Showing posts from January, 2011

PJ Library

I just got our renewal notice in the mail for PJ Library. Sometimes deciding whether or not to renew a subscription is a difficult choice.  Not with PJ Library.  Anyone who is a long time reader of this blog has heard me sing the praises of the various books as they have arrived.  Each book individually is (generally) a treasure.  Have a wonderful surprise come in the mail for your child each month without you planning anything is a treasure.  Building a library of Jewish stories is priceless.

I remember reading All of A Kind Family in third grade.  While it is a quality book and should be loved for that reason alone, what made it so special and wonderful for me was that it was about Jewish children.  I at already eight years of age and living in a significantly Jewish neighborhood had never before encountered Jewish literature.

I am thrilled beyond thrilled that Froggy at only five and not even living in a Jewish neighborhood has already a significant library of Jewish literature tha…

Playful Patterns

Froggy's Singapore book is wrapping up with a touch on a variety of topics that are not arithmetic.  This week's topic is shapes.

Inspired by Almost Unschoolers,Froggy and I did a baby version of tangrams.  I pulled out Froggy's Playful Patterns box and gave it another try.  She has had it since she was about two and never really taken to it.  This time was much better.  Unlike the big kid version, Playful Patterns really shows the little ones where each piece goes so that the can build the shape. Froggy loved it this time.  I wanted her to do a few but she did not want to stop.  Not only did she not want to stop but she asked to play it again later.  Part of why she did not want to do it the first time was that she could not make the shapes.  Her manual dexterity was not up to putting the pieces inside the lines.  This time there was no difficulty with that and she could focus on the fun of choosing the different shapes and dissecting the more complicated patterns into …

Science Sunday - Balloons

I had forgotten how hard it is blow up a balloon.  My cheeks were sore for two days afterwards but it was so worth it.  The kids had a blast so it was well worth it.

Explaining Newton's second principle to 5 and 6 year olds is not an easy task but we did it and had fun in the process. I missed my camera tons while it was gone but never as bad as this day.
We started with a game of tug of war to capture their attention and getting them thinking about balancing forces. Then I blew up a balloon and the children explained why the balloon was bigger and that the air was forcing it out.  Then we released it and let it fly, several times.  And laughed and laughed. 

Eventually we harnessed the power of the air by attaching the balloon to a straw run on a string. We then raced the balloon along the string.  We saw how far it travelled when it was only partially blown up vs completely blown up. 

Finally I had the kids draw pictures of what they saw trying to show the air.  While the last co…

What We Are Reading Repeatedly

I want to know what age children finally are when they stop wanting to read the same book over and over and over again.  Even when it is a really good book I get tired of the same book long before Froggy does. 

This week Froggy has asked for the same two book every single night at bedtime without fail.  The first was Magic Schoolbus Butterfly and the Bog Beast. I got it from the library as part of our butterfly theme but it is really more about the predator/prey relationship than it truly is about butterflies.  Also it is one of the newer books based off the TV show.  It is not written in the original style and not nearly as fun to read or as informative.  And yet Froggy loved and could not get enough of it.

The second book is Ghost Wings by Barbara Joosee.  This is a sweet, sad book in which a Grandmother prepares her granddaughter for her ultimate departure.  The grandmother dies, granddaughter grieves and heals and remembers.  It is very well written but very sad.  Froggy is picki…

פרפר - Butterflies

I finally got my act together and synergized our learning and touch on every single subject with the same topic.  Our letter for the week is פ.  We chose פרפר which means butterfly as our word for the week.  Yes it is early in the year to be studying butterflies but one accepts the letters as they come. 

A friend invited us to visit the Smithsonian Butterfly Garden with them but unfortunately it did not work out and we missed going.  Instead we took a virtual tour and read several butterfly books

We read (actually reread) From Catepillar to Butterfly.  We first read this book last year when we hatched our own catepillars. Thanks to  Adventures In Mama-Land I even had a copywork sheet ready to run through the life cycle and bring writing/spelling practice to the mix.
First Froggy practiced drawing a butterfly using the step by step approach in Things Girls LoveThis is working better for us than the Draw Write Nowbooks did.  The pictures are simpler and more to Froggy's liking.  

