Rainy Day Fun

We had a wonderful rainy day today, and found some fun inside and outside.

1. A Hallway Obstacle Course:

2013_5_28 obstacle

2. Puddle and Mud Play:

2013_5_28 rain play

and, 3. a Dance-a-thon:

2013_5_28 dance

Though to be fair, we dance almost every day, rain or shine! The children also did yoga (it is so cute to see the toddler doing yoga right alongside her big sisters), I exercised to a kick-box dvd, and we all enjoyed many books together too.


Musical Imagery

In our household, the girls refer to classical music as “ballet music,” much to my embarrassment. Classical music is so much more than that! So it was a great surprise that they received this book from my Dad as a gift. It’s a picture book about the composer Charles Ives who was inspired by everyday sounds, such as car horns, footsteps, and a ship’s whistle. After reading the story a few times, we listened to the song that the story is about, From Hanover Square North (note that the book does not include a cd; I found the song on YouTube). The girls enjoyed picking out the different street sounds in the piece.

130430 mr ivesWe also borrowed from the library an excellent book/cd set for exploring the imagery that classical music can create, Can You Hear It?. This book pairs classical songs with art, so the children can look at the accompanying art while listening to the song, hearing how the different orchestral instruments make the sounds that evoke the imagery. We are having so much fun with this, listening to bumblebees buzz, graceful skaters skating, or bubbles rising to the surface of the ocean.  Sample songs include Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumlebee, Gershwin’s An American in Paris, and excerpts from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. So far we have enjoyed dancing and acting out the imagery, but I think we will also paint/draw along to the music as well. Actually, this book is going to go on my to-buy list, because we all enjoy it so much. The art is beautiful too; it will be a great resource as we are learning about different artists.

130430 can you hear it

And there’s still so much more to explore. I want to look at Story of the Orchestra and The Jazz Fly, for example. Hopefully I will be able to get a new book each week from the library!

Finding the Joy When Overtired

I had grand plans to leave the house early this morning for a hike in millcreek canyon. But with the toddler fussily sleeping last night, AND my husband leaving his alarm on for twenty minutes (while I had the toddler glued to my breast and unable to turn it off), well, I did not get restful sleep. After the girls woke up as usual around 7, I tried to take a little nap to catch up. But today was one of those days when the two eldest girls could Not.Stop.Bickering. I resorted to letting them watch a tv show, but I seriously only found an extra 10 minutes. So I eventually crawled out of bed, and expected the day to SUCK.

But to my surprise, after breakfast, I was feeling pretty good! Maybe it’s the nice spring weather? I wasn’t sure I would be up for hiking, though, so I decided to start with a little speech practice first. C (the 4-year-old) is now taking a speech class through the school district, so both her and M need to practice at home. (Actually, C always wanted to practice speech whenever I was working with M, so it works out well.) Today we played a hide-and-seek game; I just wanted a quick, fun practice session. I hid their target word cards in the dark playhouse, they used a flashlight to find the cards, and then had to practice repetitions of the target words. This activity would work well for practicing sight words, or math equations, or whatever your child might be working on. It’s fun! Sometime I need to do it at night throughout the house (or in a dark basement if we ever have one).

hunting target words for speech practice

hunting target words for speech practice

While one child was doing the speech activity, the other was playing with a flannel board that I recently threw together with stuff laying around the house (I have every intention to make a big flannel board, but decided to just use what I had already for right now). The felt cupcakes were made from this tutorial. The toddler was content to play with an extra flashlight and run around.

making cupcakes on the flannel board

making cupcakes on the flannel board

The girls were still bickering a lot. The girls get along really well and play together so much, but some days, it seriously feels like they just wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Today was one of those days. We needed to get out of dodge. And I was still feeling pretty good, so I decided that we could still make time for a little hiking. Millcreek Canyon is a 3 minute drive from our home (to the first trails, anyway), and on odd-days like today, dogs can be off-leash. (We are so going to miss this natural resource when we move away. We have not found such great dog hiking, so close to home, in the other cities that we have lived in.) We got dressed as quickly as possible, and endured some bickering on the drive there, but the hike was peaceful. Just what we all needed!

