Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to Find Just the Right Books

Here are two sites you can use to find the right books for your kids:

Book Wizard

Book Retriever App

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Co-op - September 25, 2012

Co-op Update for September 25, 2012

Over the last 4 years I have organized and/or hosted many different co-ops and have learned many lessons along the way! I must say that this co-op is my favourite to date! What a fantastic group of kids. They are all getting along so well together and seem to respect each other's abilities and inabilities!

Here is the low down on today's activities.

Making Words:

We started with a Making Words activity. Each child was given 12 letters. The letters were the same for each child and spelled the same challenge word. They had to use the letters to come up with as many words as they could. They also had to see if they could come up with the challenge word which was THANKSGIVING. Three of them were able to figure out this word. A few worked in pairs. As they made words we talked about adding prefixes and suffixes and coming up with new words. We also tried adding different letters/sounds at the start of the words. There was a lot of discussion and sharing of answers. We took them up and made a list of 43 words. We're aiming for 60 next time!

Family Virtues:

We did a quick review of Respect and Obedience (our previous two virtues) and talked about how these two virtues came into play over the last week at home. Today's virtue was loyalty. Lots of good discussion and everyone had a fairly good understanding of what loyalty is and who they are loyal to. We also talked about events that lead to loyalty being questioned.

Art: Paper Bag Sculpture:

We made this art project today from Pinterest. I love Pinterest for everything and anything. This project is a really good intro to sculpting and it was achievable by all age groups. Our youngest (age 6) was able to complete the tree with little help. I'm going to try a different spin of this project with my grade 8s at school for Halloween, so stay tuned! Our two older kids opted out of this project and worked on their lessons. They were quite focused on what they were doing!

Snack and Break Time:
Micaela was in charge of organizing and running a game of Octopus and Pickle! I love the game Pickle. It's fun to watch.

Activity - Part 1:

I divided the kids into two groups. With the first group we did a slime science experiment. It's never a good idea to try an experiments out for the first time with a group of kids without first trying it yourself. However, I didn't have time and just crossed my fingers. It worked beautifully! I used this site for the instructions. The kids had a blast. Even for those who had a little bit of water left over in their cup, I just dumped the water and they manipulated the slime with their hands and it firmed up. Here is a good explanation for how and why this reaction occurred. I didn't have this resource available until later, so parents, if you get a chance, you may want to go over it with your kids.

While one group created their slime, the other group worked together to continue their research on their provinces.

"COOL," says Eli!

Just before we broke for lunch we talked about Terry Fox. Most of the kids didn't know much about him. We watched a short video, had a discussion, and made a plan to complete the Terry Fox run next year.

Lunch and free time outside:

Read Paddle to the Sea:

Activity - Part B:

The boys who were doing the research before lunch were now able to try out the science experiment and had lots of fun playing with it afterwards. MB had time to work on her assignments!

Research Continued:

While the two older students finished up their studies, these boys continued their research. One liked it so much that he chose to continue while the others went outside!

Free Time until pick-up!

I think that's it for today. I am hoping to start a book club next week but I'm waiting to see if I can get enough copies of the book.

Thanks for another great day! See you next week!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Poetry Journals

Two years ago when I had my grade 6 class I did poetry journals with them. The idea was to combine writing with art. Each week the kids learned a new type of poem (eg/ acrostic, haiku, limerick, etc..) and had to compose 3-4 poems for each style. When it came time to "publish" their poem to their journal, they selected their favourites and we did artwork to accompany them. Some of the artwork was done as a class, with an art lesson. A lot of the artwork was done on their own. I showed them a variety of examples to spur on some ideas. I couldn't believe the selection they came up with. And believe it or not, the boys ALL loved the poetry. It's short and manageable and there's a high probability that they will achieve some success with it!

I also do this with my two at home. It's a great long term project that can be done with all ages.

These are the websites I used for examples:

Art Projects for Kids


Daisy Yellow

Gennine's Art Blog

Get It Scrapped





Thursday, September 20, 2012

Where I Was At This Time Last Year

When you homeschool and work you're always worried about the 'what ifs.' What if something happens to my child care provider and I'm unable to work. Do I have a back-up plan in place? It is a stress that I can't do justice with words.

My mom was my primary child care provider. On days when I worked, she was with the kids. She was a former primary school teacher and loved being with the kids and they loved being with her. She was a very young 79 year old. Lots of energy and enthusiasm. We are so grateful that our kids had this quality time with her. They spent a huge amount of time with her and had a very strong bond.

Last August my mom celebrated her 80th birthday. It seemed to be a major milestone. Little did we know at the time, what this number meant. Now, I know that many medical personnel seem to believe that 80 years of age is when everything goes downhill and health can turn on a dime. I still don't believe this - although it is what happened to my mom.

On Labour Day weekend last year my mom had her first stroke. It didn't look like much. It was fairly mild, but there was a lot of confusion. She was admitted to the hospital that weekend. This was how my school year started. It was incredibly stressful not knowing what was happening with her health and what this meant for my homeschooling.

She stayed in the hospital for all of September and October because she kept having recurring strokes/seizures. She managed to get out and went to a rehab centre for all of November and then we got her home for three weeks in December. Her home stay was choreographed by me and supported with many different agencies and organizations. Right before Christmas she suffered two more strokes and ended up back in the hospital, until she went to Hospice in the middle of January where she eventually passed away.

All in all, she suffered (from what we saw) 23 strokes or seizures. The doctors never did figure out exactly what they were as they presented the same way. We witnessed her go from being a vibrant, active, elderly person, to a frail, shell of herself. In the end she could no longer talk or eat. I cannot tell you what it is like trying to make life and death decisions for someone who cannot communicate with you.

What did this mean for me? It was probably the most difficult time of my life (and I've had a few!). Her health was so precarious and unpredictable that I had to be available 24/7 and I was the only one in my family to be able to do this. One day she'd be relatively fine, joking and eating and the next she'd mix her words and would choke when eating. This went on for months. I had to navigate the health care system and be a strong advocate for her. Sometimes this meant being pushy - which I was not comfortable with. It was extremely trying and emotionally draining. I lived at the hospital, day after day. I often was met with the response, "well, she's 80, she's had a good life, and this is what happens when one turns 80." Because of this attitude, some things were not done that should have been done. In the end, our family had to make some very difficult decisions. Decisions that I have to live with.

What does this have to do with homeschooling? How do you continue to homeschool through something so challenging? I was so worried about the kids and what this meant for our family when mom got sick. How were we going to cover the days I had to work? I had to ask for help. This is something I've never been very comfortable with but I knew I had to do it. I asked and people responded. The gratefulness that I feel to these friends is something indescribable. There are no words. These friends got me through the year. I was able to focus on my mom.

As far as homeschooling goes, I let go a little. I didn't worry about time lines, and expectations. I went day by day. When we were able to do some work, we focused on math, reading, and writing. The kids got some additional learning at a co-op they went to. And then unschooling came into play. Unschooling is not a style that I would say I follow, but in situations like these, it just naturally happens. The kids naturally gravitated to subjects of interest and explored them on their own. Mason took the time to really explore the Middle Ages. After mom passed, we were able to resume our regular homeschooling style but it was a new kind of norm.

We miss Grannie greatly, but we appreciate all the time we had with her and the great experiences she brought to our lives. She was a true supporter of what we were doing with the kids and could see and appreciate the benefits. This is something I truly miss. I miss my advocate. I miss my foundation. 

For those friends who were there for me and still are - thank you SO, SO much for everything you did. I hope over time, I can repay you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Co-op Update - Sept. 18, 2012

What a great day! I love this group! I can't remember if I mentioned this last time, but our group ranges in age from 6 to 11. Not only do we have the diversity of age, but our parents are using this co-op to meet different needs, including; child care, socialization, and for myself, it is an essential learning day. Each child arrives with different interests and abilities.

Word Work We started our day with our Mad Lib writing and our review of; nouns, verbs, adjective, adverbs, and plural nouns. They're doing really well with this. It's also good for a laugh. I like some sort of word work to be part of every day. Next week we'll switch it up and do something different.

Family Virtues - Respect and Obedience We continued our discussion from last week about respect and debated some scenarios. This can be a challenging one. Everyone wants respect (eg/ knock before entering their personal space) but sometimes it's hard to be respectful in return! We briefly talked about the virtue of being obedient, what the word means and why obedience is sometimes necessary.

Mapping - Last week we talked a little about the map of Canada to accompany our province and territory study. Today we learned about; lines of latitude, longitude, the prime meridian, equator, compass rose, and a little about time zones. They coloured in each feature on a map. Side note for parents: I am keeping all of their work here in a folder. Once it fills up I will send it home. While our two older students removed themselves to work on their own studies, the others went about putting together a large foam map of the world. Once it was complete I quizzed them on everything we've learned and then they had to locate countries at different points of long and lat. They really seemed to grasp this well.

Alphabet Project - Our Canadian Provinces and Territories

Rather than have everyone continue their research from last week, we did it as a group. We combined the territories and completed an alphabet sheet for all three. As I read the three chapters on the territories in, "Hey Canada," they let me know when we had found information that they wanted to add to the alphabet list. This went quite well. Some wanted to continue with their research but we held off and will do this next week. Hopefully we will finish it then and it can be bound and illustrated.

Snack Time!

Lego Challenge

This is a fun ice breaker or team builder activity. In pairs, the kids were each given 5 pieces of lego (different shapes). Both kids had to have the same five pieces and they had to be the same colour. With their backs to each other (no looking), one child had to build 'something' while the other waited. When they were finished building, the other child was then given verbal instructions (again no looking) to build the exact same thing. The activity really encourages the kids to work together and to give clear, understandable instructions. After a few times, most groups were able to build the same structures. Fun!

Paddle to the Sea

We continued our reading of Paddle to the Sea. While I read, the kids had to made an art card depicting  a scene that Paddle would have seen on his journey. These will be laminated and can be added to their collection from last year for those that kept them.

Lunch and 30 minutes walk through the neighbourhood. Rainy day!

Silent Reading - 30 minutes

Graffiti Art

We started our graffiti name art project today and managed to complete it! We talked about the difference between art and graffiti. We discussed different fonts, how to space lettering and how to create interesting fonts. They had to design their lettering, choose a symbol that represented them, and select interesting colours and patterns. Then we added a brick background to emphasize the graffiti style. The kids were really interested in this. They did a fabulous job! A few might have to finish at home.

The two older students opted out of this and continued their own studies.

The day finished with more silent reading, me reading Paddle to the Sea, a game of Who Am I, and some lego play.

Thanks again everyone for sharing your children!