# Shapes and Figures

Marshmallows make everything more fun.  We pulled out the marshmallows and toothpicks to explore our shapes and figures.

We talked about the edges, vertices, area and volume.  The kids made the basic figures (pyramid, triangular prism, rectangle, square) and then they started building more elaborate figures.

Other activities that we did along this theme:

Guess the Polygon–one person draws a polygon, keeps it hidden, and then tries to describe it for the rest of us to draw, using explanations like, “Draw a line perpendicular to the first line, starting from the right end of the line going up.”  We tried using words like perpendicular, parallel, horizontal, vertical, and 90 degree angles.

Diagram the Shapes–We drew a Venn diagram to explain the relationship between  quadrilaterals, trapezoid, parallelograms, rectangles, and squares.  This was really fun for Bean because she’s always liked coming up with statements like, “All busses are cars but not all cars are busses.” (Not even sure that busses count as a car, but her statements aren’t actually always true and you get the idea.)

Everyday Shapes–we walked around one day finding shapes and figures in our house.  The kids took pictures and then I let them draw over them in Photoshop. We had to learn a little about how to draw in Photoshop (I really need to find a class for myself so I can learn everything PSE does), but the kids had fun with this and picked up on the computer stuff really quickly.

Bug’s Shapes above and Bean’s below

# Science Days

Once a month, the kids have a science class at Discovery Place.  They have covered topics such as the skeletal system, ecosystems, rocks, engineering, and this month–matter.

They do a lot of hands on activities in these classes, which of course is the best way to learn science.

Usually, we make these Discovery Place days and spend several hours down there.

This month, it was matter month all over the museum.

We learned about the science behind a bowl of spaghetti,

spent some time exploring how different solids act,

and magnets.

We played with some atom demonstrations,

built some molecules.

The little guy learned about liquids.  Like how it makes you very wet when you dump buckets of it all over your legs and feet.

Bug spent some time building,

first in miniature,

and then they all joined in to build on a bigger scale.

These science classes have given us something fun to do each month and have guided our science learning by opening our minds to new questions and topics.

# Sick Days

One thing that is very different between homeschool and regular school are our sick days. For the case of sniffles or a cough that might be just a little too much to send to school, we try to push through, which I guess earns us an extra day they wouldn’t have had if they’d been attending a traditional class.

But it only takes one family member sick enough to be completely cranky and/or bedridden to throw the whole thing out of commission. It’s not like in a classroom, where the sick kids stay home and the teacher can work with who is there. Or like in a family, where the well kids go off to school, away from the sickies, and get educated. It’s all rolled into one messy ball.

We’ve been passing around one, or possibly two, illnesses for over a week now and not much schooling is going on. First, it was Peanut, who probably has the biggest affect on what we can do because he’s the neediest and when he’s sick and I have to carry him around (no, snuggling on the couch isn’t good enough for him–he wants us up and moving!) constantly or listen to him scream, its pretty hard to get much done.

Then, Bug got it and while he’s easy as far as sick kids go, he does get bored lying on the couch for days on end, not feeling well enough to read or do anything. The TV has been on a lot to help pass the time, and once that comes on, Bean is completely lost to me. Technically, she should have been able to keep going with things, and I’ve pushed her to do some math and reading each day, but the TV is like a magnet to her. She just can’t hear or see anything else when its on.

And so, we have spent hours watching mindless TV (with a couple educational things thrown in there), blowing noses, and trying to keep our food in our bellies where it belongs. At least we don’t get sick very often.

# February Slump

I’ve read a lot of people talk about the slump-time in homeschooling. Actually, I think it happens in traditional school settings, too. Winter has been dragging on, everything feels old and dead, and it’s just hard to get excited about much of anything.

I feel like we’ve hit that place this last week. It’s been gray, wet, cold, and school has been a challenge. The kids have been more tempermental than normal, and I just can’t get excited about planning much of anything. Luckily, we had a couple science classes out of the house this week, and we always have our reading which has actually gotten us moving this last week.

This week, we were studying the author, Cynthia Rylant, and reading Gooney Bird on the Map, by Lois Lowry.  One of Cynthia Rylant’s books, Tulip Sees America, which highlights a few places that Cynthia Rylant has lived got the kids interested in mapping out where they have lived and we played a couple rounds of Destination USA, which has been a great game for getting the kids familiar with the states.

Then, when we read about the kids in Gooney Bird’s second grade class who made a map of the U.S. in the snow on the playground, the kids immediately began talking about how they could make a map.

We finally decided on playdough.  Our maps may not be quite as big as the playground map, but they had a lot of fun making them and served the purpose of giving us something to do on a rainy Friday.

Bean even included the mountains (as close to what she could as possible–we talked about how hard it must have been to be a cartographer when you are trying to map out the land without being able to see it from a bird’s-eye view.)

We were also inspired by another of Rylant’s books, a memoir called The Relatives Came and started a really fun writing project that I’ll have to share when we have finished.  I love how books can ignite our creativity and get us thinking of something new.

So, even in our slump weeks, we managed to learn a few new things.  But we are anxiously waiting for spring and sunshine and motivation to return.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx

We’ve developed a pretty good routine with reading this year, and I will admit that this is what keeps me feeling that we’re on track with school. We may have a slumpy week (isn’t February a hard month for most people?), but we still do lots of reading, so we’re still learning every day. And often, the reading will inspire new tangents that get us going again.

So how does our reading work? Well, first, we always have a chapter book going that I read aloud with the kids. This year, we’ve read a couple Magic Treehouse books, The Secret Garden, Because of Winn Dixie, Gooney Bird on the Map, The BFG, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, and most of the Key to the Treasure series. Some of these books have pretty much just been fun reads that the kids wanted to read, but most have inspired other activities and writing projects and they’ve all gotten us talking.

We also have quiet reading time each day for about an hour while the Peanut naps (and depending on how the night was, I either nap or read, too). The kids are both pretty good about reading for most of this time and sometimes Bean doesn’t want to quit if she’s in the middle of a good book, but every now and then, they’ll be writing or creating (meaning, Bug has a million pieces of cut up paper all over his bed, along with half the art supplies). Hard to get too upset with them for going with their imagination.

Along with these, I also try to have a book on CD for while we’re in the car. We have a few different classes we participate in that are 20-30 minutes from the house, which is perfect to fit in a chapter or two. We’ve listend to most of the Little House on the Prairie series this year, along with some of the Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins books. I love that we get to use our car time for something other than everyone yelling and fighting which is what it seems to desolve into otherwise.

We also use books for most everything else we learn about as well–lots of animal non-fiction books, picture books, poetry, memoirs or biographies about the artists and other people we study. We’ve been doing author studies for the last few weeks, where we focus on one author at a time and read several books by them and learn about their life, which I’ll post more on soon.

No matter what else we forget to do this year, we are reading.

# Day of Love

We did a few fun Valentine’s related things recently.  We started with this art project–a little experiment in color mixing which we used to make a few valentine’s for extended family.  The kids had a lot of fun mixing paint and I love how they finished products look!

And then, today, we started out with some candy math.  I’m not a huge fan of the conversation hearts so I went with a different candy, but used the same idea that I always see with those–the kids charted how many they had of each color.

I thought it would be fun to compare their two graphs.

So then we were able to make a chart using greater than/less than.  Of course, their favorite part was eating them all in the end.

After that, it was time to make some valentine’s for the birds.  We’ve done peanut butter and birdseed on pinecones at Christmas many years, so this time we just adapted it and used cardboard hearts.  They aren’t quite as stable for the birds to stand on while eating, but at least the chickadees are able to eat.

Next up was a treat for the human part of the house–heart shaped dinner rolls.  They kids have been taking turns helping me bake each week–good fraction and measuring math, as well as some practical skills in the kitchen.  These were a little hard to shape and some turned out more like odd-shaped Mickey Mouse heads, but it was fun.

We finished up the day at an 18th century Valentine celebration at a local plantation.  One of several homeschool days they offer each year.  They taught us a little about the history of valentine cards and a couple stories from the plantation’s history of secret admirers, and then had old games for the kids to play, cooking demonstrations over the fire, and plenty of farm animals to keep the youngest’s attention, including an 11 month old donkey named Oreo.

## Happy Birthday, Abe!

### Image

Today, we celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

Log cabins made from pretzel sticks.

A little Magic Treehouse and the facts to go along with it (And just as a side note, I think this was my favorite Magic Treehouse book to date.  Something about it was just really fun, and touching, at the same time.

I wish we’d had a little more time because I’m sure there are a lot more fun things to do, but we’ve added good ol’ Abe to our timeline and have a little better idea of how he grew up and his family life.  Happy 204th birthday, Mr. Lincoln!