Purim Planning

Now that Tu B'Shevat is over I have officially started my Purim planning.  I am working on the first draft of our Mishlach Manot list, who to give which size basket to as well as what will go in each basket.  We always do two different kinds of basket, large and small.  The small ones go to people like Froggy's classmates, teachers and neighbors.  The large ones go to family and close friends and other extra special people. 

And I am scoping out costumes for myself.  Froggy's costume is super easy.  I do not know why but it is much easier for me to make a little kid into Queen Ester than a grown up.  I suppose that is because there are "princess" dresses everywhere in her size and it does not need to built to last many years she will surely outgrow it before long. 

For me on the other hand I want something nice and well built that I can wear for many years.  I am scoping out patterns and fabric options.  These are some of the leading contenders

Which is your fav…

Winter Wednesday - Night Sky

We finally broke out Froggy's Star Explorer Kit.  She received it for her birthday back in October and it has sat on the shelf doing nothing since.  We mainly got it for her to use when we go camping in the summer. However, our Winter Wednesday challenge inspired us to open it and use it.

We read the constellation fun fact cards in the afternoon to prepare.  Froggy calls Orion "Daddy's stars" because it is his favorite constellation and one of the first ones he was able to identify as a child so it was an obvious place to start Froggy's education.

We also chose the Big Dipper / Ursa Major and the North Star to read about and try to find. I explained to Froggy that the Big Dipper is only part of the constellation not a whole constellation by itself even though it has its own name.

In addition to the fun fact cards, we took a virtual Winter Sky tour, where both Froggy and I learned that the Big Dipper can be used as a clock with just a little bit of finageling and …

One Step Forward Two Steps Back

Maybe life with Acorn would be easier if we had started with her from the very beginning but then again maybe not. 

It has only been about four months since she came into our lives and has made lots of progress but I feel that every time we take one step forward we also take two steps backward.  So much of parenting her and teaching her is so different than anything I know or am used to it is tricky for me.  Her teacher says she is doing great and making appropriate progress but I do not see it. 

We are trying to teach her sign language as well as using a modified PIE system (which is pictures on cards to show what she wants). 

She will now sign eat.  Every time she sits down at the table.  Which she will do every single time I ask her to.  Daddy and I both thought at first that it was accurate communication but now we are not so sure since many times she then refuses to eat.  She gets frustrated as so do we. 

She is now picking up and handing me a card at breakfast but she shows no…

Math Monday - Borrowing

Froggy's big math concept this week is borrowing even though we have not used that term at all.  This topic was introduced a while back in her Singapore book.  We went through it and did the exercises but I did not see the lightbulb go off.  This week we were "officially" doing review but it was clear Froggy had not understood how to solve the problems.

So I explained it again and saw the lightbulb this time.  Singapore math presents the problems in a horizontal fashion rather than stacking the numbers as I was taught.  I don't know why but I am working the system for now.  They also are big on number families which I think of similar to factoring but for addition.  I think calling it a number family is what confused Froggy the first time around.  This time we referred to it as breaking open the group of ten.

Here is an example of Froggy's worksheet.  She understood place value much better going into this explanation and it made a world of difference.  For exampl…

Menu Planning Monday - 19 Shevat 5771

I am trying something new this week so that I do not spend so long agonizing over the menu each and every single week.  It is an idea from Mary Ostyn's book which she calls the Two Times Five Meal Plan.  You create two basic meal plans with 5 meals each on them and alternate between the two.  Since our new schedule has a minimum of two nights a week where I am not available to cook dinner it is imperative that we have crockpot meals / leftovers or freezer meals that the Daddy can serve the family.  We cannot afford to "wing it" so many nights. 

The two main things I like about this new menu planning style is that it helps ensure I have something planned and available in every type of food and it has a built in leftover / freezer planning in it.

So here are the steps
1 Pick 10 favorite meals - divide them into 2 lists 5 on each list  -
Each list will have one Shabbat worthy meal and one Vegetarian /fish meal as well as a soup/casserole that makes a batch to freeze

Science Sunday - Planting

In honor of Tu B'Shevat, our science this week is all about planting.  We made an egg carton greenhouse in which we planted a variety of herbs, four types of spinach and a lone cherry seed because we need to plant a tree. 

