Friday, October 31, 2008

A ridiculous number of Halloween pictures

We painted pumpkins:

And ourselves:

And sometimes threw things on the floor:

Before trying to escape:

Isabel says green macaroni and cheese does NOT taste the same:

But Aidan didn't seem to mind:

Kiki and a hockey player, ready to trick-or-treat:

And don't forget about Jiji the cat:

"Mom, I have the perfect costume for you!" she says:

Happy Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Mom, I'm really worried."

So says Isabel. She's worried because if "Garack Obama" wins the Presidency, then John McCain will be sad. One of those moments when my child inspires me to be more forgiving than I would be if left to my own devices.

We've been talking a lot about the election this week - what the President does, what a government is, how elections work. We've compared governing a country and "governing" a family (ahem, Mommy would win if we held an election for President of our family) and created mock platforms for pretend elections. We've been tracking CNN's Poll of Polls map and seeing how the votes are predicted to fall. We explored the two-party system (no sense introducing unnecessary confusion, so I refrained from talking about how nice it would be to have more than two major parties...) and the basic differences between liberal and conservative political philosophies, in terms of taxes and government programs. War is not something with which the children are familiar and I plan to keep it that way for a good, long while, so for now that's it.

In our discussion of differing philosophies I emphasized the importance of tolerance and understanding and teamwork. Isabel, no real surprise, appears to be a liberal. It is possible that the Obama sign in our yard, Obama sticker on our car, Obama pin on my purse and recent political discussions have influenced her. I expect that when she hits a rebellious phase she'll declare herself a conservative and hole up in her bedroom with a pinup of Dick Cheney.

We hit two homeschool co-ops this week, one on Monday and one of Wednesday. The one Monday was really more of a simple get-together playtime. Wednesday was an art and music program, which both kids loved. Isabel liked the singing and even Aidan got in on it, doing some of the motions. Aidan also threw a dozen animal crackers in the garbage before I realized that he was not, in fact, eating them that quickly. At these co-ops, I get a huge kick out of watching the big kids interact with the little kids. They are consistently kind, gentle and patient with the littles. I've often heard it said that a benefit of homeschooling is that the children learn to interact with people of all ages, not only with same-age peers. I definitely see this to be true in our homeschool association. Even when the teenagers are being, well, teenagerey, they're still genuinely good kids who have awesome relationships with their parents and a real respect for the people around them.

Monday was also Irish dancing. The kids had a Halloween party in class. Aidan wants to Irish dance. When he turns 3, we'll have to get him in. He puts his hands behind his back and prances around. It's very cute.

Tonight we went on a tour of a local apple farm with the Girl Scouts. Isabel had a great time. She didn't look at us once the whole time - she was having too much fun with her friends to see what Mom and Dad and Aidan were up to. Since the tour was only an hour and it's 20 minutes from home, we stuck around while they had Scout-y fun. Bought apples and candy. Aidan LOVES apples. Loves them. I bought a bushel and reserved one, washed it in the bathroom, and gave it to him to eat. He ran around with it for 20 minutes and then tripped tragically, the apple rolling from his hands and across the filthy farm floor. He watched it go with huge, mournful eyes and immediately began to wail. When I tossed it out (too dirty to wash off!), he marched his self right back into the store and to the apple table, where he pointed at the apples and signed "more". Still crying. In case anyone is wondering, a single apple costs 23 cents. And if you buy your child that single apple, he will have approximately two bites before he decides he's "Ah Dah" (all done) with a casual shrug, as though he doesn't understand why you bothered buying it in the first place.

More reading and writing and math here. Isabel wants to do "hard math" now. Funny, because she doesn't seem to want to learn the "easy math".

Now, a couple photos:

Aidan doing the motions to a song.

I have some cute photos of Isabel singing and doing the motions as well, but they also prominently show the other kids. I'm not sure if that's okay or not, posting full face shots of other peoples' kids online. Oh well.

