Monday, June 28, 2010

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

So I was talking with the boys this afternoon about finishing up our farm lapbook so we can do a short one about July 4th this week.  I asked Connor if he remembered why the Fourth of July was special (we talked about it a little bit last year, and he's read a couple of picture books independently in the last week or two).  He replied, "The Declaration of Independence!"

I said, "Good job!  But what *is* the Declaration of Independence?  Why was it important?"  Immediately he answered, "Because Jesus' disciples all signed it!"

Let's just say we'll be working on that July 4th lapbook. *grin*

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pizza Hut "Book It!"

We participated in the Pizza Hut "Book It!" program last year, and it was a great experience.  We used the program to challenge Connor to read books that were a little more challenging, and he loved getting the free pizza certificate every month.  It also made for a nice family night out, especially once they started their "any size pizza for $10" promotion (which, sadly, looks like it's supposed to end soon.)  The best part?  It's completely FREE.

I really appreciate businesses/organizations that are so open to homeschoolers, and I like the way the program is set up.  You have the flexibility to set your own reading goals for your children rather than being tied to preset requirements.  You can require a certain number of books, number of pages, or number of minutes of reading--whatever works for your child.  With Connor, we started off easy (a little too easy, we discovered!) and then got more challenging each month.

The deadline to enroll your homeschool is June 30, and you can enroll here.  It sounds like they'll accept enrollments later, but only as long as supplies last, so if you want to be sure, sign up now!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I am in love.

Connor has been working on reading books for summer reading programs through Barnes and Noble, Borders, Half Price Books, and our local library.  He's already done with B&N and Borders, and he's finished a week's worth (at least 15 minutes/day for 5 days/week) for Half Price Books, so we went to claim prizes tonight.  B&N was typical--I enjoy going, but the prices generally make it easy to come away without spending too much money.  He chose The Cricket in Times Square as his free book (which thrilled me *grin*)--we've listened to it on cd a couple of times and he really likes it.  The book is probably still a bit above him length-wise, but he'll grow into it!

Then we went to Half Price Books.  Oh My.  I don't know if I've ever been in one, and certainly I haven't shopped there since we started homeschooling.  I really think I'm in love.  Lots of wonderful children's books--fiction, non-fiction, used, new . . . at incredible prices.  I picked up two favorite picture books (paperbacks) by one of our favorite children's authors, Jan Brett, for $.98 each: Berlioz the Bear and The Mitten (I've probably spent more than that on late fees for each of them at the library!).

Brennan chose another favorite for his "prize": Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (an absolutely adorable book!).  He's not big enough to do the official summer reading bookstore programs, but he is reading easy readers and working really hard, so mommy and daddy are kicking in the reward!

I spent time drooling over books that would perfectly compliment what are are or will be learning in science and history.  Hardback anthologies of poetry for children or fairy tales for less than $10.  DK science or history books for $6.  AND they offer an educator's discount that is open to homeschoolers (I signed up, of course).  After a while I was mentally goggling, "Wow!  These prices really ARE low!  Most of this is HALF of what B&N was charging!"  Then came the head-slapping moment--the store *is* called Half Price Books.  Duh.

It's a good thing it was getting late and I had the boys with me.  Otherwise I would have spent hours there--I only got a couple of glimpses of books for me . . .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Zoo

Can I just say how much we are loving our membership at the Fort Worth Zoo?  We joined in March, and it's been a great "family time" activity as well as the perfect complement to homeschooling.  I love having the freedom to go whenever we want, and it's so nice to not have the pressure to see everything in one day, since that's nearly impossible.  We've been enough now that we know our way around, which really makes it feel like our zoo.

Feeding birds in Parrot Paradise

Hopping on for a ride!

Taking a spin on the carousel

Checking out a sting ray in the touch tank

Watching the river otter

Connor is doing life science this year, covering animals, plants, and the human body.  We're learning about various animals right now, and it's been a lot of fun to go to the zoo and see the animals that we're studying.  The Museum of Living Art (MOLA), the zoo's new herpetarium, opened just before we joined, and it's one of our favorite places to explore.  Since we've had an overview of amphibians and reptiles and then also an in-depth study of snakes, MOLA ties in quite nicely.  Connor was thrilled one day when he noticed that a coral snake's eyes looked cloudy, because he had learned that this meant the snake was getting ready to shed its skin.  Sure enough, when we went yesterday, we could see the discarded skin in the coral snake exhibit.  Lots of teachable moments (if I can get them to be still long enough!) and real-life examples--watching them basking under the lamps because they're cold-blooded, seeing an amphibian's smooth skin vs. a reptile's scales, seeing the heat pits that classify a snake as a pit viper, and of course, seeing lots of examples of camouflage.  Half of the fun is going from one aquarium-like cage to the next and trying to find its resident!

MOLA also has an interactive area where visitors can see (and often touch) animals up close and personal.  Again, this has been a great hands-on way to review, and both of the boys loved being able to touch the snakes that they've had out the last couple of times we've been there.

Even though I doubt it was intended when they chose the name for MOLA, I love the idea of thinking of these amazing animals as living, breathing works of art because it points to an artist--or rather, Artist.  Another great springboard for discussions: God's amazing creativity, His incredible attention to detail, His perfect planning.