Froggy mixed the planting material and we talked about how the mixture made it lighter and thus easier for the seeds to push their way out while still providing plenty nutrients.  After that I cut the top of the egg carton and taped down the plastic wrap discussing why we needed the window.

We labeled the carton and watered the soil before planting the seeds so that it would be easier to ensure each seed was in the proper spot.

Once the seeds were planted, we set it on our southern window sill where hopefully it will get enough light to actually do something.  Unfortunately the best indoor plant spot is inaccessible during the winter because of the added insulation layer we put up to keep from freezing.

Next comes the watching and charting.  Hopefully come Pes…

Tu B' Shevat

Yesterday we celebrated Tu B'Shevat.  We sang and danced.  Carol Boyd Leon has a couple of really cute songs, I Want to Be a Tree and Tu Tu Tu B'Shevat that Froggy and I both love.  We spent time outdoors admiring the trees and even brought in some seeds to plant - not that I expect them to ever grow up to be trees. 

For the first year ever, Froggy participated in the "Plant A Tree In Israel" program that helped me learn about Tu B'Shevat when I was her age.

We also read some old and new favorite Tu B'Shevat books.  Making its annual return was the well loved Grandpa and Me on Tu B'Shevat.  Much to my dismay Froggy also pulled out Sammy Spider's First Tu B'Shevat.  I refused to read it to her but she read it to her dolls and Acorn.  New this year based on a recommendation from Homeshuling is A Tree Named Steve.

Froggy drew lots and lots of trees this week as she learned about Ayin and עצ

Wright Brothers

This week we have taken a break from Colonial America to visit Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers.  The highlight of the week was attending the Wright Brothers Show at the Air and Space Museum and touring the museum. 

To prepare for our fieldtrip, wechecked out a few books from our library.  I was thrilled to find First flight : the story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers because Froggy could read it all by herself.  It is written from the perspective of Tom Tate, a young boy native to Kitty Hawke who meets the Wright Brothers.  It is written as a story but is based in fact without any obvious falsehoods like the Magic Treehouse books have. We also got The Wright Brothers which traces their progress from first inspiration through all the various interations.  Froggy was quite taken with both books and read them herself as well as requesting them several times.

The museum also has an online program appropriate for Froggy's age range which let us learn the parts of an airplane by…

Winter Wednesday - Trees

We chose our cherry tree to be the focus of our year long tree study mainly because it is the first tree we see every single day and it is often filled with birds to study as well.

We were blessed this week to see it wearing a very spectacular winter garment, a gown of ice.  At first Froggy thought they were buds but once we bundled up and went outside, she got close enough to touch and see that they were ice crystals.

Froggy and I hunted around the ground to see if we could find any seeds of the cherry tree.  We found a couple stuck in the cracks of the sidewalk. 

Since we were traveling this week I was not sure we would get to do our outdoor hour at home, we did it on vacation as well in Boston where there was lots of snow.  We looked at the cattails and talked about where they were growing and how the place they were growing was similar/different to where they grow at home.  The ones Froggy is used to seeing line the edge of the pond near the nature center.  

Unfortunately th…

Homeschool Diary -Tu B' Shevat

Since we are celebrating Tu B'Shevat this week I have tried to center some of our activities around that.  As well our letter for the week is Ayin and our word for the week is Aetz.

Monday - Still on vacation - traveling home
Tuesday - Nature - Trees
Wednesday - Field Trip - Air and Space Museum - The Wright Brothers
Thursday - Children's Tu B'Shevat Seder at our house - We will make suet feeders and some yet to be determined art project.
Friday - Parsha Project  - sequencing from Chinuch, maybe also some copywork depending on how much writing we have done by this point.

Menu Planning Monday - 12 Shevet 5771

Monday - Returning home- Sandwiches on the road
Tuesday - meatloaf, mashed parsnips and potatoes, green beans
Wednesday - Tu B'Shevet - The shul is only doing a grownup seder so we are doing a family friendly version at home which will incorporate all the species but I still want to make a festive meal that is also vegetarian to focus on. Stuffed Figs,  Seven Species Salad, Spinach and mushroom frittata and
Thursday - homemade pasta sauce, salad, and garlic bread
Shabbat -Challah, Apricot Chicken, roasted acorn squash, steamed broccoli, chocolate torta ala Bertucci if I can find a recipe otherwise a more traditional chocolate torte

Sunday Science - Gravity

We had our first Fun With Forces class.  There were six students ranging in age from 4-7.  Our topic of the week was Gravity.  It was a neat experience for me to have a 7 year old since he was so much more knowledgeable than the little ones. 