Pipeline Trail

Pipeline Trail.

After returning home and eating lunch, M practiced piano. We recently started a practice chart; the goal is to have a weekly lesson (I am the piano teacher) and at least 3 practice times during the week. M puts a sticker on her chart each time she has a lesson and/or practices. She has learned quarter and half notes, and can play a few basic songs, although she isn’t reading the music; the notes are numbered to match her fingers.

piano practice

piano practice

When M was done, C played on the piano and M played some more with the flannel board. I put the toddler down for her nap. Bickering bubbled up again, so after nursing the toddler down, M and I practiced reading while C played. M has been reading the books from the Usborne Very First Reading series. This series has been so helpful for her. M is intimidated with reading a whole book by herself, and the Usborne stories are shared reading with an adult; one page the adult reads and the next page the child reads, etc. As the series continues, the difficulty level increases and there is less adult-reading. At the end of each book are quizzes, and there are extra activities (worksheets and word cards) available online. The set is pricey, but well worth it! Reading is extra difficult for M, because of her apraxia, but she is doing well. I’m starting to wonder if she might be dyslexic (it is common with kids that have apraxia), so that will be something we need to figure out this coming year. When she trips over a word, it’s hard to separate out if it’s because of her speech or if there is an added complication. (By the way, I love my local Usborne consultant, and we get a lot of our educational resource books from Usborne; if you need a consultant, I highly recommend her!)

Usborne My Very First Reading

Usborne My Very First Reading

Then it was time for speech class for M. Of course, we take time to marvel at the daffodils!

always take time to stop and smell the flowers!

always take time to stop and smell the flowers!

When we got home, M finished the big floor safari puzzle she had started just before speech class, and then joined the rest of us outside. I enjoyed working on this post, sipping my iced mocha, and listening to the house finches singing and the children playing. Porter enjoyed the sun too.

blogging outside

blogging outside

And, our day isn’t yet over! We still have to make our homemade BBQ chicken pizza (well, the BBQ sauce isn’t homemade; I need to figure that out!) and the big girls have ice skating class tonight. I’m surprised that I am still going strong, and that the only bickering today has been from the children and NOT me (usually when I’m overtired I find it difficult not to snap). I am looking forward to having the house to myself tonight (with the toddler too) for some quiet relaxation though! I have been so blessed today that we all found the joy!

A Creative Morning

creative play

creative play

…Puppet theater play, homemade play-dough monster creations, 3-D puppet creations, and animal play…all perfectly accompanied with cookies and coffee.



Lemonade Stands and Music Theory Games

Wednesday’s are already busy with gymnastics and speech classes, so I try to leave the rest of the day open to free play.

After watching a Curious George episode about George having a lemonade stand, M created her own lemonade stand. (FYI, I love the Curious George show; George exemplifies natural learning and unschooling.) At first a cup of lemonade was going for 1 cent, but by the end of the day she had raised the price to 5 cents. M is still learning monetary values, so this was good practice (at least with pennies and nickels). I had to purchase the pretend cups of lemonade with real money, because she is saving up to buy a fairy doll sticker book. M is so excited to have a real lemonade stand this summer. I told her that she will have to know how to count money by then. She pointed out that she could just use the key I had made for her that hangs in the playroom.

In the late afternoon, I decided to try out some music theory games with the girls. M has been working on a traditional piano music theory book in the piano lessons I give her, but I have been wanting to do more play with the concepts. I purchased the book, No H in Snake: Music Theory for Children. It is full of games teaching music theory. Unfortunately, many of the games need materials that the author sells on their website at an expensive price. The book is definitely meant for a music teacher, not a small-budget homeschooler like me. I knew this going in, and thought that at the least, it would give me ideas for incorporating theory into play, and if I wanted to, I could make the materials myself. I am happy with what I’ve read so far, and the girls enjoyed the games that we did together today.