One last one of Aidan, when it was time to leave.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stuff we've done

Music has been a primary focus of the last few days. I've been talking to Isabel about storytelling through music, using a (greatly abridged) ad hoc adaptation of Les Miserables. We listen for different instruments, keep the beat and listen to how the music enhances the story by repeating musical themes and using happy and sad songs. Isabel is very distressed that people were mean to Cosette and made her clean. I am so glad I didn't tell her that half the cast dies. They all just "go away" mysteriously. We've also been playing with our piano, guitars and harmonica (that one's for Aidan), playing notes and hearing how they sound the same and different on a guitar and piano, even though they're both string instruments.

More about reptiles and amphibians, too. Isabel has suddenly gotten interested in what different animals and bugs eat, and reproduction. So we've been doing a lot of research online and in our books, learning what clams, worms, spiders, snakes and other creatures eat. We looked up how ants and crabs reproduce, both of which gave me the opportunity to talk about metamorphosis, tying in very nicely with the trip to the pet store I have planned in a couple days to look at tadpoles and frogs, and a metamorphosis project.

Reading. Isabel has read two early readers to me over the last two days. Heaven help me, these books are boring. She's getting it, though. I'm surprised by the ease with which she remembers phonics rules. Exclamation points are surprisingly difficult, though. Isabel thinks they click. Why, I have no idea.

We covered three Spanish lessons this week, too. I really need to get us into a Spanish class. There's one available, I just don't know that we have the time. My Spanish is painfully rusty. So far, all the simple things Hooked on Spanish covers, I know.

With the upcoming election, we've been discussing government in very simplistic terms, relating government rule to Mommy and Daddy rule in our house. (Confession: Isabel knows the Presidential candidates as "Garack Obama" and "That Man Mommy Says Shouldn't Smile Any More".) I think we're going to hold mock elections sometime in the next couple of weeks, most likely with dolls.

Tomorrow is homeschool co-op day. That will be fun.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reptiles, amphibians, a nature walk and other stuff, too.

Let's see. We've covered quite a lot so far this week.

Monday we did an "All About Me" project. Isabel drew a picture of herself and wrote her name, age and what she likes to do on the bottom. In all honesty, she lost interest in that project pretty fast. She also gave herself red hair because she wishes she had red hair like the little mermaid.

Yesterday was more fun - we're learning about retiles and amphibians. We read a few of the poems out of Eric Carle's "Animals Animals" (the ones having to do with reptiles and amphibians) and then looked at pictures of real reptiles and amphibians. We talked about how they are the same and how they are different, and how to tell the difference between them. Then I printed a bunch of pictures of various reptiles and amphibians, and Isabel cut them out and glued them onto a page divided in half - one side for reptiles and the other for amphibians. Isabel loves cutting and gluing, so that was a good time.

Today, we met up with the homeschool co-op at a local park and took a nature walk. That was really fun! Isabel collected leaves that I'm going to iron between wax paper later, and we watched squirrels, birds and chipmunks. After the nature walk, the kids all played while the moms visited.

Now, pics:

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's Fire Safety Month

I dubbed yesterday, "Safety Thursday!" Yes, the exclamation point is necessary. We took the day off from reading and writing and the abacus, and spent our time talking about fire safety and how to respond to other emergencies. It was all very exciting.
Isabel army-crawled through the house, slid down the stairs on her bottom, tore her quilt from her bed to jam against the base of her door, learned how to climb over the gate that blocks the kitchen, got to open the front and side doors by herself and run to our "meeting spot!", and practiced calling 9-1-1 (on the dead phone). Oh, and she learned to bring Rosie into the playroom and shut the door as she's speaking to the 9-1-1 operator, so that first responders will actually come into the house. Something about some people being intimidated by a pit bull, blah, blah, blah.

We also learned all about fire; that fire needs oxygen and how depriving it of oxygen makes it go out. We lit candles and put them out, and observed to learn which way smoke travels. Isabel spent all last night and most of today excitedly talking about her newfound emergency knowledge and said to me, at one point this afternoon, "Thanks for teaching me what to do in a 'mergency, Mom!" You're welcome, dear.

Nick worked Sunday, so today was actually our sixth day this week and we didn't do much in the way of schoolwork. While Aidan napped and I cooked noodles for lunch, Isabel came into the kitchen with her princess notepad and a pen, and practiced sounding out and writing words. And she graffitied her name all over my dry erase board, again. Our last name is fairly long, so she's pretty proud to know her whole name. I do wish she'd stop writing it all over my dry erase board, though.

Today was mostly a play day. The kids have been having a lot of fun with the dress up box lately. Rather, Isabel has been having fun dressing up Aidan lately. So, pictures of dress up fun...

Butterfly wings are fun. Isabel flutters her arms and flits about in her wings. Aidan puts his arms out in front of him like Superman and makes airplane noises while he flies:

And, sometimes, dressing up is just learning that you can put your brother in one of your outgrown leotards and knot a ribbon belt around his waist:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Two Wimmins"

Since Blogger is kind enough to date my posts for me, I've decided it's redundant for me to continue titleing with dates.

Today we met up with the homeschool co-op. Someone scored a huge load of unpainted ceramics off of Freecycle, so everyone brought supplies and the kids painted ceramics. Fun, fun, fun. Isabel did bookends of children in old-fashioned bonnets ("two wimmins," she calls them, not unlike the way my grandpa would say it) and some sort of little planter. She's not so much for the arts, so all three items are a solid, muddy red-brown. She loves them, though, and that's what counts. Or something like that.

Aidan had a blast. He thinks he's a big boy, and so trailed after the real big boys (the young-teen big boys) the entire time. They were playing ping-pong and gave Aidan his own ball and paddle to play with. He felt pretty important, outfitted to play, and made the rounds with his ball and paddle, showing off.

Isabel also played ping-pong and pool and, when the painting was done, most of the families stuck around at the playground outside. Only when it started to rain did we leave, having spent the better part of the day out.

When we got home, we did two worksheets and a new game we're playing - I spell words and Isabel writes down the letters and then sounds them out. D's and B's are a little tricky - I have to help with those sometimes.

It was a good day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reading and writing and math... oh, my!

Things are going quite well here. Isabel is not reading fluently yet, but is getting proficient with phonics. So three-letter words, look out! Belle can decode you all.

Handwriting is coming along very well, too, although I've noticed that Isabel has some trouble forming certain aspects of letters - specifically, upper-right to bottom-left diagonals. It's extremely subtle, so subtle that if I weren't right with her, watching her actually work the pencil on paper as she tried to form the letters, I probably wouldn't have noticed the pattern. So I've been leading some painting and follow-the-leader activities that simulate this same upper-right to bottom-left diagonal motion and, sure enough, it's a gross motor issue as well as fine motor. If we had the child in activities that used her arms as well as her legs, we probably would have noticed it sooner. Well, not true - it hasn't proven to be an issue in gymnastics, and they do use their arms in gymnastics. She's the T-Rex of athletes, what with her main outlets being the arm-less soccer and Irish dancing, though, so it's easy to miss arm issues. But, I digress.

Now, when Belle was a baby, she had arm tremors and generalized weakness until she was about 8 months old. It was the only holdover from her brain hemmorhage. Those issues seemingly resolved, but now I'm noticing this difficulty with the diagonals. I think it's most likely related. We have a neurology follow up in the next few weeks and I'm going to bring it up to Dr. K- and request a developmental evaluation. I don't think this is a major issue, but I want to work on it. We should probably also check to see if she has adequate arm strength, too, since that was a problem in her infancy. Still, not too shabby for a kid who's missing nearly half of her frontal lobe.

Math has been fun here lately. We bought an abacus and are working sums like crazy. The abacus seems to 'click' for Isabel in a way that the Cuisenaire Rods haven't. We still use the rods and like them, and they're really useful for demonstrating concepts, but Isabel likes the abacus more.

We've also been doing reviews of basic concepts - shapes, colors, tracing, cutting and pasting, etc. Blah. It's boring, but necessary. Belle doesn't find it boring, so that's good.

Our other maqjor topic right now is reptiles/lizards. This month's science group was on frogs, and that was very fun. The kids loved watching the frog eat. I'll be hitting the zoo and science museum with the kids in the next couple of weeks, to learn more about reptiles and lizards.