Nature Study: Owls

This spring we did a nature study of owls. We watched barn owls via a web cam (link to be included later) and charted the owlets growth. We read many books about barn owls. We visited our local aviary to watch the owls there (we had tried to catch the keeper talk on owls, but somehow missed it). We did owl crafts and fingerplays. And we finished our unit by dissecting owl pellets! M was fascinated, and asked if we could dissect pellets again sometime. I’m so glad I waited for my husband to help out with the dissecting project; even though the baby was sleeping on my back, I did need the extra hands to keep C on task and keep her from touching her face/mouth.

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Culture Club: Australia

Last week, my friend did an excellent job hosting our monthly Culture Club. We traveled down under to learn about her grandmother’s native land, Australia.

We drew mini-replicas of the Australian flag and their aboriginal flag.

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We studied Australian geography with the aid of a giant map drawn in chalk on the driveway. We learned about Australian animals with the book Over in Australia. We viewed some Australian artifacts, books, and pictures.

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And of course, we ate a delicious Australian feast!

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Back at home, we read more about Australia with the book, Australia ABC’s (as well as Over in Australia again). I’m glad I had library books this time; it was a great way to go over what we learned in Culture Club that morning. We also did a craft replicating aboriginal eucalyptus bark art, but I’m pretty sure this craft was not realistic in the least. We love doing crafts anyway and the girls had fun.

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Building Words

I have purposefully been taking it slow in regards to reading and writing for my 5-year-old. Her speech disorder makes language arts more difficult for her, so I have really tried to maintain the balance of encouraging her and letting her lead her own way. She loves writing and learning to read, so I think I am doing a decent job!

Over the last 6 months, here and there, I have introduced some phonics games/lessons. She has expressed interest in reading but hadn’t yet grasped the concept of reading the sounds to form a word. The last game we played (from the book, Games for Reading), she could read sounds from individual letters, but had a hard time combining the sounds to form words.

So I was pleasantly surprised when earlier this week she could combine sounds to form words with little guidance! I love these little affirmations that she will get there, in her own way, in her own time!

We did a variation on the game, Building Words, from the book, Playful Learning. I placed objects in a bag that represented CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. I chose CVC words with the vowel A: car, cat, dad, hat, lad, mat, and sat. Cards for each letter were placed on a table. Each child picked an object out of the bag and then had to form the word with the letter cards.

(I should mention that the 3-year-old loves to be included in everything, so she picked out objects too, but the spelling was left mostly to her older sister.) M would sometimes start with the last sound of a word (eg, she would pick t for the start of sat), but when I both reiterated to start with the beginning sound and slowed down my pronunciation of the word (saying each sound slowly, something that we do in her speech therapy), she was able to spell each word correctly! After spelling the word, we read the word together a few times.

We will definitely be playing this game some more! I think I will make a few different bags of words to place on her shelf for her to play with whenever she wants.

Wax and Wane

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the natural wax and wane that my family is allowed to experience with structured learning. The spring started out with a lot of structured, mama-directed learning, and ended with less structure and lots of living life to the fullest. These last few weeks we have been hiking a lot, viewing the eclipse, playing with friends, planting gardens, enjoying increased outdoor play and water play, watching the littlest go from first steps to fully walking, and more daily family reading.

My 5-yr-old recently has become alive with questions about her world, and this is an exciting development that I have waited for (I’ve always wondered how much her speech disorder was holding her back). So we have been discussing blood coagulation, camera memory cards, wolf packs, and death (it’s been over a year since my midwife passed away and she is now asking questions about her). I am excited to see my eldest’s self-directed learning develop; it’s going to be a fun year!

We are going to dip back into some structured activities later this week. But I think it’s always important for me to recognize how much the children (and I) learn just from living our lives fully.

Nature Study: Butterflies

Last spring we did a unit study on caterpillars and butterflies, learning their life cycle and having fun with crafts, fingerplays, and games. This spring was our first year with purchasing Painted Lady caterpillars and their butterfly garden. How exciting!

We had five caterpillars and both girls made a nature book, sketching their observations during the life cycle. We also made some new butterfly crafts and learned about butterfly anatomy and the differences/similarities between butterflies and moths.

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Of our five caterpillars, only 1 did not make it. That one’s chrysalis had a slit in it, and when the butterfly tried to emerge, it got stuck in the chrysalid.

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M has already requested that we do this again next spring!

Measuring Porter

Yesterday, we read the book, Measuring Penny, by Loreen Leedy. It is great book illustrating the many different ways you can measure something. It is an engaging story about a girl measuring her dog in many different ways. I had anticipated using it to encourage more measuring fun.

I was pleasantly surprised that immediately after reading it, M wanted to not only measure, but measure our dog Porter, just like the story. M used the book as a guide. What I liked best about the book was the easy discussion between standard and nonstandard units of measure (inches versus dog biscuits, for instance).

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Porter was a good sport.

Measuring Porter
Nose Length = 4 inches (unit = inch)
Tail Length = 14 inches (unit = inch)
Ear Length = 1.5 dog bones (unit = dog bone)
Paw Width = 5 cm (unit = cm)
Sitting Height = 27 inches (unit = inch)

Afterwards, we read, Me and the Measure of Things, by Joan Sweeney. This provided a more thorough discussion of weights and measures in our daily lives.

I borrowed both books from the library, but I am adding them to our “To Buy” list, as they would be great to have around whenever the kids are inspired to measure.

And today, I realized we had one more library book about measuring. So we read, Inch by Inch, by Leo Lionni, a cute story about an inchworm measuring birds to avoid being eaten.

Japanese Festival

This past weekend we went to the local Japanese Festival to experience Japanese culture. I was surprised at the number of teenagers/young adults dressed as anime characters. We also saw a lot of traditional dress. We ate yummy food, made kites, and saw a few shows (though we couldn’t stay long enough for the dance show). It was fun, and I’m glad I braved the crowd without help from Dada (who had to work last minute).

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Sewing Project: Ugly Dolls

The girls were gifted Ugly Dolls from a dear friend, but only one of the dolls were pink. So eventually, the girls fought over the pink one, and they decided that we should sew new dolls (with pink fabric, of course).

Each girl chose her fabric, eye color, and embroidery thread color. I drew a pattern based on their wishes (long ears, arms raised up) and both girls decided to use the same pattern. I sewed C’s eyes, but M did hers all by herself (with a lot of encouragement). C wanted to sew too, so I gave her a hoop with knit fabric, yarn, and my biggest darning needle for her to sew; she was happy and proud too! They drew the smiles with a fabric marker, and I traced it with a zig-zag stitch. Then I finished the sewing and they did most of the stuffing.

They are so proud of their creations! (And I’m glad that they are “ugly” — an easy project with no stress on my part for looking perfect!)

…and now, drumroll…pictures of the process!

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(C with her doll and the original pink Ugly Doll, the inspiration.)

  • "Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don't always know what it is. " - John Holt
  • LipperLoppy? what???

    “LipperLoppy” is a word that my daughters invented. It is usually used as a silly adjective or noun. It's a frequent family joke and a good representation of our family's crazy joyful life.
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