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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our October Sensory Box

When I start thinking about a new unit for the upcoming month, I base it around one of two things: a really awesome idea I have for a sensory box, or a really awesome idea I have for art projects. For the month of October, I based our unit around a really awesome sensory box I wanted to make. I knew I didn't just want a tub full of pumpkins, and, though I wanted to stay with the traditional halloween colors, I knew the tub would still need lots of different sizes, shapes, textures and objects. About 6 weeks ago, I found a package of orange, black & clear diamond shaped plastic pieces that came in various sizes and I knew it would be a perfect to add to the base for our tub. I thought I wanted a base of black gravel (like what you might use in an aquarium), but when my mother-in-law found these large black aquarium rocks I quickly changed my mind. I liked that they would add some new dynamics to the box, such as their heavy weight, their smooth texture, and their unfinished shape. The other item I used as a base is halloween colored shredded paper, which can be found in the gift wrap isle at most stores. I also threw in some miniature pumpkins I had used for a wreath. After that I went, as I like to call it, dumpster diving at the Target Dollar spot, the Dollar Tree next door to Target, and in my craft closet. I found lots of awesome things to add to the box that would spark some conversation and use their imagination.

Here are my dollar goodies I found:
* Rubber skeleton & bats
* Rubbery/stretchy spiders and skeletons
Our animals for the month are cats & bats, so it was important to me to have the bats in the tub. Since skeletons are a big part of Halloween, I thought we would focus on our bodies/skeletons one week during the month. I've found a bunch of fun teaching tools for skeleton week. I was really excited to find one that was more "natural" looking, and then some rubber ones, so that we could talk about long and short.
 * These are those things I played with as a kids. They are a thin rubber layer on the outside, and the inside is filled with a liquid gel & glitter, and then there are little plastic toys added. Since these are Halloween themed, one has little bats, and one has creepy/crawly bugs. When you squish them in your hands, they can "jump" right out! The kids have never had a toy like this, so it's been a lot of fun watching their reaction.

* This is really neat. The texture itself is quite different that anything the kids have been exposed to, so that is what drew me to this toy in the first place. Then I found the switch on the bottom.. it changes colors! It was such a neat item to add to the tub I had to have it.

* The kids love playing with dress up stuff, so the bat ears were a must! The other dress up stuff I found weren't exactly age appropriate or subject matter I wanted to get into yet (for example: devil ears), so that's what they got. I also threw in an eye patch, two orange beaded necklaces and some bracelets.
* The rubber snake is a toy my kids have been playing with a ton lately, so I threw it in the tub, too.
* The plastic tweezers are a must: I encourage them to use the tweezers to pick up tiny things in the tub. Not pictured is a plastic measuring cup to scoop up lots of things at once. It's one cup.

Some of the other stuff:

* Lots of fun pumpkins in different shapes & sizes. There is a gold one and one covered in glitter.
* Halloween themed beads. I had a package of pumpkins and a multi package, that came with spiders, webs, & candy corn

* Sequined balls. They are very lightweight and shiny/pretty.

Here is a close up of the tub:

Monday, October 24, 2011

The week of the Apple, part two

The rest of our week was a lot of fun because it ended with a baking day! But, before we get to that, lets talk about language arts. Our color for the week was RED, so we did our usual letter sheets (one a day until we spelled out the word). We also worked on beginning sounds matching (as you can see on the top left). I let Abigail work on coloing the apples, cutting out the squares, and matching them to the correct picture. She did fabulous! I let my son use my daughter's work sheet - not quite ready to give him the scissors!

Another project we did was matching upper and lower case letters. I found these sheets online and cut them out! They were an awesome teaching tool, and I plan on using this idea again later on with a different shape.

Here are some art projects we worked on during the week: 
Apple Stamping:
I used small cookie cutters to make the shape in the center of the apple.

I made apple cutouts and gave them stickers:

Do you remember the post where I talked about our books for the month? Well turns out that How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World is the best kids book I have ever read. Ever. Immediately after we finished reading it my kids wanting to make an apple pie. The concept of the book is this: a little girl wants to make a pie, but she is out of ingrediants, and her local market is closed. She then travels from country to country gathering what she needs from the original source: she gets her sugar from sugar cane in Jamaica, she gets milk from a cow in France, etc etc. Then, she goes back home and makes her apple pie with all her fresh ingrediants she has gotten from all over the world. Awesome. In love. I just thought this was the coolest thing ever. It was such an incredible book and I was so glad my kids loved it as much as I did.

I already knew that by the end of the week we'd be making a real apple pie, but I decided to use some play-doh to practice our pie skills, and reiterate the lessons we just learned from the book. In our class for the month, I had already put together this basket for our "real life" corner of the room. I paired it with our wooden microwave.

Our "baking accessories"

This was a pretty fun project. The kids use cookie cutters to make red & green doh apples. They used mini tart pans and smushed their play-doh pie crust into the pan, then put their apples inside.They rolled out some doh and cut it into strips to make the top crust, and I showed them how to interlace it. Brody was in charge of putting the pies into the "oven" and Abigail was in charge of getting them out with a hot pad. (: 

Our real apple pie baking adventure went relatively the same way, with a few difference:

 First, we used real apples & cut them up. We have kid utensils, so I allowed my daughter to use her knife and cutting board to help slice some up. She did awesome. Brody prepared for the pie in other ways.... the kids measured out everything we needed for the homemade crust and the pie filling. Here are a few more shots from the baking day:

It was a good day. (: 

The week of the Apple, part one

It's been over a month since I've blogged about our home school, and for that I apologize. However, we have been staying busy, learning lots of things about fall, fruits, animals, and baking, and I can't wait to share all our pictures with you.

The second week in september we focused on Apples -- this was by far my favorite lesson for the month. We started day one with a little bean bag toss. A couple months ago I found some apple fabric at one of our local craft stores and grabbed a bundle of it. I sewed some little pouches and, being the good southerner I am, stuffed a bunch of red beans I had laying around inside. VoilĂ  - apple bean bags! I lined up a couple hula hoops my mother-in-law had given us and we had a fun 15 minutes to start the week off with! The kids had a lot of fun tossing - all the while learing about the "force" of a throw and doing a little adding and counting, as well. Learning can be fun! (:

Circle time for the week started with an outline of an apple, and 5 blank letter spaces. I love starting the week off like this because it spurs immediate interaction and thinking. We start with introducing the theme for the week - and then we sound out the word. I say the word over and over slowing it down each time, and by the fifth or so time they are able to shout out the letters. My second child is actually doing far better than my first one did with letter sounds (at that age), and I, for one, am super impressed with how well he is able to match letters to letter sounds so early. Anyway - we write the letters to the word out, and then we - together - color the object. The kids love doing this with me, I assume because they like feeling like they are apart of the 'lecture,' - which is another reason I LOVE home school so much. It's such a smaller ratio and the kids are able to get more hands on interaction with things (and me). The next thing we do is talk about basic properties of our word. In the case of the apple, we talked about apple colors, where the grow, who can eat them (people/certain animals), the fact that it's a fruit (because it grows above ground), and the shape. I try to let them lead this conversation as much as possible, only giving them clues if they get a little lost (what shape is the object? who eats it? where does it grow? etc.).

The other thing I introduced to circle time this week was the felt apple in pieces. The kids LOVED this. We talked about the different layers of the apple, and examined them. They learned the words for each layer, the use for that particular layer (the stem connects the apple to the tree, the skin protects the inside, the seeds help make new apples, etc), and they were so excited to use their new vocabulary words when we cut into real apples later in the week.

Okay I have to pause for a moment and stress again just how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE watching these kids learn. It is so exciting as a "teacher" and amazing as a parent to see them learn new concepts and use them in their daily life. You can tell how excited they are to know new information and use it practically. They are excited to tell people what they know and what they've learned, and it's two fold for me as the mom/teacher, as I feel so PROUD of them for learning and retaining, and I feel so proud of myself to have taught them these things they are learning. Ah! I love it.

Okay, moving along...

I'm going to end this post with our math lessons this week. I had a lot of fun and I think they did as well. for the first lesson, we borrowed the numbers & word numbers I had made for a project last week, and some plastic apples from our Hi-ho cherry game, and worked on some counting and word  recognizing skills. With Brody, I had him use the numbers and count out apple into each muffin. Though he can count to ten verbally, we are still working on counting out objects. The little apples severed another purpose, as I had them in a small container and his little fingers had to pick them out - fine motor skills at it's best (I love incorporating multiple skills into one lesson). With my oldest, I used the word numbers (I just placed them over the other set in case she needed help) and let her count them out that way.

On the second worksheet they had to color apples according to the word that was written on the apple. For example, four apples had the word "a" written in them (and those apples should be colored yellow), four apples had the word "that" written in them (and those were to be colored green), and so on. For my younger one, I changed the words inside the apples to "mom," "dad," "Brody" (his name), and "Abigail" (his sisters name). I made them count and color. The third page is pretty self-explanatory, as it's a dot-to-dot, which my daughter specifically asked to have at home school.

With my daughter we are working on pencil grip and staying inside the lines while coloring, as well as word recognition/matching. With my son, though I say we are working the same things, I take what I get. I understand that some concepts are going to be above him, and there is a learning curve between the two so I don't push anything that causes frustration that I know is above his age level. With that said, I do think it's important to introduce these concepts - I don't believe in "it's too early" on learning. (:
Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our last day of the fox

At some point over the 4-day Labor Day weekend, we finished up our fox unit, and our first week of home school. It was a productive day! We tied up our unit with going over everything we had learned that week. They practiced writing the letter "X" (if you remember, earlier in the week they had done "F" and "O"), and we sang a new song I had found about foxes.

Sometimes the kiddos are sweet and work together while I am prepping for our day. Abigail is really big on "working as a team" right now, in whatever capacity that may be. I know at her preschool, they had "team art" earlier in the week, so that may be where it has come from. That... or Wonderpets. (:

This has been my latest difficulty, I suppose. Abigail wants to do everything as a team, and it's just not possible. They both work best when I'm giving them individual attention for the more difficult tasks (writing & math), but when I am working with Brody during his time, Abigail still wants my full attention to help her build with blocks or color on the art boards. She is such a time monopolizer! (;

As the norm, my favorite part of class time was our art project. I had cut out some fox shapes the week before, so I put those in a box, along with some crayons, googly eyes, glue sticks and glitter. I let the kids pick how they wanted to decorate their foxes, and I just helped assist. They really enjoyed being able to make their own choices - even if those choices were limited to what was in the box. It was adorable. Brody - who will do anything Abigail does - decorated his fox EXACTLY how Aba did. here are a few pics:

And finally, here is a pic of all of our work from the last day of the fox unit:

Thanks for sticking with me through this journey of home schooling! Stay tuned for my favorite theme  from this month -- the apple!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Our books for the month of September

Here's a look at some of our reading choices for the first month of home school. If you recall, our overall theme for the month is FALL & FRIENDS, with a focus on the fox, apples, trees & leaves, and fall itself. On Monday, we read one of Abigail's favorite books, My Lucky Day by Kasza, and we ate spaghetti for lunch, just like in the story! The rest of the week, we are choosing from these books about school:

For our apple week, here are the reading choices:

I just love national geographic books for kids, so I was so excited to find this one about apples.
Here are our books for the tree/leaves week:

And of course, our books for Fall week:

I am so excited to get through all these books. I may or may not have already flipped through/read them. I love reading and I know my kids love it, too. It's so fun to incorporate these fun books into our monthly theme! (;

Day two : success!

I am SO happy to report that our second day of home school went much better than the first day. Instead of trying to teach them both the same thing at the same time, I split things up. Abigail started the day working on her math and word matching. She was able to count foxes on a page, and match it with a number. Then, by using our zero-10 number board, was able to match the word number to the actual number. She was really proud of her self for being able to do this (mostly) unassisted! Like I mentioned before, she does very well working alone after the explanation of a project is given. I was so proud of her! 

While Abigail worked on this, Brody played by himself. He explored our art corner, coloring the fox I had drawn on the page earlier that morning. He also explored our sensory box, and we talked about bigger, smaller, and the same. He made rows of items that were the same, and arranged the items from small to big.

Abigail helped, too. With her, we talked about things from the box that were the same and different. She was able to identify 5 things between the apples that were the same, and five things between the two leaves that were different. We touched on different senses, comparing the way the apples & leaves looked (shape & color), felt (heavy/light/smooth/rough), etc. She did very well identifying the various properties of the different items from the sensory box.

For fine motor, we worked with Play-doh, which was the kids' favorite part of the day. They LOVE Play-doh and beg me to play with it all the time, so that's a plus. We spent the most amount of time on that. They were able to roll out their doh, use cookie cutters to make shapes & imprints (we stuck with fall themed cutters, like the horse, an apple, etc). The other doh tool I introduced was a plastic knife and plastic scissors. Last year, one of the only things the preschool teachers at the school talked to me about was using scissors -- I has specifically never introduced them in our house since my youngest one was so little. So this year, we are starting early. Brody did okay with scissors, but he will definitely need more practice as the year goes on. Over the summer, Abigail and I worked on this book I had bought from in the spring, so she has had a lot of practice with scissors by now. 

Here are a couple other books I have LOVED using with Abigail:
Wipe Clean workbook numbers 1-30
Tracing and Pen Control
My First Wipe Clean Letters

I REALLY want this, though!
Brain Quest Pre-K Workbook
I love all their products!!

Here are a few more pics from Wednesday: