Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Creepy Crawlies

It's our first official week of summer! I'm in my element in the schedule, no lunches to pack (unless it's a cooler for all of us.) I love summer - the pace, the heat, the boredom. Yes, even the boredom. In this fast-paced world we live in, where children are as over-scheduled and stressed-out as adults, I find boredom to be a sign of accomplishment. Ella starts most mornings with the questions, 'Do we have a plan today?' I enjoy the feeling of saying no. 'Nope. No plan. We'll just see what the day brings us.' Sometimes this is an acceptable answer, and sometimes not.

Don't worry. The kids have things to do. Have you seen our backyard? It's a mecca of kid-friendly things...a firepit, a playground, a sandbox, a fairy-house garden, an actual garden - with food, a backporch, a zip-line, a driveway for bikes and chalk. And the pool. Can't forget the POOL! (though I do find it amusing that we had a week of hot weather, just prior to the end of school, but now we're in the upper-60s/lower-70s.) I keep promising the return of heat. It will come, just be patient.

But boredom is the catalyst for many things...and at this age, when messes and boredom-driven mistakes are minor, it usually means imaginations can kick into high-gear. Better yet, boredom can mean it's time to learn! For those who haven't heard, we will be homeschooling next year. Calum will return to Montessori for his Kindergarten year (such an important year!), while Ella & I navigate our way through the subjects. I 'declare' her as a homeschooler in just a few months, but we've been teaching & learning at home all year. Many friends and family ask, 'When will you 'officially' begin homeschooling? When will you start, officially?' I tend to smile at this question -- I remember asking it of my friends, and now realize why they also smiled. 'Well. I guess I officially started homeschooling on August 1st, 2005, and haven't really stopped since.' You see, homeschooling, at least the way we plan on doing it, is just an extension of what we already do. My kids are home with me, and this means two things...1) my house is usually a mess, and 2) I get to encourage & support their learning.
This month, June, is BUG month. Everything bugs. We have bug books. We have a bug calendar, thanks to Carisa over at 1+1+1=1. We have YouTube and all its Bug-glory. We have the State Arboretum near us, along with a host of nature trails . We have monarch caterpillars headed our way from Insect Lore. I have 'parts of a bug' activities and 'life-cycle' work, galore! But best of all...we have a backyard, and four kids that like to talk about bugs.
 Here's how this whole 'teaching at home' thing works for us. Here's how it plays out in our day. Most days, I try to have an 'invitation to play' activity. An 'invitation to play' is simply something I've planned and set-up for the kids to do. Planning can take days...or 7 seconds. Just all depends on my mood, their mood, and the amount of caffeine coursing through my veins.

Our first Bug'esque activity was to make melted crayon butterflies. We started by peeling and compiling a bunch of old crayons. Interestingly, Oliver is the only one who saw this part of the project all the way through. He has some staying-power, I tell ya. We see it more and more everyday. Give him a job and he'll do it like no-bodies business. The rest of the crew took some time sorting, peeling, and smashing the crayons but after about 15-minutes, they had moved on. 'Tis fine. Oliver and I spent some extra time together learning our colors (age-appropriate learning opportunity #1.) And I got an extra turn with the rolling pin beating the hell out of a plastic bag full of crayon bits (HUGE stress-reliever, all in the name of kids craft!) After some lessons on patience, turn-taking, color-mixing, thermal energy, and safety (age-appropriate learning opportunities #2, 3, 4, 5, & 6) - we had these little beauties to hang in our kitchen.

An hour or so following our crayon-melting excitement, Oliver and Adam found a Cicada nymph in the backyard. Adam must have dug it up while doing some yard-work and Ollie, always on the lookout for something to impress the older brother, saw the baby bug. This little creature provided me with two hours, TWO HOURS, of  uninterrupted & focused learning, for all of us. Here's how it went down....Bug discovered. Bug book retrieved. Cicada nymph identified. Description of said bug, read. Questions emerge. Computer booted. Life-cycle information gathered. Cicada-video watched - Questions emerge. Expansion of subject continues. Multiple bug videos observed. Computer error occurs (Calum hit the wrong button.) BAM! Now we're on to awesome-cool science experiments. Another 45-minutes passes and the kids now have me trying to find a dry-ice resource so we can do a handful of these science experiments. I got saved by a birthday party...otherwise, I would have been foraging for dry-ice

Daddy couldn't resist...

We had great weather over the weekend and on Sunday, we got out of the house and onto a trail. On the way there, I asked the kids what kind of creatures we might see on the trail...turtles, bees, butterflies, wombats, rattlesnakes, and cougars all topped the list. They were most excited for the creek, which was our eat-drink-and be merry point. We'd eat there, and drink there, and probably get a little muddy there. Turns out, I was right.
Being ever so careful in keeping her skirt dry.
From our adventure to the creek, we now have a list of little creatures that we identified. This week, I will find pictures of those little bugs, print and laminate them, add some written labels and Calum can practice his letters & sounds (age-appropriate learning activity #7,) and Ella can practice alphabetizing them (#8) and perhaps write a story about our adventure. It's time to introduce some writing concepts to her so we will explore the 'beginning, middle, and end' of our narrative (#9.)

The setup
 And this brings us to yesterday and today. Yesterday's invitation to play was to make a bug using re-purposed egg cartons, googly eyes, glue, paint, and pipe-cleaners. Providing very little direction and hoping for some cool creations, I watched as each child explored these materials. Ollie and Drew were first and Calum waited until three minutes before bedtime. Ella, as usual, learned from the mistakes of the twins (too much paint takes a VERY long time to dry,- #10) but wanted her bug all but completed before Calum's bug....nothing like a healthy dose of sibling rivalry.

This was the scene halfway through...
You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see the four finished bugs. We have some interesting leg positions, colors, and eye-amounts. I suspect the painting isn't over and that we'll need some additional embellishments (glitter, stickers, spiny things) as these little things take shape.

And last night, before bed, I created a butterfly for our learning wall (the big wall in our office that seems to be a great place for visual learning.) I plan to add an ant and a spider but for now, the butterfly is our start. I labeled this pretty little thing (learning opportunity #11) and made labels for Ella. Today, when she is looking to do some quiet, challenging work, she can alphabetize the labels and practice writing them in her journal (#12 & 13.) I wrote the parts of a butterfly in Calum's handwriting book and he can practice his penmanship as well (#14.) I will also spend some time with him today reviewing the letter sounds on our wall (#15.) He'll be reading in no time...
 Our morning hours today will be filled with a host of learning opportunities...math, science, language, health, manners, etc. We're headed in for some annual check-ups --- all four at the doctors office, in a room fit for two. This should be interesting... 

1 comment:

  1. Hi! This sounds sooooooooo awesome. I wish I had your patience and creativity! If you are still looking for dry ice, let me know - There is a little store up the road from the boys' barber that had a sign out on Sat. advertising the fact that they sold some. The store is on the side road up the street from Grand Furnishings... I will find the name and send it to you if you would like. Hug the kids for me!