Friday, May 31, 2013

PeeWees: Clifford Goes to Washington

From PeeWee mom Lisa...

 The book was Clifford Goes to Washington. Clifford’s dog friend Riley is brave and pushes a boy out of the way of a car. Riley’s picture is in the paper and on television. The White House asks Riley to come to Washington, DC to receive a medal. Clifford goes to see his friend get his medal. While in Washington, Clifford stops by many of the monuments. Finally, Clifford jumps the fence at The White House to watch Riley get a medal – he’s tackled by the Secret Service but then let go – and he sees Riley get his medal.
 Open Play - “Toss a Penny” into a Big Red Basket (parallel to Clifford the Big Red Dog). We talked about the penny and that President Abraham Lincoln’s picture is on one side of the penny and the Lincoln memorial is on the other side of the penny. Originally, they all knew the coin was “money” but no one knew it was called a penny. The tossing went well, they took turns and we moved the tossing line back each turn to make it harder – they loved this and could have done it for a while.

Circle Time – Stand up song, ABC’s while marching, we counted 20 flags, and read the book.

Snack Time – We had star shaped jell-o gigglers and a Washington Monument shaped peanut butter sandwich with water in red, white, and blue cups.

Craft Time – We made “patriotic” pinwheels – though Bodie’s, of course, was colored all black. Everyone else colored the paper and we hooked the pin wheels together.

Activity 1 – We played Monument Bingo. The concept of Bingo was new so I had pictures of each monument to show them. The first few were a little tough but then they really got the hang of it and we ended up playing it twice. We used pennies to mark the monuments as we called them out. (if you make a colored copy of the bingo card I sent home, you can cut it up and let them do matching to the bingo card with the cut up pieces)

Closing time – We recapped what we did and re-read the book. (I just realized I forgot the so long king kong song, whoops!)
Activity 2 – “Find the monuments” in the yard. There were nine monuments staked into the ground around the yard. I would call out an action to a particular monument like, “Walk like Frankenstein to the Capitol.” We did this several times and they definitely love to run around but also knew at least half of the monuments – I was impressed.

 While grasping the whole concept of memorials and monuments is a bit beyond their years, picture association and names of the monuments was not. The repetition was helpful and there was definitely measured improvement by the end of the two hours. The ultimate goal was to get them more familiar with the cool  city we live in and have some connection to the monuments – I think a seed was planted.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

PeeWees: Firefighters

From PeeWee mom Lisa...

I choose to do two short books – Firefighters to the Rescue and Corduroy Goes to the Fire Station. The first one focuses on what fireman do – put out fires, rescue people, etc. The second one focuses on the fire station, fireman’s clothes, types of fire trucks, etc. I thought that together, they gave a fuller picture for the PeeWees to relate.
Free time was a fire truck with building blocks. Three of them would build a building while one of them was in charge of the fire truck who needed to respond to the building fire. They each took a turn and did a great job sharing.

Circle time – We sang the stand up song, did fireman jumping jacks to the ABC’s, then we went into Bodie’s room and everyone took turns climbing the “fireman” ladder as we counted to 20. We then went back into the circle and read the two short books. 

Snack time – Snack was a fireman’s ax sandwich (that ax cookie cutter came in handy again!), fireman’s water to drink, a licorice fireman’s hose, and a pretzel fireman’s ladder. I showed them a pretzel ladder and put out a pile of pretzel sticks. Each of them worked on their own ladder (it’s funny to see their different styles in this type of activity – notice Bodie has no sides to his ladder and Henry had 10 pretzels perfectly lined up on his ladder)

Craft – Five fireman fighting a fire done with a hand print. They did outstanding following directions here b/c they needed to put one hand in the paint, then wash their hand off, then return to the table, color the faces, and glue them on. Very good listening.

Activity Part I – We made fireman hats out of paper plates.

Circle time – I did this before the activity part II because I knew it would take up too much time to get coats and shoes on, do the activity, and come back in. We reviewed the day’s activities and books. Then we put on shoes and coats and headed outside.

Activity Part II – Stop, Drop, and Roll. We practiced this about 5 times. Next we did the Fireman’s obstacle course (b/c fireman need to exercise to stay strong). We “zig zagged” through the course, around the Frisbee, jumped over the baseball bat and then back to the fence. Zig zag was definitely a new concept. We practiced as a group and then they each got to do it one at a time. It varied on if they could remember how to zig zag. I think this type of skill is a fun thing to work on, especially as the weather warms up.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

PeeWees: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (week 2)

Again from Shaunel (again Poppy was absent)...

We had another lovely day of coconut tree-ing.

Play Time:
It took me forever to figure out how to create a coconut tree to repeat the monkey balancing act from last week (without having to hold the hanger), but right before the kids came I remembered my music stand! It was a perfect coconut tree and the monkey letters climbed up and balanced all over the place. We also did our letter puzzle again and worked with the Zimbbo blocks--again focusing on balancing.

Circle Time:
After "Stand up," we sang the ABC song. I then passed out the ABC cards, and we put them in order while singing the song, and then counted the cards. Jackson and I are going to keep working on 14 and 15. It is not sticking in his brain. We read the story, and then kids all filled in a lot of the phrases, which was so fun!

Snack Time:
They got peanut butter letters on their plates that they put raisins all over. We then all tried some shredded coconut--which none of the boys really appreciated. Then, we each got bananas and school boy letter cookies from TJ's to dip into our peanut butter and coconut. I also read them Dr. Seuss' ABC book while we ate.

We did more initial stenciling this week. First with Markers, then free handing with markers, then with water color. I was thrilled with their freehand letters which improved a lot even from last week! Henry's was the most colorful for sure--with Bodie's being the most black :)

Activity #1:
We then went up stairs to put together an alphabet chart of objects I had collected. We divided up the objects, and then said the word and tried to figure out what letter pouch the object went in. I knew this could be a stretch, so it was more of an introduction into sounds. We said the word, made the sound and then I told them the letter (since no one was guessing letters), then they had to find the letter on the chart. They did a great job at that.

Activity #2:
We tried making shaving cream letters. My friend did this with her Kindergartners and I always wanted to try it. I think I'll have to try it again next year--might have been a little soon for these kids, but it was sure fun to try. What a sensory motor overload. They loved swishing it around and making circles and lines. Even Henry didn't mind the texture on his fingers! My basement definitely smells like men now. Potent stuff!

Re-read the book, and king konged.

Fun day!   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Experiment

Homeschool. We're doing it.

Starting next year, or really anytime we want to, once school lets out next month.  I can hardly wait.

We have been slowly inching towards this choice for almost three years.  We finally decided about two months ago, and I have been writing, scratching out, and rewriting this blog post ever since.  How do I put succinctly all the reasons, all the thoughts and experiences that have led us here?

Then tonight, while washing the dishes, I had an epiphany.  It's actually easy to explain because there is really only one reason.  Everything else (which is a long list) is bonus.   

Our reason is: lifestyle.  Our current one is pretty miserable, and has been for years, at least during the school year.  We are stressed in the morning and stressed at night.  There is always too much to do and not enough time to do it, which leads to nagging, whining, fighting, and total family fatigue.  We are all always tired.  We are only together when we are at our worst, and we miss each other when we're not.  I greedily anticipate school breaks like a predator drooling over prey - I finally get my kids back for a few days or weeks.  Those times are my favorite.  Not that life is idyllic, but that life is natural again.  This feeling is what told me there is another way.  

I never gave homeschool a single thought until we actually started school.  When I left Hazel at kindergarten for the first time, I thought I was going to die.  I thought, how does everyone do this?  Oh, it's just because it's your first, people told me.  You'll get used to it.  I tried to.  I gave it a chance.  I told my mom how I was feeling, like a part of me had been cut off, and the rest of me was chained to something large and immovable.  She told me she knew a woman in her quilt group that homeschools.  She got me some literature.  It sounded nice, but I was overwhelmed with a new baby, and could not fathom being able to teach my girls everything they could learn at school.

Fast forward to last August, when Hazel started second grade and Ginger entered kindergarten.  No easier the second time around.  It felt like my heart was cracking, and I could hardly breathe on the way home.  I felt anguish, while parents around me rejoiced.  Ginger would come home exhausted and completely fall apart, throwing our whole household into tension.  Hazel brought home a whole new set of obnoxious "second grade" behaviors we had not seen up to the day school started.  Homework, and signing things that came home, became what felt like our only shared activity.  I returned to my homeschool research in earnest.
I read books and checked out blogs.  Talked with people that had done homeschool, as either a parent or child.  My misconceptions slowly reformed into an understanding of how extraordinary a life it can be.  And, most importantly to my confidence level, I found hardly any two homeschoolers are exactly alike.  What works for you is what works best, seems to be the general attitude.  By Christmas, I was considering it.  By March, leaning toward it.  Then we went on our amazing road trip, and I was hooked on being with my girls, and taking more trips like that one.  I just needed to be sure.  A week after we got home, I attended the VA Homeschoolers conference, and that was all I needed.  The presenters were intelligent, experienced, and eclectic.  Their children, those that I saw, were mature, polite, well-socialized, and seemed very...normal.  I seemed surrounded by normal, independent, happy people and families.  I loved it.

