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Archive for the ‘ABCs of Homeschooling’ Category

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “R.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter R…is for Relationships.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to develop close relationships between parents and children as well as between siblings. 

Sophia and Olivia on December 23rd
The girls standing in front of
the Christmas tree.

When children are in a school setting, relationships with teachers and friends compete with loyalty to parents and siblings. School schedules and homework assignments take priority over family time, and children may be taught values that conflict with those taught in their homes.

Having attended public school as a child and teen, this definitely describes my school years.

When families homeschool, they operate as a team. Parents are confidants; and siblings are close friends. Schedules are set according to the family’s needs, and children are taught their parents’ values. This is very true for the way I’ve set up homeschooling for the girls.

At home, the curriculum and activities meet the needs of each daughter – not the needs of a classroom or school system. Both girls are treated as individuals, and are truly known and loved.

Ann and Girls 7 Years Later
The girls celebrating the anniversary of
Olivia’s 7th adoption day.

I’m able to customize their lessons based on their interests as well as their developmental abilities/skills. The curriculum and schedule is flexible so if something isn’t working, I can modify it to better fit their needs.  The goal is to make learning fun and educational…and inspire a love for learning.

Another benefit of homeschooling is that the girls have been able to develop a closer relationship with their grandparents who live 50 miles away.

Mom Me Sophia Olivia
The girls with their grandma and me on
my mom/Nana’s 80th birthday.

Girls with All Grandparents
The girls with their grandparents
on their First Communion Day.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading to Papa.
She chose to read him his favorite book when he was a child.

Another benefit to homeschooling is that children within a family have stronger relationships. There is generally more camaraderie than in siblings who attend school. Since Sophia and Olivia are each other’s primary playmates, deep relationships have been and will continue to be formed and nurtured.

At the Chapel
The girls have traveled as part of homeschooling
with their grandparents and me.
This was taken at The Shrine of Guadalupe in Wisconsin
(a place where the girls’ grandparents wanted to visit).

As Sophia’s and Olivia’s teacher, we spend a lot of time together in two main ways – educationally and as a family. This time that we spend together learning, working through any problems, and communicating keeps us all well aware of one another.

All of Us by Lake Saganaga
An educational trip to northern Minnesota.
Here we’re near Lake Saganaga where
my Dad/Papa took many trips during the 1960s and 1970s.

Good relationships and communication extends beyond the immediate family. Generally, homeschooled children can easily communicate with people of many ages and from different walks of life. They learn to adjust to the group to whom they are speaking. Because of this, they often comes across as thoughtful and mature.

The Girls with Mary
The girls picking strawberries with their aunt.

Alice with Girls
The girls enjoying spending time with a
family friend (Alice) and her dog (Maggie).

Gathering together as an extended family brings together people of all ages – from newborns to seniors – giving the girls opportunities to play, talk, and build relationships with others.

Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving at the farm.
An opportunity for playing, talking, and having fun together.

Homeschooling has given the girls opportunities to form friendships with people of different ages who live in other countries. They have met and hosted people at our home including two exchange students from Brazil who lived here in the late 1990s; and my friend from Japan who visited here a couple years ago.

Mom, Dad, Girls, and Ruth
The girls with Ruth (from Brazil) and their grandparents.
Their grandparents invited us over for lunch, and
to visit with Ruth.

The girls also have enjoyed making friends with other homeschoolers as well as children who attend public, private, parochial, and charter schools. This have given them insight into multiple ways that children learn, and introduces them to a wide variety of children.

Sophia's Tea Party
The girls having a tea party with some of their friends.

Sophia with a Friend Before Performance
Sophia and a friend before one of the choir performances.
Sophia, Olivia, and Maggie
The girls holding pumpkins they picked
 from our pumpkin patch.

They have participated in community activities – theater, community ed courses, camps, homeschool swimming lessons, choir, and sports – which introduces them to a diversity of children who have a wide variety of interests.

Olivia with Friends from the Play
Olivia with three other girls who were in a
play/musical with her at a local community theater.

The girls also have had the opportunity to learn from other adults – whether it is at the homeschool co-op where they take a variety of classes; or through special education/speech therapy. They have developed special friendships with some of the teachers and therapists who have helped them learn and gain new skills.

American Girl Tea Party at Co-op
Sophia with one of her teachers at the homeschool co-op.
Ms. Dawn was the American Girl teacher, and this is the
end-of-the-semester party.
Laurie - Olivia's Speech Therapist
Olivia with her speech therapist, Laurie.