The Fort Worth Zoo offers so many other great exhibits and attractions--I would be writing all day to try to describe them all!  Maybe I'll have to post again soon and focus on something else.  Suffice it to say that this has been a very good investment, and we're definitely getting our money's worth!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

LENS Photo Challenge: Nature Is My Classroom

This week's LENS Photo Challenge from Jenn at Home is Where You Start From is "Nature Is My Classroom."    I took this picture a couple of weeks ago on a trip to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.  I love the way he's flooded with light and the reflection of the water on his arm, but mostly I love his intent fascination on whatever he had found in the water.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Down on the Farm

Tractors, animals, getting dirty ON PURPOSE!  Most kids are fascinated by farms, and my boys are no exceptions.  We have friends who own a goat dairy, and our farm lapbook-in-progress gave us a good excuse, so we took a little field trip (only a couple of miles--one of the things I like about living in the country!) to see Mrs. Annette and the Coursey Family Farm.  The boys had been there before, so there weren't really any big surprises, but we tried to focus a bit more on the farming aspect of things this time.  Annette was very gracious (and patient!) with the boys, who seemed more interested in hanging out with the barn cats (who, alas, were not too interested in posing for pictures) than much of anything else. *grin*

Visiting the goats.  The farm has 15 milkers right now, each with a personality of her own.  
Although he was a little intimidated at first (the goats could easily go nose-to-nose with him!), I managed to convince Brennan to pet one of the goats.  It helped that this one froze as soon as Connor touched her--she obviously enjoyed the attention!

Making cheese with Mrs. Annette.  Connor is adding vinegar to the warm milk as Brennan stirs.  The vinegar separates the milk into curds and whey, a la good old Miss Muffet.  Can't say that I find her culinary choices terribly appetizing!

Pouring the separated curds and whey--the whey flows through the cheesecloth while the curds are caught and solidify into cheese (which is much more appetizing than the mixture!).  Brennan is discovering that the table where the pot had been was HOT!  I was impressed to learn that Annette had earned a second place ribbon for her cheese from the American Dairy Goat Association.  Not bad at all for a dairy that has only been up and running for a little over a year!

Trying fresh (cold) goat milk.  The verdict?  Connor gave it a thumbs up, Brennan wasn't so excited about it.

Speaking of drinking goat milk, the boys helped fill . . .

. . . and warm a bottle . . . 

. . . for this little guy, Midnight!  Isn't he cute?

He's a bit of a messy eater. *grin*

Checking out the chickens.  Connor thought it was great fun to run from one end of the pen to the other and watch the flustered birds cluck and scramble away.  

We also visited Percival, but unfortunately he wasn't in the mood to show off.  He's still beautiful, though.  My photography doesn't do him justice (hmm . . . maybe he knew that and didn't want to waste a good strut!).

Trampoline break!

Counting peaches.  He gave up somewhere around 50.

Pears--Brennan figured out what they were before Connor did!

Helping with farm chores!  Hauling out a bucket of feed . . .

. . . cleaning out hay stalks that the goats won't eat (but the cows will) . . .

. . . pouring in the goat feed . . .

. . . helping put out fresh hay . . .

. . . putting away chilled milk.  Connor also helped fill the goats' water trough, but my battery had died by that point!

We had a great time, and Annette was wonderful (she always is!).  I really appreciated her taking the time to share with us, and she really made an effort to make it fun AND educational for the boys.  Plus, she shared popsicles with us.  What more can you ask?  *grin*

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Letter to My Child

I was slogging through the 167 posts in my Google Reader (can you tell I've been neglecting it?) today when I came across A Letter to My Child at Heart of the Matter.  Christine expresses beautifully what I hope homeschooling is and will be for our family, especially this line:

"I hope you remember that Daddy and I chose this life. For you, for us. That we listened when God whispered that time is too precious, and that learning is a joy, and that we should spend all of it side by side."

I'm inspired to write my own, but I don't know that I could improve on this.  Perfect.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Too close for (mommy's) comfort

The boys spent the night with their grandparents (Oma and Opa) last night, and I'm sure they had a blast.  We enjoyed the peace and quiet! *grin*  Aaron drove over to pick them up this morning, and when they got back, Connor wanted to show me his souvenir of their little visit.  Carrying a bug house, he came over to the desk where I was working on balancing the checkbook.  I saw the bug house and I figured that he'd caught some interesting bug (they have some woods/brush on their property and we're always coming across interesting insects when we go over there).  I took a closer look.

There was a dead baby rattlesnake in my dining room.

Now, I'm not normally too squeamish, but it was tough to keep my cool for a minute there!  He rushed on with the whole story: he had been playing outside on the porch and heard the rattle and saw the snake behind one of the chairs.  He stayed well back, looked at it for a minute, then went to go get Oma.  A neighbor came and took care of the snake, and Connor got to bring it home, minus the head.  *shudder*  Now, a dead, headless poisonous snake is much better than a live one, but I was still pretty creeped out by how floppy and limp it was. I managed to suck it up long enough to touch it, but that's about as far as my maternal sacrificial spirit was able to go.  I refused his offer to let me hold it!

The snake before its untimely demise

Connor showing off his (headless) prize

Close-up later at our house (outside, NOT in my dining room!).  Connor wanted to coil it just like he found it, but I didn't want the headless end in the picture!

Close-up of the rattle

We were very proud of him that he remembered what to do and stayed away from it--the lapbook came in handy!  I was also proud to hear that he correctly identified it as a western diamondback rattlesnake (Oma said that he told her it might be an eastern diamondback rattlesnake, but that it was probably western).  I haven't let myself think very hard about what might or could have happened . . . I don't think I will.  Suffice it to say that we'll definitely be wearing boots when we go out in the woods over there!

You know, last year we did a lapbook about tornadoes.  A couple of weeks after that, we had a tornado at our house (a very small one, and we weren't home, thankfully!).  This year, we finish our snake lapbook and then a couple of weeks later Connor finds this rattlesnake.  We believe in hands-on learning in our homeschool, but really!  I'll have to think long and hard about all future lapbook topics!  Oooh . . . maybe the lottery . . .