Once we made our decision, I started to think of other "fringe benefits" of life without school, and the list became long, fast.  I actually really like our school.  I have loved all the teachers we've had.  I like the principal and other administrators.  We've made some good friends, and the girls have done well.  But here are a few things I'm looking forward to:

  • No homework, parent/teacher conferences, drop-off/pick-up, mountains of papers to sort through, fire drills, fundraisers, PTA, school district agenda, busy work, teacher gifts, playground drama, mean girls, behavior charts, love triangles, SOL's, peer-learned behaviors, popularity, lice scares, uninformed peer sex ed, mass-pacing, reward systems, security hoops to jump through just to enter the building, bullies, "programs", report cards, parking, lost and found, and social pecking order, just to name a few. 

  • On the plus side, more freedom, flexibility, time to connect, chances to give the girls attention, peace, meals together, adventures and field trips, learning together, trying new things, self-pacing, traveling, down time, working together, reading together, rest, giving them time and space to be themselves, helping them follow their interests, being our own bosses, making our own agenda, playing, intuitive living, and enjoying childhood.

Do I sound like a hippie?  Maybe I am, a little.  (Always have been, a little.)  We'll still do work.  Learning and education will still take place.  It's just going to be on our own terms.  When I think about the possibilities, I feel an intoxicating giddiness about our future, like I haven't felt since we moved to Virginia, and before that, since Ed and I got married.  It's the exact opposite of the feeling of dread I have each year when the kids are supposed to go back to school.  I expect the going may be rough at first and at times.  But this is something our family needs, at least to try.  It will be an experiment. 

PeeWees: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (week 1)

Get ready for a whirlwind of PeeWee posts - I'm almost two months behind!

From PeeWee mom Shaunel (Poppy was out of town)...

We had a super fun day with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. There are so many possibilities to explore with letters, coconut trees, and balance.

Playtime started off with letter magnets, a letter puzzle, and a letter chart.  Jackson and Henry worked on the letter chart, while Bodie carefully put each magnet onto the whiteboard. Sometimes he would group the letters that were the same, but his most important goal seemed to be putting them in order. I quickly saw (as expected) that capital letters were not a problem. Lower case were much harder, but Bodie seemed to be fairly ontop of those as well as sound. Letter order was a lot more difficult than I thought. Jackson and Henry were working on putting the letters they found into the correct pocket on the letter chart. This was tricky even when we sang and pointed to the ABC's, so we'll be working more on that next week. At the end of playtime, we all did the letter puzzle together, with each boy putting one letter at a time onto the puzzle with a little chant and cheer to go along. Super cute!

Circle time included the standup song that they still love, singing the ABC's, and then singing them again, while placing letter cards on the floor while we sang it. We then counted the letter cards. That 14 and 15 are still tricky for Henry and Jackson, but Bodie's going to pull them along. The 20's seemed to be no problem :)

We read the story twice. Second time while keeping a beat. They did a great job.

After potty and handwashing, we had our snacks of baby carrots and bananas formed into each boys' initial (all letters are just forms of lines, circles and semi-circles). Then, we had TJ's letter cookies for dessert. I had to put a limit on those--for the boys and myself! They're so yummy.

We proceeded to practice writing our letters at stations in the living room. I made a stencil of a B, H and J--both upper and lower case. They each got to practice writing their letter on the chalk board, magna doodle and whiteboard. Jackson had done something similar before, and I was surpised by how experienced he was at this. All the boys got significantly better by their last station. We practiced freehanding this on the back of our art. Each boy used the white crayon to write their initial on the back of their paper. They all needed some help, but I was thrilled with how legible it turned out.

Art consisted of making a coconut tree and sticking foam sticker letters (compliments of the pee wee box), all over the tree. I love how different their trees and the placement of their letters were. Bodie's all landed on top of each other, while Henry's were nicely spaced out up and down the trunk. They all did a great job of taking the backing off their stickers--definitely a good developmental activity.

We had a dance break to Sesame Street's Hip Hop ABC. Turned more into a couch jump-a-thon.

