Saturday, September 6, 2008

Friday, September Whatever-It-Was, 2008

Yesterday. We looked at a pinecone and discovered how it spreads seeds to make new trees. We reviewed the usual stuff.

I was up until 3:30 am writing the last chapter of a 72,000+-word novel, so forgive my brevity here. I'm tapped out.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thursday, September 3, 2008 - Urban Nature Sanctuary

The science museum owns a nature preserve, and that's where Isabel's science program - a hands-on program for kids aged 5-7 - met today. We went for a walk through the preserve (which they call an "urban nature sanctuary" - I don't know why, but that strikes me as funny) and were able to see and touch all kinds of plantlife, and some animals and bugs, too!

Tifft (the preserve) is wonderful. It's right in the city, but when you get in on the trails, it feels like you're a million miles away. We saw a family of egrets in one of the small lakes that dot the preserve, on our way out. Isabel loved watching them - we saw one fly away, and the others were fishing.

The paths go through forest and wetlands. In the wetlands area, a system of raised platforms allow visitors to walk over the water - we looked over the railings and watched frogs and turtles in the water. The frogs blend so perfectly with the surrounding water plants that staring right at one, you would be lucky to see it. We found several bullfrogs submerged, just their eyes peering up over the surface of the water. Dragonflies were everywhere. And the cattails grow so tall, they're all you can see in every direction.

The class instructor, Miss Meghan (who is just fantastic - we love her), pulled a cattail flower and let all the children rub it, to feel how fuzzy it is. Then she opened it up and showed us the seeds inside, which look very much like dandelion seeds. This fit very well with the seed project Isabel and I worked on yesterday. She showed us how the wind carries the seeds, and the seeds will land and sprout new cattails.

We also found a very neat nest of tent caterpillars. There were dozens - maybe even hundreds - of caterpillars wriggling around in the nest.

Evidence of beavers was everywhere, too. We saw a dam, some trees that have been downed by beavers, and a beaver lodge.

It was a fun time. We all went, so it was a nice family outing, as well. We plan to go again.

And now, we must examine ourselves for ticks before turning in for the night.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

Today was not nearly as busy as yesterday... we started with a walk outside, where we found some maple seeds (helicopters!) and leaves, and some fluffy and yellow dandelions.

Back home, we went over our address and phone number, and Isabel practiced writing her name. Then handwriting - we're on Starting Corner capitals right now (from Handwriting Without Tears) and worked primarily on "L", though we also reviewed several of the Frog Jump capitals. Isabel's handwriting is really coming along nicely.

We went back to vowel sound practice today, because the short vowel sound of "I" is still really tricky for her (odd, because it starts her name...). I think she's getting it now, though. We read a few practice sentences and I notice that the phonemic blending is beginning to take off as well. The issue we battle right now is Isabel's tendency to insert additional sounds, like sounding out i-s, and ending up with "its" instead of "is". In the process of blending her sounds, she often adds stops that are unecessary and lead her to add new phonemes to the word. This is a problem with "R" words, too, as another example - "red" becomes "ered".

I wanted to save the seeds for last, but Isabel was itching to get on them, so we moved on to our seed project. I wanted to just make a poster, but she decided she wanted to make a BOOK. We compromised on making several posters to cover different stages of the plant life cycle, which we'll then bind into a book. For today, we made a poster about seeds. Isabel sounded out and wrote "SEEDS", and drew a picture of seeds in the ground. She correctly identified the three things seeds need to grow (soil, water, sun) and we discovered how seeds are spread by examining the dandelion and maple seeds, and blowing them with our mouths and a hairdryer (um, they go really far this way). We discovered how the two seeds, even though they look very different, share the same structures. Isabel taped the seeds to the poster, along with what they will grow into (we used a leaf for the maple, no room to tape a tree to the page).

We ended our schoolwork today with two math worksheets from the Miquon orange book. Numbers are starting to make more sense to Isabel now, something I'm pleased to see. One of the worksheets had four rows, each with four boxes. Each box had ten shapes. In some of the boxes, a certain number of the shapes would be colored in - in that case, Isabel had to write that number (say, 7) in the box. In other cases, the number would be written, and Isabel would have to color in the appropriate number of shapes. But yet, in OTHER cases, the box would be blank, with no shapes colored in. And Isabel would have to predict what number SHOULD be in that box, based on the numbers elsewhere in the row. I thought this concept would be too advanced for her, but she actually got it. She further surprised me by correctly grasping that "0" meant coloring in NO shapes. She did very well. Then she built a fort with the Cuisenaire Rods. I guess that's what "fun with math" means.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008 (We're back!)

So, I got lazy over the summer. With the blog, that is. We were actually so busy I'm amazed I remembered to breathe, much less feed and clothe myself and two children. And although we kept up a basic level of schoolwork over the past few months, I didn't impose any sort of structured routine. When all the summer activities finished up, we earmarked today as the day to get back into a routine and kick off a new year.

Prep work for Kindergarten is pretty minimal, really. I printed off my list of NYS learning standards for K, and was pleasantly surprised to find that we covered most of them last year. This is good, as I was hoping to really focus on literacy and numeracy this year. Isabel is enrolled in a program at the local science museum, to augment our science studies, and I'm using those classes as a guide to other science activities at home. And so, it was with this guidance that we launched a unit on plants today.

We spent the morning and early afternoon at the Botanical Garden. We had an absolute blast. And we learned stuff, too. Isabel completed a scavenger hunt, finding flowers, plants and other items from throughout the gardens. We also reviewed the five senses and figured out which senses we could use in a plant/flower investigation; then, as we proceeded through various garden rooms, Isabel selected a plant or flower and used her senses to investigate it. We decided that taste probably wasn't a good sense to use for investigation plants and flowers, and I was ready to dismiss hearing, too, but Isabel thought we should use it. So in each space, we touched, smelled, looked and listened to the plants she selected. The palm tree was "REALLY huge!" and rough, and the magnolia smelled sweet. We watched koi in the koi pond and found a bunch of dinosaur topiaries - this was fun because we did a lot of reading about dinosaurs last month. Isabel was nervous in the cactus room when I explained that we can't touch the plants, but we rubbed the dirt in which the cactuses grow.

Once we'd made our way through the gardens, we headed outside to the childrens' garden. Both Isabel and Aidan had a great time playing. Isabel loved the water pumps, and Aidan enjoyed the sand pit. We looked at the flowers and other plants growing outside, as well. When we left, the children were wet and filthy, but happy.

Back home, we practiced writing Isabel's name, reviewed letter sounds and completed two worksheets (one on shape matching and another maze-type sheet for motor skills).

Some more pictures of our time at the Botanical Garden: