Friday, October 12, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: October 8-12

Last summer, when I was previewing the Five in a Row curriculum for use in our homeschool this year, I checked out every book that was available in the New Orleans and/or Jefferson Parish libraries that had a unit in FIAR.  I brought them home, read through them, selected the units I wanted to do this year, made notes, etc. I told the kids that the big pile of picture books was "Mommy's research" and I did my best not to read them to them (yet).  There was one story that stands out in my mind from those weeks.  The Salamander Room.  Charlie pulled The Salamander Room out of my research basket and begged me to read it.  I gave in, and the minute I read the last word, he shouted, "Again!" This was a first for us.  We are re-readers.  Like typical preschoolers, my kids enjoy hearing their favorite stories over and over again.  This book was the first in my memory that anyone had wanted to hear read again immediately, though.  It was destined to become a favorite.  Because of that, I had really been looking forward to this unit, and as I expected, it has not disappointed.  

The Salamander Room is about a boy who finds a salamander in the woods and brings him home. He imagines what his new pet would need to be happy in his room.  As he imagines providing an appropriate environment, his room (in the illustrations) is transformed into the forest.  It's a sweet, magical type of story. 

The first thing we did with this book was talk about salamanders, and amphibians in general.  We did a little craft on the life cycle of an amphibian (frog, since no one makes cute printables for the life cycle of a salamander).  My kids can tell you all about how a mama frog lays her eggs in water, the eggs hatch tadpoles, who breathe with gills and swim, how those tadpoles eventually grow legs and lungs, lose their tails, and then live on land as adult frogs.  

We went outside and pretended we were frogs.  The kids hopped from lily pad to lily pad, to show which vowel sound they had heard in the words I called out.  If I called "cat" they jumped to "a" and so on.  Very fun, and an excellent wiggle break.  

I made a sensory bin for the life cycle of a frog.  I put water beads and some frog life cycle toys into it  with a couple of craft foam lily pads.  The kids had a blast playing with them all week long!  

We went to the zoo in search of a salamander.  We found one on the door handle to the snake house!

That ended up being the best one we saw, too, since the only one on display was well hidden.  We saw a portion of his bright yellow and black tail.  We think there's a decent chance of seeing a salamander at the aquarium, where they have tons of frogs, but we haven't made a trek there recently to find out.  

The next day, we had a fun surprise in the mail--caterpillars! We are going to raise and observe the life cycle of some painted lady butterflies.  These caterpillars have more than doubled in length since we got them 3 days ago.  We expect them to begin to pupate next week sometime.  Once they each form their chrysalis, we'll move them into the large mesh butterfly enclosure that came with their kit and wait for them to emerge.  After we've watched them as butterflies for a few days, we'll release them.  So fun!

So that we could learn a little more about our new caterpillars, we read a story about the life cycle of a butterfly, and then made a little craft using pasta and rice.  Our pasta caterpillars formed giant chrysalises because I wasn't specific about what size pasta shells I needed for the project, and my sweet husband did the shopping. ;) This was my first time to dye pasta, which was very easy, and very satisfying.  I want to do more pasta-dying crafts now!

We continue The Salamander Room next week, studying the body parts of an insect, making a diorama of Brian's room, and taking a field trip to the insectarium.  Should be fun! 

Arguably more exciting than any of the above, this week we finished our pre-K reading readiness curriculum!  I can't believe we are actually finished!  I feel so accomplished, and SO proud of the kids.  They are all in a really good place for learning to read now (and some are well on their way, already reading short 3 letter words).  If you have 3-4 year old children, I cannot recommend "Ziggy School" highly enough.  We have loved it.  Don't they look proud?

As always, thanks for reading!

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