Homeschooling is represented by strong and varied relationships. As the girls get older, this will continue to be an important area and benefit to homeschooling.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “Q.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter Q…is for Quilting.

For over four years, Sophia and Olivia have been learning how to quilt. They started hand-sewing a bit before machine-sewing to get comfortable with a thread, needle, and fabric.

One of the first projects that the girls did was a simple patchwork quilt. They picked fabric from what I had on hand (a lesson in itself of resourcefulness and making do).

For some of their first sewing projects, they traced squares onto the back/wrong side of the fabric and then cut them out. They moved onto measuring and marking lines on the fabric. Sophia now can use a rotary cutter to cut fabric.

Assembling the Quilt
Olivia arranging squares for her first patchwork quilt.
She’s about 4 years old here (2007).

One of Olivia’s favorite quilts that she made was one using fabric she found at a quilting store in Pella, Iowa. The girls, my parents, and I traveled to Pella in the spring to see the tulips. There was a wonderful quilting store right off the main square.

Olivia liked a printed fabric with dogs on it. From that pattern, she picked several other fabrics to coordinate with it. She cut, arranged, and sewed all the pieces together to create her quilt.

Olivia with the Quilt She Made
Olivia made this quilt using fabric she found at a quilt shop on a trip.
This quilt holds special meaning and memories for her.
She was 6 years old when she made this quilt (2009).

Olivia entered her quilt in the county fair in the youth open class division. She was competing with children up to the age of 16 years old in her category.

She won first prize… a blue ribbon (there are only 6 ribbons – 1st through 6th place – awarded in a category). Needless to say, she was thrilled!

Olivia - Blue Ribbon on Quilt
Olivia with the quilt she made
that won her a blue ribbon!

For 2010, at 7 years old, she wanted to challenge herself to do something different. She looked with me at pictures of quilts on Flickr and saw one that she liked. It was a circular quilt made from a variety of fabrics.

The quilt she saw was done in rainbow colors with a white center. Olivia wanted to do hers in all blue fabrics with a white center. Since there was no pattern, we had to create a pattern for the blue pieces and center white piece.

Olivia chose a variety of textures also for the blue pieces which posed a bit of a challenge since each had a different “pull” to it. She had to try sewing different types of fabric together which was a good skill to learn.

Another skill she learned was doing free-style quilting. On the white fabric, she moved her presser foot around in a random pattern to secure the top, batting, and backing together.

Olivia Working on Quilt
Olivia working on her blue and white circular quilt.
She’s doing some free-motion quilting to secure the top, batting, and backing together.
Olivia was 7 years old when she did this quilt (2010).

Sophia started making quilts in 2006 (when she was 5 years old) and did a simple doll-size patchwork quilt from a kit she received for Christmas. The nice thing about the kit was that the squares were already cut for her. She simply had to sew them together and then create the quilt.

Once she learned how to do that she wanted to create another quilt using fabric that she picked out from what I had on hand. She used the same method as I used with Olivia (tracing of the shape on the fabric and then cutting it out).

By 2008, she was enjoying quilting so her grandma gave her a quilting kit in her favorite color: pink. The kit came with the fabric and pattern, but Sophia had to cut each piece for the quilt.

The fabric was a variety of textures – cotton, satin, and minky.  It was delightful to feel (from a sensory perspective). In terms of sewing…a bit more challenging, especially for a beginner quilter.

She patiently worked on the quilt and was so pleased with how it turned out. She used the quilt and enjoyed how it felt with the different textures.

Sophia in Bunkbed Camping with Quilt She Made
Sophia in a bunk bed in a camper cabin.
She wanted to bring her quilt on her first camping trip.
Sophia was 7 in this picture (2008).

By the following year, Sophia set a goal of making a quilt for her bed. She wanted a quilt in colors that she liked. We checked out some books from the library and she found a pattern that she liked. After a visit to the fabric store, she was ready to start making her quilt.

Sophia Laying Out Her Quilt
Sophia placed the pieces for her quilt on the floor.
She would pin the pieces she needed to sew as she went along.
Sophia is 8 years old in this picture (2009). 

She was happy with how her quilt turned out; and has used it on her bed since she made it.

Sophia's Finished Quilt
Sophia holding her finished quilt.

She entered the quilt in county fair and received a red ribbon on it (second place). At 8 years old, she was in the category with children up to 16 years old. 

Sophia - Red Ribbon on Her Quilt
Sophia by her quilt at the county fair.
She was 8 years old.