We first played around with music alphabet cards (cards for the music notes A-G). We practiced the order of the alphabet, including that after G, comes A again. We played a game where someone would mess up the order of the cards, and the other person would have to fix it.

Then I introduced a staff and treble clef. The girls got to feel the treble clef that I had made, tracing their finger along the lines, and reciting that it curls onto the G, G, G line. Then we played a note toss game, where we tossed a note and called out whether it landed on a space or line on the staff. Since both my staff and treble clef were much smaller than what is normally used for this book, the game wasn’t that exciting. But my brain was working, and I quickly made a staff out of painter’s tape on the floor, and the girls got to jump to the spaces and lines. Super fun, and I was proud of my grand thinking (though I do remember my sister-in-law telling me that her daughter’s music class uses jump ropes as a giant staff, so I guess I’m not that smart after all). But seriously, I have been sooo tired all day long, so maybe I should just marvel at myself! 🙂

I labeled the giant floor staff with the abc cards, and after playing around with it for 15 minutes, M was able to put all the labels on correctly herself. I also had them “write” music; they stepped on the notes, while I played them on the piano. M really enjoyed this! The toddler was hell-bent on taking the abc cards off the staff, but luckily I had a few extra for her to play with.

Now, we had just watched The Sound of Music for the first time last week, and I don’t know if it is confusing to talk about Do-Re-Mi and then A-B-C. I do have a homeschooling friend that is an actually trained musician (by the Boston Conservatory, no less!) and I think she does a music program with her kids based on Do-Re-Mi. I think I’m going to have to pick her brain some more about this.

The girls finished their busy day by bike riding with Dad at the park, and M finally rode without training wheels…for 5 seconds.

Mosaics and Magnets

This morning my facebook feed included a post about Sight Word Mosaics. It looked like an activity both girls would enjoy, so I made some word mosaics for M and a number mosaic for C. For both girls, I let them create the color key, as from previous experience with color-by-numbers/letters, I knew the girls would prefer to choose their own color scheme. After M completed her first mosaic, I increased the level of difficulty by using similar words (eg, pat, pan, man, and mat). She really had to take an extra moment to make sure she was reading the words correctly, but she made no mistakes. M did 3 mosaics and enjoyed it so much that she made one for herself too (using two words: her name and cat).

We also played with our new basic magnet kit. (The girls have been playing with this kit for over a week now, on their own, but today was the first day we worked on it together. We have also been reading a magnet book from the library this past week too.) Today we spent time learning about the North and South poles, that opposite poles attract each other, and what household items are made of iron. We performed a few experiments demonstrating this, and the girls sketched their observations in their science books (well, I sketched and they colored). C added magnetic field lines to her drawing (and people too; she always adds people!) so M drew a horseshoe magnet with magnetic field lines as well.

We went outside this afternoon, and at one point C started to smash the dried sunflower heads (that have been drying on our picnic table) into the deck to release the seeds. It was fabulously fun to see the seeds pop out, and M joined in, while the toddler giggled with glee. We talked about how the scrub jays have been opening the shells to eat the seeds (and maybe squirrels too?) and M mentioned how she can’t wait for roasted pumpkin seeds again this year.

M made a cardinal direction sign by looking at the one on the world map. I love learning moments like these best; when she goes off on her own and does something that I had no idea she was interested in. It is simply magical! (I would have posted a picture of this too, but of course, her name was very prominent on the sign!)

They wanted to perform another play tonight, so they chose to reenact The Lion and The Mouse. We made paper plate masks and picked out Dada’s shirts to use for the costumes. C wanted to be the lion and M was excited to be the mouse (last night, C insisted on playing both leaf parts, so we had to do the play twice; today I explained that there would be just 1 performance and they would stick to their own parts). They did a few dress rehearsals and then performed the play after dinner for Mama and Dada; even the littlest one joined the performance as the owl that scares and chases the mouse (and she looked so cute wearing an owl costume I had made a few Halloweens ago).

Well, those were some of the learning moments that I noticed today. Aside from a stressful dinner prep tonight and the fact that it appears the girls are all coming down with colds it was a wonderful day.

Leaves and Language Arts

This morning we went to a nature storytime at the Swaner Ecocenter in Park City. The girls loved it, and I enjoyed the drive up Parley’s Canyon and into the mountains! They listened to a story about an oak tree, painted a fingerprint autumn tree (very similar to what we did last week at home), sang a song, and made a leaf identification page with leaf stamps. M’s favorite thing was making the leaf identification page and C’s favorite thing was gluing her painted tree to the orange paper frame. I loved the fact that the leader could understand most of what M said (except when M tried to say “chair”). M still isn’t very clear in the least, but it’s a big accomplishment for a stranger to understand most of her speech! Afterwards we ran up to the rooftop viewing deck to take a glance at the wetland before heading back home. What a lovely start to the day!

After lunch, I wanted us to practice identifying tree leaves some more, so I found a tree leaf bingo game for us to play. It was fun, and I’m sure we will be doing this often this autumn!

Still thinking about leaves, we gathered some leaves from our backyard for leaf rubbing.

We read one of our favorite fall stories, The Little Yellow Leaf, and then decided to act it out. The girls dressed up in Daddy’s shirts (one in yellow, the other in red) and pretended to fall off the tree by jumping off the couch.

Today is also our language arts day, so C worked on the letter D for her ABC book (including making this cute D is for Duck craft below, inspired by this blog).

M worked on -at family words for reading/writing. We still play the snakes and ladders board game I mentioned a few weeks ago, adding the word cards each week; M loves this! I also throw in some new words from the word family when we do the game, and she sounds them out perfectly (for example, before the game, we practiced, bat, cat, hat, and mat, but the game included sat and pat). Today I even put together the -an and -at words (like pan and pat) so she could really compare the two and read them. And she put together a phrase with the game word cards (Pat the dog). She is doing well reading most letters, but still has trouble with some letter sounds, like j (and I haven’t started blends with her yet).

Unexpected Discoveries

Well, today did not start out that well. M had a meltdown about her outfit; when she melts down, she yells, kicks me, and calls me mean. And of course, behaving that way makes her feel bad, so she really needs a lot of affection from me after it. Which, I admit, is a little hard, because I just endured being screamed at before even eating my breakfast. But it was short-lived, as it always is, and we went back on with our day, which turned out to be full of discovery.

As we were headed out the door to a friend’s home for a LLL mom-and-tot get-together, we realized that their best friend wouldn’t be there, and that it would be mostly mom-and-tots (no big kids). Yes, we are at that point where, as much as I want to sit and chat with friends, we need to be doing things entertaining for the kids, not me.

But, no worries, we just changed plans. M had been asking to go to the Natural History Museum again, so off we went. (I’m glad the girls do well with changes and transitions, it really was no big deal. Though they did have to discuss first if the zoo would be a better choice, but both agreed to go see the dinosaurs today.)

It’s amazing how much there is to do at a museum. We’ve been to this particular one probably about every other month or so (more in the winter months), and always come home with more knowledge and discoveries. It has a lot of great exploration rooms too, so I usually like to concentrate on just one floor/subject when we visit. But since today was a random visit, and the girls wanted to go through it all, we started at the top and worked our way down.

Usually, the girls went to their favorite exhibits, so some floors we rushed through, which was quite fine by me, because I only wanted us to be there an hour before the toddler’s naptime. The take-away learning moments that I noticed were: (1) spending time at the water and wind erosion tables to learn more about how water and wind can shape the land; (2) finally getting a chance to make a building and test it in the earthquake lab; and (3) discovering that wetlands filter and purify water.

Then home for nap and lunch. I did online research for wetlands activities, and we will be doing some experiments later this week to explore this topic further (we simply ran out of time today). M wrote and read the words she learned yesterday. The girls drew (M drew a barosaurus dinosaur) and played with their ponies and dinosaurs. After lunch I read another Pooh adventure while the girls did more drawing, and then we were off to speech.
I had been planning to run a quick errand after speech class, but C was visibly tired, so I decided we should stick around home instead. We had a delicious snack outside and played outside for awhile. The girls ended up performing some dance shows for me, until we discovered a new insect and caught it for observation and to sketch in our science journals. We first observed that it had 6 legs, two antennae, a mostly red body with some black. Seeing a visible stripe down the middle of its back, we knew it was a beetle. But our insect book had no beetle that matched! I started googling, and couldn’t find anything. My best guess was that maybe it was a juvenile box elder bug, because we have a lot of box elder bugs in our backyard, and they are red and black. So when I googled that, we found our answer! It was a juvenile Box Elder Bug! Now I wish our insect book showed the different stages for all insects. Maybe we will need to get a more thorough field guide eventually.

Then we finally got around to our assigned daily activity: Arts and Crafts. Today we did symmetry painting, inspired by a local blogger and the book, Math Arts. The girls loved this; it really was magical to open the fold and see the symmetrical designs and color blends. We will definitely be exploring this again!

Afterwards, the girls made more art, this time with stamps, while I bathed the toddler (who got a hold of some paint while I was distracted by a long-awaited, pleasant phone conversation). I even took a shower too, which provided much rejuvenation before the dinner chaos; I may do this more often!

I tried to put a major focus today on playing. I would have liked to start our experiments to follow-up the last-minute museum visit, but I decided play was more important, and we will fit those in throughout the week. I think we made a good balance of free play and structured activities. I like having a daily “subject”, but sometimes it can be too much if our day is already full of child-led, living learning. And it must have been a tiring day, as M collapsed in bed an hour early! (C, on the other hand, had a quick nap in the car, so she might be up late.)

Music and Movement

Wednesdays are busy: gymnastics in the morning, speech in the afternoon. That alone is enough to tire the girls out.

But there is always more to the day!

  • M decided she wanted to write out her doll’s names. I spelled for her while she wrote them out. (I think she was making invitation’s to a doll’s birthday party.)
  • C also wanted to write the doll’s names. So I wrote them with highlighter, which she traced over with a marker. Actually, all of the names uses letters that C can do by herself, but we didn’t have time at the moment for that.
  • Outside play. I have no idea what they did, because I was busily trying to fold laundry, wash dishes, etc. I’m still trying to catch up on housework from our two recent camping trips, and this new homeschool routine doesn’t leave me much time!
  • M wrote a list of words that she wants to practice her speech on. Again, I spelled for her.
  • A library trip. To pick up the 20 books I had reserved on hold for us. This is how I am able to get a multitude of books to the house on a frequent rotation. We don’t always have time to hang out at the library, so I preorder the books, and when we have time, we browse too. Within the year I hope to encourage M to find books herself using the computer and introducing the dewey decimal system. This particular order today included input from the girls, so we got Fancy Nancy, Dora, and Strawberry Shortcake books in the bunch. Our new chapter book that we will be reading at lunchtimes in Winnie the Pooh.
  • Reading. What else do you do when you come home with a bunch of new books? The girls spent a good hour just looking at the books, and I’ve read a few of the books to them. I love the first-day-back-from-the-library days. The car ride was quiet, the house was quiet, for awhile at least!
  • M copied from the Fancy Nancy book the words “fancy” and “plain” and labeled some things around the house.
  • Music class. I’ve decided to introduce some music theory into our musical explorations. Today we played around with dynamics. We played drums, switching to different dynamics; listened to the varied dynamics in Holst’s The Planets, Jupiter; and read the dynamics on a sheet of music. When M first saw the cards I made up with pp, pf, and ff, she read them by sounding out the letters! (I didn’t introduce mezzo piano or mezzo forte today; I was trying to simplify the concepts.)

Today was also a day where it seemed that M kept bickering with C (and C runs to complain to me). I know M was feeling tired most of the day, and that explains a lot of it. I decided at snack time to separate them; C ate her snack first while M sat in her room. I think it helped a lot, so I’m going to try to be proactive about this. Next time I feel they are bickering too much, I will direct them to separate activities. We all need a little space sometimes! I am so hoping our next home has different floors too, because that will nice to be able to spread out a little more. Especially when I’m trying to lay the baby down for a nap (the playroom is currently right next to our bedroom…um, yeah, that works).

But Dada is home early! I might get help making dinner (actually, he helped make dinner last night too).

An Artful Day

I have assigned “Music and Dramatic Arts” for our subject on Wednesdays, because most Wednesdays are busy with gymnastics and speech classes. I wanted an “easy” subject for me to do when I feel tired and that takes little planning.

The baby was a fussy sleeper last night. So when everyone woke up after 7, I sent the big girls to the living room to watch Curious George and Cat in the Hat; I just needed some quiet time to gather myself together. Then breakfast, playtime, and getting dressed for the day. Most of the playtime was drawing or writing; M wrote a list of words (without any vowels) but sounded them out correctly. She said she made the list of sounds for her to practice her speech with. C drew pictures of a spider and a dolphin; I so love seeing her drawing develop! (milestones never get old, do they!)

We usually have gymnastics Wednesday mornings, but this week we had off, so we decided to take advantage of the free day at our local art museum, the Utah Museum of Fine Art (UMFA). This was our first visit, as C is only 3.5 years and is a very kinesthetic learner: no running and no touching is hard for her! So it was a short visit (under 20 mins) but we survived without damaging the art!

The homeschooling highlight was that M recognized a Georgia O’Keeffe painting from our previous study of her!!! Proud Mama moment!

M’s favorite was the O’Keeffe painting, with a (real life!) princess painting coming in a close second. C’s favorite was an oversized porcelain statue of a man, called “Ethnic Man” as well as the Egyptian Coffin. I loved seeing the multiple paintings of the Virgin Madonna breastfeeding.

We even got to take a peek at the (pay-only) Speed Exhibit. Cool!

Afterwards, I rewarded ourselves with an iced mocha (for me) and cookies (for the big girls) from the museum’s cafe. We hung out outside to let the baby run around for a bit before heading back home.

When we got home, while the baby continued napping from the car ride, M and C played outside making mud pies. They came inside talking about a big furry black monster that wanted to eat them, and brought me outside to see him. So together we acted out the We’re Going On A Bear Hunt story (a favorite of ours) and went on a monster hunt. Then back inside for lunch and a reading of our chapter book and a picture book. We read The Moving House, which was a good way to begin more conversations about our upcoming move, and discussed things that we will miss about our house when we move (C was happy to learn that the piano will move with us). Then the girls ran back outside, this time to build a fairy forest, while I did some housework and internet browsing.

Off to speech we went, but not before playing some more of the hunting game. This time we hunted a Black Bear, that had chased us all the way into the car! We survived, luckily! We did discover that a pink bear had sneaked into the car but luckily Care Bears are friendly.

After speech class we did a family music class. We have done Music Together classes before, so I model that with the children. I also bring out the guitar to sing a few songs (our favorite song I can play on the guitar is I Had A Rooster). C had a major meltdown during music time, so we were delayed a bit by that. She felt better after eating a snack (which she had refused when we first got home, silly girl). M also did a brief piano lesson. She’s learning about quarter notes and half notes right now. She is more adept at playing the keys but was struggling with understanding half notes today. I’m hoping to get some books from the library about musical games to help her understand the theory side of things better.

Then we went our separate ways for more playtime. The girls have played ponies with their dolls and pony, I practiced some more guitar, and M is now making a Ballet Show sign because she wants to do a ballet show tomorrow night after dinner. (Actually, she wanted to do it tonight, but we’re going out for a work function, so we won’t have time.) Which reminds me, I don’t have to make dinner tonight!! But I do need to get everyone dressed up and looking presentable. And the baby has just pooped, so I best be done with this post!

  • "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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