The idea and overview for the activities came from Teaching Physics With Toys.   I learned from this lesson that the listed time in text is not accurate and even with the extensions I needed more activities.  I think part of the reason this class went so fast is that it was very basic and introductory going over concepts that the kids already had at least somewhat of an understanding.
We started by pushing and pulling a chair across the room. The children were easily able to see the force that made the chair move. 
We also tried pushing the wall but they could easily see that sometimes the force is not enough to move something.  We even talked about why exactly the wall was so hard to move.
We progressed to dropping bean bags. We dropped them to se…

What We Are Reading - Snow

Winter brought just a bit of white stuff to our region so far.  After Snowmaggedon last year, I am much prefering the little bits this year.  In honor of the first snow fall, we got some snowy books from the library which we also used as companions for our nature study.
Snow Ponies by Cynthia Cotten is a beautiful imaginative description of a snow storm in which the ponies are the bringers of the snow.  The illustrations are beautiful to me and truly capture the feeling of the snow storm that comes. They are the soft muted colors of winter and Froggy did not care for them as much as others.  Through the story we visit with some animals in their winter garb as they watch the snow settle in First we meet a white tailed deer standing magestical in the woods.  We also meet a gray squirrel,red fox, and a songbird.

Froggy much preferred Footprints in the Snow in which Mr. Good Wolf decides he needs to write a story in which the wolf is not the "bad guy".  He follows a set of footpr…

Paul Revere

This week we focused on Paul Revere and his famous ride.  With our visit to Boston it seemed like the perfect time even if it did not fit sequentially.

Since Froggy is somewhat familiar with the Revolutionary War and its purpose talking about Paul Revere became easier.  We read The Start of the American Revolutionary War: Paul Revere Rides At Midnight.  It had lots of good information in it but was dry and neither one of us wanted to read it again.  To liven things up a bit we watched The Shot Heard Round the World from Schoolhouse Rock and took a tour through a virtual museum dedicated to the Midnight Ride which included a neat version of Longfellow's famous poem. Froggy enjoyed listening to the poem more than I expected. It was fun to then go into Exhibit Hall 2 and contrast fact from fiction, a great reminder to Froggy that not all the things she reads even about real people are real.  Exhibit Hall 3 encourages kids to make a scale model of Boston but we skipped that. Instead w…

Winter Wednesday - The Color of Winter

I am probably a week behind since technically this was last week's challenge and maybe I will catch up but I figure as long as I get us all outdoors doing something the timing matters much less.

We did our nature study this week at the park with some friends.  We looked for all the colors we could find.  There was no snow or even ice at the time (We have had some and are getting more as I write but timing is everything) We looked at the trees comparing the shades of brown and the greens of the evergreens.  We talked about how some of the bushes along the creek are not evergreens but still appear green.  Froggy said they aren't bright.  We found some holly and looked at the bright red of the berries.  I even snipped a branch to bring in for sketching but Froggy was not interested.  I had hoped to see some animals to point out their colors but with all the noise that was not to be. 

Still I think it was a successful venture and certainly fun was had by all.

Your Personal Penguin

One of the things I love best about homeschooling and reading all the blogs I do is being able to use everyone else's ideas.

Almost Unschoolers must have known I had fractions on Froggy's upcoming schedule when she posted a great peguin craft. I saved the link, added some penguin books to our library list and viola an easy stArt and math project in one.  We read 365 Penguins which many others had recommended as a great January book and one I was not familiar with.  Froggy also pulled out an old favorite and we sang Personal Penguinover and over while cutting and pasting.

Since I do not have an older child who needed to practice compass work we opted to trace our circles instead of using a compass.  We used a lid from one our cookie tins for the 2 black circles and the one white circle.  We traced smaller tin for the orange circle.
Then Froggy cut the second black and the white circle first in half then in half again to make quarters.
She also tried to cut the little circle into q…