When Sophia was 9 years old, she tried a different form of quilting. Her grandma gave her a pre-printed image on fabric. Sophia quilted around different parts of it to give it texture and definition. She added sequins and beads to embellish it, and then finished off the quilt. 

She entered it into the county fair for one of her 4-H needlework projects. In 4-H, the children talk with a judge who asks them questions about their project and determines how much they understand about their project area. Sophia received a blue ribbon for her project which made her happy.

Sophia Talking About Quilted Wallhanging
Sophia meeting with a 4-H judge to discuss her project.

During the 2010-2011 homeschool year, Sophia took a sewing class at the homeschool co-op. One of the projects she worked on was learning quilting patterns.  During the spring, she learned six new patterns. She chose to sew the squares together to make a little lap or doll quilt.

Sophia with her Quilt
Sophia holding a lap or doll quilt that
shows six new patterns that she learned.
She’s 10 years old (2011).

Quilting has been an important part of homeschooling for the girls. In addition to art/creative expression, quilting helps with math and reading. I’ve also integrated geography and history when doing some of the quilts.

With a back-to-homeschool trip to New England in September to celebrate the start of a multi-year/multi-disciplinary geography study, the girls are excited to visit a quilt shop in New Hampshire that has over 5,000 bolts of fabric.

They each want to pick some fabric so they can make a quilt when they return home. Having a tangible reminder of this special time together is something that I hope they look back on with good memories in years to come.

Peek-a-Boo with the Sewing Machine
Looking back….
Olivia at 4 years old working on her first quilt.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “P.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter P …is for Painting.

One of the activities that the girls enjoy doing is painting. When they were younger, they did quite a bit of wet-on-wet watercolor painting.

Watercolor Painting
Sophia doing a wet-on-wet watercolor painting.

I would soak the watercolor paper in water for a bit, lightly dry it off, and then she would paint using all-natural paints. The paints were made from plants and were from Germany. They were nice quality paints which resulted in some pretty colors.

Initially, I had the girls start with painting only one color. Then they learned to combine a couple of colors.

They also have enjoyed painting clothes and accessories.  When they were younger, the painting was more abstract; and as they grew older the did more representational/realistic painting.

Olivia Decorating a Purse with Fabric Paint
Olivia decorating a purse with fabric paint.
She is wearing a shirt she painted and
used when she did art and crafts projects.

One Christmas, the girls received paint kits. They traced the first letter of their first name onto a canvas and then added different shapes and swirls around the letter. Using a variety of acrylic paint, they created their own unique images.

Painting on the Day after Christmas
The girls painting the first letter of their first name on canvas.

Another activity the girls enjoyed was tracing their hands onto canvas, coloring the hand with oil pastels, and then painting with watercolors around the outside of the handprint.

Olivia Painting with Watercolors on Canvas
Olivia making a handprint picture
with oil pastels and watercolors.

They also have enjoyed painting without a paintbrush. They’ve used fingers, hands, pine needles, marbles, and vegetables.

Sophia Doing Marble Painting
Sophia doing a Valentine’s Day painting with marbles.
Sophia Painting Her Potato Print Shamrock
Sophia carved a heart into a potato.
Then, she made 3 prints of the heart to make a clover shape.
She added the stem, ground, and
some details with a paintbrush.

Doing vegetable and fruit printing was a fun process. Using peppers, apples, celery, and other fruits and vegetables yielded some interesting and pretty prints.

Vegetable Print Painting in Ag Class
The girls with other homeschoolers doing
fruit and vegetable printing.

Using hands and getting messy are the fun parts of painting for the girls.

Olivia Making a Handprint Christmas Tree
Olivia made a handprint Christmas tree.
She’s painting the tree trunk and snow with a paintbrush. 

In addition to creating their own images and work, they also enjoy using painting kits. Early on, they did some simple watercolor painting with pre-printed images.

Sophia Watercolor Painting
Sophia doing watercolor painting with pre-printed images.

When they were 7 and 9 years old, they each did a paint-by-numbers kit. These are not the kits that I grew up with which were substantially easier.

These kits had very tiny spaces, lots of blending of paints, and required much patience and time. The end-product is one that both the girls were so proud of and framed.

Olivia Painting by Numbers
Olivia doing a paint-by-numbers painting.

They each entered their paint-by-numbers paintings in the county fair and/or 4-H; and both did very well. Entering the paintings for 4-H (in Cloverbuds and Crafts) was a great way for the girls to share their experience about painting and what they liked/found challenging about the process.

Olivia with Cloverbud Judge
Olivia meeting with the 4-H Cloverbud judge
to discuss her painting.
She’s 7 years old in this picture.
Painting has been and will continue to be an important part of homeschooling. It’s been something the girls truly enjoy, and it gives them an opportunity to creatively express themselves.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “O.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter O … is for Orchestra.

One of the elements of homeschooling for our family is music. Starting at the end of fourth grade, both Sophia and Olivia were/will be given an opportunity to choose an orchestral or band instrument to learn in addition to piano.

They both have a strong interest in orchestral music, so it looks like that is what area they’ll choose. Having an interest in the orchestra most likely stems from attending student performances at the Minnesota Orchestra.

Girls at Minnesota Orchestra
In March 2010, the girls and I attended “Carnival of the Animals”
at the Minnesota Orchestra. In the background,
the orchestra is warming up.
At the Carnival of Animals concert, there were a variety of instruments played – including the harp. This is an instrument that Sophia has become interested in (more information below).
Minnesota Orchestra
The harpist isn’t yet out for warming up,
but there are other musicians practicing before the performance.
Because of Olivia’s vision, we have been able to be seated in either the first or second box seats. This has been such a blessing.

Not only can Olivia see the stage, but the girls become even more engaged in the performance since they can see some of the musicians’ faces and expressions, and how they place the instruments.

Girls at the Minnesota Orchestra
Attending the Percussion Spectacular in October 2009.
The girls are 8 and 6 years old in this picture.
One of the most memorable pieces was played by musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra as well as youth performers. The youth walked down the aisles with their instruments – from the back of the concert hall to the stage. Together, the youth and adults played a piece. Seeing youth perform on stage was quite inspiring for the girls.
Concert at Orchestra Hall
Concert in December 2010 with youth and adult performers
playing together.
Another reason why we enjoy going to the Minnesota Orchestra is that they partner with other non-profit organizations to create multi-disciplinary and multi-art performances. In the December 2010 concert, huge puppets from Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater joined the orchestra on stage to act out one of the songs.  It was a dramatic and moving performance that the girls still vividly remember.
Concert at Orchestra Hall
Actors and musicians doing a piece from Hansel and Gretel.

Sophia and Olivia also have watched orchestral performances on television. One of the historical performances was done by Yo-Yo Ma at President Obama’s inauguration. 
The music was beautiful, and his enthusiasm and smile were contagious. What an inspiration! Both Sophia and Olivia were born in China, so it is wonderful when they can see positive, Chinese-American role models (female or male).
Yo-Yo Ma Playing at the Inauguration
Yo-Yo Ma playing at President Obama’s inauguration
on January 19, 2009.
The girls also have had opportunities to play instruments at different museums and parks which has been fun for them.
Olivia playing a xylophone
Olivia playing a xylophone at the Minnesota History Center.
What is interesting to see is how artists combine music and nature.  At the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum many years ago, there was a wonderful summer exhibit that did just that: combined art with nature.
Playing Acorns and Leaves
The girls with two of their friends playing
leaf and acorn bells.

Seeing handmade instruments created from everyday objects is another creative and inspiring way that the girls have learned about music. Again, at the Minnesota History Center, there was a display of a variety of percussion instruments made from items commonly found in one’s home.
Wrench Xylophone
Sophia playing a xylophone made from wrenches.

After being introduced to a variety of music and the orchestra, the girls each wanted to take piano lessons.
Olivia Playing the Piano
Olivia was interested in learning how to play the piano
long before she took lessons.
Part of learning how to play the piano is participating in the semi-annual concerts (one at Christmas and one at the end of the homeschool year).  Sophia performed at a nursing home for her first concert at Christmas time in December 2010; and her second concert in May 2011.
Sophia at Spring Recital
Sophia at her second concert in May 2011.
Once the girls reach the end of fourth grade, I am asking each one to pick an instrument that they want to learn how to play (in addition to the piano).  Sophia chose the harp in May 2011.

Practicing the Harp
Sophia practicing the harp.

Olivia is interested in the flute and piccolo (on the other end of the spectrum in terms of instrument size).  She still has two full schoolyears to decide if this is her true interest.
Olivia Behind the Strings
When Sophia stepped away from the harp for a moment,
Olivia ran her fingers along the strings.
Listening to the harp is relaxing and calming.
During the summer of fourth grade, Sophia began taking private lessons for harp. She will continue doing this through fifth grade, and then participate in student orchestras in sixth grade.
There are both homeschool and public school orchestras.  Both orchestras have concerts throughout the year which will give Sophia opportunities to perform publically. 
Until then, she shares the gift of music with her grandparents and family.
Playing Music for Grandparents
Above and below: Sophia performing for grandparents,
an uncle and aunt, and family.
Sophia Playing the Harp

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “M.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter M…is for Math.

I remember sitting in a college calculus class and one of the students asked, “When are we ever going to use this in real life?”

The professor gave an answer that I wished some of my junior high and high school math teachers would have said when I was learning algebra and trigonometry, “Chances are, you’re never going to use this in your daily life. This level of math isn’t so much about using it in ‘real life.’  It is more about being persistent and disciplined, and finding the answer to a problem.” 

Math comes down to simple problem solving; and training one’s brain to be able to think through a variety of situations and get to the right answer or come to a conclusion. Math, to me, means essentially fostering a sense of determination and commitment to finish something you’ve started.

Because math goes beyond just learning numbers, functions, and concepts, I try to give Sophia and Olivia opportunities to learn math through a variety of methods: traditional/book learning, singing, learning tools, games, and real-life application.

TRADITIONAL/BOOK LEARNING

The girls learn core math concepts and facts by using their math books.  I use Rod & Staff books since both girls say they like them.  At the last homeschool conference I attended, I looked at a variety of math books. Some had a lot of color and impressive graphic design; some used the computer; and others used DVDs to teach math.  After looking at the variety of resources, I decided to stick with Rod & Staff.

Rod & Staff isn’t fancy – the text and images are all in black and white.  However, the majority of examples they use all tie into agriculture, farm animals, and cooking/baking – all things that are quite applicable to the girls’ life right now.

Sophia's Math Book
Sophia’s fourth grade math book. 

There seems to be a lot of repetition with some of the fundamental concepts and facts (e.g., addition and subtraction facts, skip counting by 2s/5s/10s, multiplication and division facts). However, knowing these facts by memory is critical to forthcoming math skills, so I think that’s valuable.

That being said, once the girls have “mastered” a skill, I don’t make them continue doing pages of the same thing. They can move onto the next skill. That’s one of the benefits of homeschooling – adapting the lessons to the each child’s skills and knowledge.

Olivia Doing Math with Shells
Olivia likes to use manipulatives to help her visualize
some of the math problems she’s doing.
For this lesson, she chose to use shells.

SINGING

The girls both enjoying singing and seem to retain information much better when they learn it by listening to and singing songs. 

Some of the CDs that the girls use for math.

Some of the CDs for math that they use include:

Shiller Math Songs – this was a CD that Olivia used a couple of years ago when using the Shiller math curriculum.  There are a variety of songs that had her moving about while listening to instructions on the CD.

Addition Songs by Kathy Troxel – this CD comes with a songbook/workbook, and has helped Olivia learn counting from 1 to 20 as well as all the addition facts from 1+1 to 9+9. There are sing-along songs as well as echo-style songs for self-testing.

Multiplication Songs by Kathy Troxel – this CD also comes with a songbook/workbook, and has helped Sophia learn all the multiplication tables 2 through 12.  There are sing-along songs as well as echo-style songs for self-testing.

  One Hundred Sheep by Roger Nichols – There are nine songs on this CD that teach counting by 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, etc. This skill is known as “skip counting” and is used in every math process from multiplication to algebra.  The songs use stories from the Gospels as a basis for the lyrics.  Both the girls use this CD.

Sophia singing along with the
One Hundred Sheep CD.

LEARNING TOOLS

Dice

Olivia playing with some of the math dice.

One of the ways to learn and/or review the basic facts is by using dice. 

Basic math equation that Olivia put together
using three different types of dice.

I have a variety of dice that the girls can use.  Some have the basic six dots representing numbers on them (white ones).  Others are special ones:

– Blue dice with the numbers 1-6 on them.
– Green dice with the numbers 7-12 on them.
– White dice with different symbols (e.g., plus, minus, times, divided by).
– Yellow dice with Roman numbers.
– Big red and orange dice with little white dice inside it. Both the dice have the traditional 1-6 dots on each side.

A variety of dice to use with math games.

Electronic Flash Cards

Learning Resources has a Minute Math Electronic Flash Cards in which the girls are presented with different facts (e.g., 2+9, 8×7) and need to type in the answer. The “game” is based on speed and accuracy. There is a voice that tells the player if she typed in the correct answer.

Sophia testing herself on multiplication facts.

Sophia likes this “game,” but Olivia finds it frustrating.  So, when Sophia needs/wants to do something different for math, she’ll use the Electronic Flash Cards.  

Learning Wrap-Ups

Both the girls learn best when there is a hands-on component to the lesson.  One of the things that I found at the last homeschool conference was a set of Learning Wrap-Ups. Each Wrap-Up focuses on a different process (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). 

Olivia testing herself on addition facts.

To use them, the girls start with the first number on the left side and add/multiply it by the number in the middle of the key.  Then they find the answer on the right hand side and bring the yarn to the other side and wrap it around the backside before bringing it to the second number on the left side. They repeat the process until all the numbers and answers have been wrapped.

Olivia with the finished Wrap-Up.
The string was where it should be on the back,
so she got all the answers correct.

The Wrap-Up is self-checking on the back. The key has a raised pattern to show where the yarn should be. If the yarn matches the pattern, then all of the answers were done correctly.

GAMES

The girls have many games that they enjoy playing that have a math component to them:  Horse-opoly, Life, and Farm-opoly.

Farmopoly - Homeschool Math Lesson
The girls playing Farm-opoly.

In addition to purchased games, we’ve also made our own math games.  For Thanksgiving, we made a turkey racing game (see below) that involved counting and probability.  The girls had fun making and playing the game, and having it be a part of Thanksgiving activities in the future.

Turkey Racing Game
Homemade math game.

REAL LIFE APPLICATION

Bringing math into everyday activities provides the girls with a learning experience in a real-life setting, and helps enhance comprehension of what they are learning.

Counting by 5s and 10s
Sophia learning to skip count
by 5s and 10s using buttons.

An early math skill is sorting, although it is one that people use in their daily lives. One of the ways that sorting was incorporated into homeschooling is through stamp collecting.  The girls each have their own books for stamps, and have enjoyed sorting them into categories (e.g., horses, flowers, pandas, wild animals).

Olivia Working on Her Stamp Collection
Olivia sorting through stamps when she was very young. 
She still has and adds to her stamp collection.

Another way that the girls have used math is when they have sorted items to donate.  Each year we do Operation Christmas Child.  The girls enjoy choosing items to put in the boxes, and then dividing and sorting them at home. 

Olivia and Sophia Sorting Operation Christmas Child Items
The girls sorting items for Operation Christmas Child boxes.

Of course, each October the girls look forward to sorting candy they get when they go out for Halloween.  They will compare what each one got, and often will trade candy.

Olivia Sorting Halloween Candy
Olivia with candy she sorted.

Math also is used when studying science. 

Sophia Measuring the Jaw
Sophia measuring the length of a bone.

One of the easiest ways to tie the two subjects together has been when we have been able to measure something tangible (e.g., feathers, depth of a woodpecker hole in a tree, the circumference of a tree, the length of a bone).

Sophia Measuring Snow Depth
Sophia measuring the snow depth.

The girls enjoy cooking and baking.  Reading a recipe and then measuring the ingredients is something that I have involved them in well before they were doing their math books.

Making a Strawberry Smoothie
Sophia measuring and adding an ingredient
to make a fruit smoothie.

I’ve had a food scale for many years, and it seems like in the past few years that it has been used more frequently by the girls – whether they are making food in the kitchen or weighing an item for a science lesson.

Girls Putting Mushrooms on Scale
The girls were weighing some mushrooms they found
on the nature trail.
Sophia Measuring and Weighing  Rhubarb
The girls are cutting and measuring rhubarb
to make dessert.

Money is something that the girls have enjoyed learning about in math.  Rather than just using pictures in math books, the girls receive a bit of money for doing some chores.  They also receive money periodically as gifts from grandparents and relatives. 

Originally, I had the girls set up save-spend-give jars and a percentage of each amount they earned or was gifted was divided into the three jars in a 50-40-10 percent ratio (respectively).  Now, I have them do a 50-50 split – save half/spend half.  Of the spending money, some they use as donation money. 

The girls have their own wallets with money and gift cards, and have learned to interact with cashiers; and vendors at craft shows and farmer’s markets. They have to learn to use only the money they have available (no loans or borrowing money). This has taught them the value of budgeting and patience (especially if they need to save for a larger item). I’m hoping that they carry this into their adult life and save half of what they earn.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “L.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted  Letter L …is for Literature

Literature is written or spoken material that is the work of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Through the current curriculum I’m using with the girls (Sonlight), we’ve been introduced to wonderful literary works in each of the genres mentioned.

Girls Reading on Box Day
Sophia and Olivia on “Box Day” – when the books
for the upcoming school year are received.
They enjoy looking at all the books they’ll be
reading or listening to during the upcoming year.

In addition to using the books that are part of the Sonlight curriculum, I’m also using several lists of books to introduce the girls to a wide variety of literature (e.g., Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal). 

The Association for Library Service to Children has a website that has information about different awards that are given each year to children’s books that are of high quality.  Each award has a different focus.  The ones that we’re focusing on include:

(John) Newbery Medal – honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

(Randolph) Caldecott Medal – honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

(Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal – honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

(Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award – honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

Reading is such an integral part of homeschooling for us.  Since the girls were young, I have read to them daily. Once Sophia began reading on her own, she spent more time being able to read independently which expanded the number of books she listened to/read each day. The girls both listen to books on CD as well.

In addition to reading inside, the girls enjoy reading outside – on blankets on the ground with the clouds and trees as the backdrop…or in one of the climbing trees in the backyard.

Reading Aloud Outside
Sophia reading outside on an early-fall afternoon.

Literature has introduced the girls to historical facts, given them insight into different cultures; and provides the inspiration to learn more about different times and traditions other than their own.

Some of our favorite homeschool memories center around literature-based unit studies.  The first series we did was the American Girl one that focuses on ten year old girls from a variety of ethnicities and time periods in the United States. 

We started with the Kaya series which was set in the 1700s with the Nez Perce and finished with the Julie series that was set in the 1970s and had a Chinese-American sub-theme (this was nice for the girls who are both Chinese-American).

Olivia Reading Outside
Olivia taking a look at one of the American Girl books
under the willow tree on the nature trail
in the back part of the farm.

The girls and I did crafts, cooked/baked food that tied into each series, and took field trips to places to bring alive what they were reading in the American Girl Series.

Field Trip to Fort Snelling - Food Rations
The girls learned about rations, the Victory pledge,
and Victory Gardens when we did the Molly unit study.
Here, at Fort Snelling, there was a homeschool day
focused on WWII (when the Molly series took place).
This display shows rations at the time (e.g., food, gasoline, shoes).

The other series that we enjoyed was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Starting with Little House in the Big Woods and ending nine books later with The First Four Years, we not only read the books but did hands-on activities and took a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin (where Laura spent the early part of her childhood).

We visited Pepin once when we started the series and were reading Little House in the Big Woods to see where Laura’s childhood home was located, saw the cemetary where some of the people mentioned in her book were buried, and visited a museum focused on the Ingalls family/Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

In 2010, we went back to Pepin with the girls’ grandparents; and stopped at the lake and went through town.

Lake Pepin
Sophia, Olivia, and Papa (the girls’ grandpa)
on the shores of Lake Pepin (Wisconsin).

Children’s literature also has opened up the girls’ imagination and fostered an enthusiam for learning about things that they normally wouldn’t have thought or known.  For example, I read to the girls a long time ago a book called Mailing May in which five-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff begs to visit her grandmother, but her parents cannot afford to send her.

In Idaho in 1914, the train is the only way to make the 75-mile trip over the mountains. The Pierstorffs come up with an unusual solution – mailing May. Sending her as a package is a third of the cost, and since her mother’s cousin Leonard handles the railroad mail car, she does not have to travel alone.

So, we were on a trip up north a few years ago, and visited a train museum.  There happened to be an old, restored mail car at the Duluth train museum. This brought to life this book which the girls clearly remembered and made the connection to; making the visit such a fun experience for the girls.

Old-Fashioned Mail Car in a Train
The girls in a restored mail car a train museum
in Duluth, Minnesota.

Another way that literature has been a part of homeschooling is by sharing the gift of reading and quality books with others.  We have donated many books to the local second-hand shop.  All the proceeds from the sale of the books help fund programs that serve those in need in the community.

The girls also donated some books to Books For Africa through the 52 Weeks of Giving program that we’re doing this year. 

And, perhaps, most meaningful (on a personal level) is seeing the gift of reading and literature shared between generations.  One of my father’s favorite books that his mother read to him when he was a boy was The Story of Ferdinand.

The story, written in 1936, is about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading Papa one of his favorite childhood books.
At the time (August 2010), he was able to still read the book.
Now (June 2011), with Alzheimer’s Disease,
he struggles with reading,
but enjoys being read to and listening.
Literature has been and will continue to be an important and central focus of homeschooling for us. 

