favorite Five in a Row units we've ever done!  We had a wonderful couple of weeks with it.  Here was the plan:

History/Geography: Venice! Papa Piccolo is about a cat who roams around Venice, finding adventures and befriending the gondoliers who feed him. We read There's a Dolphin in the Grand Canal, which was super silly, but had a really good overview of the geography of the city.  Google Earth then gave us a good close up view of the canals, boats, and landmarks in Papa Piccolo.  We are familiar with the concept of a city with canals, here in New Orleans, but to use them as "roads" for transportation? The kids were fascinated!

We also spent a day studying the travels of Marco Polo, who was from Venice. In the story, Piccolo names his kittens Marco and Polo, so it seemed like a good topic to discuss.  The kids colored a picture of Marco Polo while I read a story about him. 

Art: We looked at the bright happy illustrations in Papa Piccolo and noticed how many of them included complimentary colors.  We painted color wheels to see what all the complimentary color combinations were.  We did a different color wheel activity about a year ago, but they enjoyed this one all the same. Mixing paint to make new colors is always fun!

Science: cats! Charlie asked specifically for this book so that we could spend some time studying cats.  He is quite the cat lover. We read library books on caring for pet cats and then took a field trip to the New Orleans SPCA to see their kitties.  I so wish we could have a cat, but I am just too allergic to invite one into our home. :(
Field trips! We went to the SPCA, but our most exciting field trip by far was to NOLA Gondola. Robert, our local gondolier, had his gondola made in Venice and shipped here, to run tours through the waterways in New Orleans' Cit Park.  He was happy to work out a "homeschool package" for me and my kids that was about half the cost of his regular romantic evening cruise.  We didn't need 50 minutes out on the water, or the wine, cheese, and crackers.  It was perfect!  Robert was so nice, great wit the kids, and they had a blast! Such a treat to have a real Venetian experience so close to home.
Jono loved it when we went under the bridges! 
Add caption
During this row we also took a field trip with our homeschool group to tour the teaching garden at our local garden and nature center.  So fun! I had my boys in my group, but Hazel was in someone else's, so she's conspicuously absent form my pictures.  She was there, though--just playing with some girlfriends.
Planning and designing their garden
adding plants to their bed
all done!
boys!
beautiful spot for a picnic!
We've moved on to Miss Rumphius now, which we're rowing with a Texas twist. I'll be excited to share how we did that in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spelling City

The kindergarteners and I made Spelling City today!

Last summer I heard Andrew Pudewa speak on spelling. He mentioned a teacher that he admired had a wall in her classroom for what she called Sound City with places to record words that they had learned in word families to help kids remember which words are spelled alike.  I thought that was cute, and maybe useful, and filed it away in the idea bank in case we needed it later.  This is the talk I heard, if you want to buy the MP3 download and listen to it.  Totally worth it, in my opinion. 

The spelling curriculum that the twins are working through uses the Ayres list of the 1000 most frequently used words in English writing.  They learn those in order (most frequent to less frequent), and since they're just getting started, the words are all fairly small and simple.  But they're not grouped in word families at all, and I noticed that Hazel and Charlie weren't necessarily noticing which words were spelled alike from day to day.  They're doing really well with the program regardless, but I thought this little exercise--taking some of the trickier words they're learning and putting them in groups with like sounds--might help.  

Here are some close ups of our Spelling City board. I apologize for the photo quality.  I cannot get good pictures in my mud room, no matter how hard I try.

Month Mountain, with the days of the week and the months of the year.  That "Day Hike" sign might be my very favorite part of the whole city. I crack myself up! Also seen here are the edge of Homophone Hill and the pond at the top of the Silent-E Stream.  Are live/live homophones or homonyms?  Whatever.  I can never keep homonym/phone/graph straight, so I just picked one for the label and we'll throw them all up there.  These kids are too young to care, right?!


I should probably have found a way to divide out the silent final E words into their different rules, but I just started writing them all in the pond, mixed together. Maybe we'll tweak that later. 

The barn on the farm will hold our words that use the /ar/ phonogram.  We're putting /ee/ words with the sheep and /or/ words with the horse. Don't laugh at my sheep and my horse!


The spellings of the sound /er/ are in this area.  I feel like I broke some cardinal rule by not using the /er/ phonogram sentence from Spalding--Her first nurse works early, but this is cuter. ;) Words with an -er go on the hill with "her flowers".  Words with an -ir and -(w)or are with the bird and worm.  Words with an -ear are in the sun, and -ur words are on the church. 


The largest part of the board is made up of houses on Vowel Team Parkway.  Pictured are the homes for oy/oi and ay/ai.  The kids wanted a train station and train for ay/ai, but I ran out of steam (pun, ha!).  Maybe another future tweak.


So, this will be a bit elastic as we change it to suit our needs and continue to add words, but I'm very pleased with our first draft!  Now, any bets on how long it'll take before someone gets mischievous and tears all that paper down?  I hope it's longer than I fear! I'd like to use this for a while! 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Wrap Up: Duchess Bakes a Cake

Duchess Bakes a Cake was such a fun row! Our FIAR units had started to feel a little redundant lately (settings either in large European cities or in rural USA, lots of overlap in science and language arts topics, etc) but this one had a totally different feel.  It was just what we needed during the February homeschooling doldrums! Here's what we did with it:

Social Studies:
Knights, castles, archery, catapults, kings, queens, the feudal system, and all things Middle Ages! We had so much fun reading library book after library book about Medieval Times.  We spent a day doing the activity recommended by this blogger on the feudal system.


We built popsicle stick and rubber band catapults.

Instructions here and here.

Ready, Aim, FIRE!
We also made some popsicle stick and Q-tip bows and arrows, although the kids didn't like these as much.


Instructions here.

We spent many days dressed in our knight and king costumes waging war on invisible foes.


Langauge arts:
We studied alliteration.  I read them the book If You Were Alliteration, and asked them if they knew an example of alliteration in the Duchess. Jonathan identified it immediately! "A lovely light luscious delectable cake!" They each composed an alliterative sentence about themselves and then copied them for handwriting that day.


Art: Drama! The kids acted out the story of the Duchess while I read it aloud. This was the most fun part of the row, in their opinion.  Every time we act out a story, it is enormously popular. I need to remember to do that more often!

Science: We briefly touched on nutrition as suggested in the manual, but we didn't do as much with it as I had planned.  I suspect we'll have another opportunity down the road.

Toward the end of this row, Grandma and Grandpa came in town for Mardi Gras.  One day while they were here, the kids and David made a cake to finish off our study.  I'm not sure it was lovely, light, or luscious, since gluten-free cakes are generally pretty dense, but it was tasty! (I forgot to take pictures, though.)

(added) hey! Grandma took pics of cake-making!


Go-along books that we enjoyed:


We have found two new family favorites in Good Night, Good Knight and The Seven Silly Eaters.  I suspect we'll be owners of both of those before long. That has really been one of the most fun parts of Five in a Row for us, meeting so many other wonderful story books along the way!

Another couple of pictures from the row:


We have a new family favorite board game--No Stress Chess!  This a teaching version of chess that removes the strategy element by having you draw a card and move the piece illustrated on the card.  The cards explain the moves that each piece can make.  The kids love it!  There are instructions for how to add in the strategy element slowly, as the players get used to the the different pieces and their moves. We have loved it!

Since our weather has been warming up, Jono had asked to visit one of our local parks, Storyland, where the plantings are all from nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  The kids enjoyed playing kings and queens on the throne in the castle in the middle of the park. It was a great day to go, too--we practically had the place to ourselves!


Super fun row, just the change in pace we needed, and next we're on to a "cat book" by Charlie's request--Papa Piccolo!

A few Mardi Gras pictures, just for fun:

We took the grandparents to the zoo, and they were brave enough to climb down the spider web at Monkey Hill.


"Throw me something, Mister!"