We then talked a bit about why the letters all fell out of the coconut tree. I had put a foam letter on the monkeys from our barrel of monkeys. They took turns hanging a monkey off one side of a hanger, and we watched how the hanger started to tip more and more as we put more monkeys on. When we put the last one one, we said, "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom." We then explored putting them all over the hanger and how the hanger didn't tilt like it had earlier.

I nixed the next activity for time sake, and we read the story one more time. Since we had a little bit of time left, we attempted the alphabet chart with both lower and upper case letters. They were a bit worn out of such activities by this point, so we did our goodbye chant, and rocked out to ABC Rock until parent came.

Fun times, can't wait for next week :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

PeeWees: Bailey Goes Camping (week 2)

 Welcome back for Week 2 of Bailey Goes Camping, sadly the last time I will teach PeeWees.  I'm first in the rotation, so I'm also first to be last.

Arrival:  We started this week with more art - coloring bunny ears for our headbands.  I thought we would wear them on our bear hunt, but they didn't really want to.  They were still fun to color.  Some took it pretty seriously and colored both sides.  I also asked them to write the first letter of their name somewhere on an ear to identify them.  This had mixed success.  Poppy's "P" looks like a lollipop, for example.  But it's a start.   

 After they colored, I stapled the headbands together and added the ears, one kid at a time.  While I finished, the kids broke into a spontaneous bunny parade.  Any excuse to run the circle track!

Circle Time:  "Stand Up" song, alphabet, finding our name letters, then counting.  I laid out the camping bingo pictures from last time, and we reviewed what they each were.  Most are obvious and easy, like tent, sleeping bag, backpack, etc.  I called the "kabob" picture "hot dog."  There were a few I had to explain, like stake, but they recognized most of them.  "Mushroom" was a favorite.  We counted one way and then the other - they really only get hung up around 17 now, especially if someone is a little ahead.  

Activity 1:  We did things a little out of order this week.  Normally at this point we read our main book.  But we couldn't do that yet because we needed our bears for that, and our bears were currently hidden out in the yard.  So, bear hunt first.  We gathered in the tent and read We're Going on a Bear Hunt. One of the things Bailey's brother and sister tell them they do camping is hunt for bears, so this was an obvious choice.  But I also wanted to do this book because they'd already done it with Corduroy so it would be a fun review/connection.
 Then we gathered up our binoculars that we painted last time, and headed out into the yard.  Bodie was particularly worried about the bear hunt, and wanted to make sure we weren't really going to a real forest to hunt real bears.  I promised him we would stay in the yard and it wouldn't be scary. 
 The binoculars were a hit. 

I'd "hidden" them pretty well in sight, but they still needed a little help finding them.  Everyone got to find one; it was pretty fun.  It's amazing how those nocs really do seem to bring things closer. 

Reading:  Back into the tent we went, and put our bears in our prop bags.  Then everyone took out their flashlights and shined them on their chins, remembering from the ghost story last time.  We read through Bailey again, taking out our items as they appeared in the story.  So fun.

 Snack:  Another thing Bailey learned you do camping is eat hot dogs, so we had turkey hot dogs and carrots for snack, outside because it was a perfect day for camping!  I gave them each a half dog in half bun but they all took out the dogs and ate them and the bun separately.  Carrots had mixed reception.  I taught them the phrase "al fresco."

Activity 2:  Since we were already outside, we played another round of Camping Bingo with marshmallows - they are experts at this now.  Until someone knocks the table and all the marshmallows slide around.

Activity 3:  Reading the ghost story last time was pretty popular, so by request we went back in the tent with flashlights and read the "silly" ghost story again.

Activity 4:  According to Bailey, the very best thing about camping is roasting marshmallows, so we had to do it!  I busted out my crème brûlée torch and showed them what roasting marshmallows is all about.  Reactions ranged from surprised to horrified.  Poppy and Henry were the only ones that would try them.  Jackson and Bodie politely requested to just have "plain marshmallows."  I may have also eaten one or two or three.  They are irresistable!

Closing:  The day was too perfect; there was no point in going inside.  So I brought out some sidewalk chalk and let them doodle on the back walk until parents arrived.  Things fell apart a little at this point; Poppy had an accident, my neighbor came out to chat, Henry got hurt, etc.  The end there was harried but the rest of the day was wonderfully perfect!  I hope everyone was worn out enough to blissfully fall asleep under the stars that night!
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