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “K.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter K…is for Kitchen.
When I think of homeschooling, one of the places that we spend a considerable amount of time in is the kitchen.  The girls and I enjoy cooking and baking, so incorporating a culinary aspect into homeschooling is a natural fit.
The girls have been helping in the kitchen since they were about 18 months old.  As they have gotten older, the new skills they learn match their developmental and physical abilities. 
Both Sophia and Olivia will look at recipes as I’m planning meals for the upcoming few weeks.  When I’m doing this, they often will look at the pictures that accompany the recipe (the majority of my recipes come from cooking and women’s magazines).  They’ll see a picture of something that looks good and will ask if they can make it. 
Trying a new recipe, having it be a part of the meal, and seeing what it tastes like is something that makes the girls happy and proud.
Olivia with Pumpkin Pie
Olivia holding a pumpkin pie she made.

During the past few years, I created an ABC Journey Around the World in which the girls learned about a different country in alphabetical order (e.g., Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, and so forth until ending with Yemen and Zambia). 

One of their favorite parts of learning about other countries was seeing what people would eat in different parts of the world.  I found recipes on the internet as well as through recipe books from the library. We tried anywhere from one to six recipes per country (some were easier to find recipes for than others).

Making Mexican Hot Chocolate
The girls made Mexican hot chocolate
using a recipe found in a children’s cookbook.
They also made Mexican scrambled eggs
that morning for a complete breakfast.

French Green Bean Recipe
Sophia is holding a green bean sidedish
using a French recipe. 

Olivia Making Swedish Rolls
Olivia is making Swedish cinnamon rolls.
The recipe came from a local church cookbook
that had a whole section on Swedish cooking
(we live in a community that was founded
by Swedish immigrants).

The kitchen is more than a place to cook and bake food.  With homeschooling, the kitchen also becomes an area to do science experiments and hands-on activities.

One of the science lessons that the girls did focused on marine life and pelicans. Apparently a pelican can hold 13 1/2 quarts of water in its pouch. The water drains out, leaving only the fish which the pelican then can swallow and eat.

Sophia Being a Pelican
Sophia trying to catch a marshmallow
as part of a science lesson about pelicans.

In the photograph above, there are 2 marshmallows in the sink representing fish. Sophia’s job is to catch the marshmallows. It’s harder than it looks.

The girls learn best when they can make a hands-on, tangible connection with the subject about which they are learning.  This is so important when the concept might be more difficult for them (e.g., electricity) or would benefit from a visual example (e.g., lung capacity).

Lung Capacity Experiment
Olivia learning about lung capacity.
She took a deep breath and then blew air through the tube
that led into the water-filled 2-liter pop bottle.
The air would push out the water from the bottle
and show how much air was in her lungs.

Sometimes when we’re cooking, the girls learn new words or make a connection between what they’re cooking with something else they’ve heard or learned.  For example, when we were making cheese, the curds separated from the whey.  They immediately made the connection with the nursery rhyme they had heard many times:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Cheesemaking - Curds Separating from Whey
Learning to make cheese.  In the process,
the girls saw the curds and whey separate; and
made the connection of a nursery rhyme they heard.
(The curds are the white part; the whey is the liquid.)

For one nature study, we focused on learning about dandelions.  In addition to the science part of the study, we added a culinary component where we made dandelion cookies, dandelion vinegar, and dandelion oil/salve.

Making Dandelion Oil for Salve
Olivia making dandelion oil.
The oil can be used as a base to make salve.

The kitchen also is a place where the girls create things for the holidays and different seasons. 

Borax Snowflake - Step 3 - Sophia
Sophia making borax snowflakes.
Homemade Marshallows for Valentine's Day
Olivia holding homemade marshmallows
she made for Valentine’s Day.

Gretel Waiting for Pumpkin Guts
Sophina carving a pumpkin while Gretel looks on.

An important part of our time in the kitchen is when we make food to help others.  We have made many meals and desserts for people experiencing medical/health challenges; and have chosen to donate some of our food to those in need. 

Cereal to Donate
The girls packaging up some of food to donate
to an organization that serves people who are homeless.

We also make food for animals – treats for the dogs, cats, and horses; and for wildlife.  Making food for the hummingbirds to drink during the summer and suet for the birds during the winter are regular activities. 

Sophia Helping Make Bird Suet on a 25 Degree Below Zero Day
Sophia making suet for the birds on a
very cold 25 degree BELOW zero day.
Needless to say, the birds needed the energy
and were constantly eating the homemade suet.

Seeing how excited the animals are to get a treat…and to see the variety of birds that now visit the feeders is a lot of fun.  Being able to observe animals up close (especially birds) is such a highlight of homeschooling.
So many subjects are covered in the kitchen beyond home economics – reading, math, science, community service, and geography. The kitchen truly is one of the centers of learning for homeschooling…and one of our favorite places to learn! 

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