Saturday, July 31, 2010

Making a Home

This is what life is really like at the moment!! Can anyone else relate?!  I shared a few pictures of the activities we did this week, but my work in large part is making this our home. Unpacking, sorting and setting up a new space is wonderful (and tiring!). But it is so fantastic to be on the downhill slope. Sometimes it felt like we would never get to this point with all the work we had to do. But now we're here!  Hooray! Our home and yard are truly amazing and I feel so grateful and blessed to be here.

Here's ED checking out the little bridge and creek at the back of the yard.

Getting Settled into our Home and into a Routine

 A few days ago we got all of our stuff from Australia. There are boxes everywhere and then there's all the stuff that's out of the boxes, but hasn't yet found a home!

Meanwhile, we're trying to get the kids into a bit of a routine. We're trying to ease back into our homeschool activities. They've also spent hours playing with their toys and re-discovering all their belongings.

I finally found all the parts to the workboxes and have them set up. Those work extremely well for us because the kids have a selection of activities appropriate to them. I hope to have them filled on Monday.)

We need to make math fun right as we get back into the swing of things. Here we're playing "Go to the Dump" matching two numbers to make a total of 10.

We inherited this rubber plant from the previous home owners.  We'll use it as part of our (Montessori) plant care.  The girls watered it and then cleaned its leaves.

Handwriting Practice

LD is working in the Handwriting Without Tears cursive workbook.
DD is using sandpaper letters.
She also wanted a workbook to practice her writing.  This workbook was from Grams.


This week reviewed the seven continents (and sang the continent song).  We used a different map than the one pictured here and moved magnetic continents to the correct place on the map.  DD asks again and again, "Do we live in America now?" Even little ED has asked, "Is this home?  Daddy home? LD home?  Boomer (the dog) home?" and through the entire family.  Change is hard, I think.   LD has spent quite a bit of time this week with the geography toy pictured above.  It introduces capitals, the population of various countries and other tid-bits.
This year we're going to learn a lot about our new home and country.  We started our introduction to America by reviewing the trip we made this summer... We first flew into LA and visiting the LaBrea Tar Pits, Disneyland, visiting the cousins, etc.  Then we flew to Colorado, visited another cousin, sold our house.  We talked about the beautiful Colorado mountains.  Then we drove across CO and Kansas.  We talked about all the smelly cattle pens along the way and visiting Dodge City (an "Old West Town").  From there we drove on to Missouri.  The highlight (besides Grams and Gramps!!) were visiting Silver Dollar City and finding lots and lots of fossils.  Finally the last leg of our trip was to head east to our new home. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Exploring the Woods

A very small creek runs behind the house.  The kids have spent hours hunting for frogs, salamanders and water bugs.

We continue to find new things in the woods near our house. We went on a short hike the other evening and came across yellow, red and purple mushrooms too. These are the only new photos to add to our growing mushroom/fungi photo collection, though!

Last year, we studied the five kingdoms.  This adds new understanding of the Fungi Kingdom for the kids!

DD spotted these logs and we spent a long time examining them.
This mushroom was about four inches across.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Settling into our New Home - Look at those Mushrooms!

We made it to our new state last Wednesday and settled on our new home on Monday. Yay!!! It's been extremely busy unpacking and sorting through the belongings we had in storage for twelve years.  We also had to get new driver's licenses and things like that.  But in the mean time we are really amazed by our beautiful new surroundings.  What contrast to the Outback; it is so humid and moist here! The morning dew lasts until noon!  Check out these amazing mushrooms that are growing in our yard!!

This mushroom is at least 7 or 8 inches across!

This mushroom is little (1 1/2 inches) but sure is pretty.
This is a collection of mushrooms, the larges is 6 inches across or so.
This mushroom is about 5 inches across

Our stuff from Australia doesn't arrive for another 10 days or so. And it'll be at least a week until we get Internet (I snuck away to a Starbucks to do this posting!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Planning and Preparation for the New Year

We've pretty much resorted to 'natural learning' these past two months as we travel from state to state making our way to our new home.  But in the meantime, I have been planning and preparing for the new school year to come. We use a smattering of curriculum resources which I distribute into workboxes and centers. While we do most workboxes, most days we don't have a set orders to what they cover, instead it's more child-led.  We meander through the day following a very loose, general routine. On any given day we cover 5 to 10 boxes and/or centers. But there are days when we spend hours on one topic or get sidetracked learning other things. 

Here are some of the things we may/hope to cover in the months to come:

READING and LITERATURE: We do lots and lots (and lots) of reading. I read in the morning to ED (and DD) when they first get up.  I try to read during breakfast and lunch.  And I also try to read aloud a bit during quiet time (not to mention books at bedtime). This year LD and I will be reading longer, more challenging novels, while I will continue to read endless picture books (especially the Caldecott Winners) to everyone.  I use various reading lists from the Austin Montessori school, Jim Trelease' s Read Aloud Handbook and from looking over the recommended books in the Sonlight program as well as reading treasures we find at the library. We also read a lot of Caldecott and Newberry Award winners which I bought off ebay.

This year, I'd like to include more biographies. I'd like to discuss with the kids some of the amazing qualities people bring to this life.  I think it's important for them to start to identify how others have lived a purposeful life, leaving the world better/richer than they found it. I'd like to explore the character qualities that we all aspire to. Now granted, my kids are young, but it's something I'd like to build upon as we continue on the journey of homeschooling and life.

This year I would like to work with LD more on oral narration after hearing selections I've read aloud or after he's read something on his own. 

LD continues to read well and he will have his own independent reading time and time with me to read .

I'll work daily with DD on her readers, as she continues to progress using Bob Books and other resources (I did a long post on this a couple months back here and here.) The girls have been really into again and we'll probably use this resource quite often this semester.

WRITING: LD in particular needs to work on these skills.  We have all kinds of resources on hand and we'll use these in varying degrees:

   *Handwriting Without Teras
   *Draw Write Now
   *Nature Journal
   *Art Work
   *Peggy Kaye's Games for Writing


We'll continue with our Right Start Math curriculum and Singapore Math workbooks. As always, we'll use lots of hands-on activities from Peggy Kaye's Games for Math and Family Math by by Jean Kerr Stenmark, Virginia Thompson, Ruth Cossey, and Marilyn Hill not to mention great ideas gleaned from the Internet. We also have quite a number of Montessori math manipulatives that we use with regularity. You can find a lot of free Montessori math downloads here.

MONTESSORI INSPIRED CURRICULUM (Science, Social Studies and Geography)

I use the Montessori 6-9 teaching albums a lot in preparing for DD and LD's science and geography lessons. Last year, for example, we did the First Great (Montessori) Lesson and our follow-up studies included readings and a journal book about the planets.  We also spent a lot of time last year studying the classification of living things.  We covered non-living and living things, vertebrates-invertebrates, the animal kingdoms as well as a long unit on biomes that fit in well with our general continent studies. While we will continue to use the materials I made last year, we're going to explore other things as well. 

**SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS: We also do a lot of science experiments that come from the 6-9 Montessori resources I have, as well as other places (books, the Internet and so forth).  I can guarantee that science experiments will still feature prominently; probably once a week.  LD begs for science experiments!

**NORTH AMERICA (geography and the natural world): My kids know very little about the North American continent, so we'll look closely at the geography and environment (local flora and fauna).  We have a country-box exchange we did with another homeschooling family that will kick-start our studies! Hooray!! I made a pin map of North America (I'll share the picture at some point, but it's still in our shipment) with various geographical features.  And no doubt we'll get to know a lot about the plants and animals in our area just exploring the woods behind our soon-to-be new house. 
   --(In particular, I've looked closely through the Plant Kingdom resources at for this coming semester/year)
   --Tree identification
   --Nature activities (Nature Detectives has some wonderful ideas)
   --Nature Journal
   --Bird Unit: I would like the kids to get to know the birds of our area since we've lived overseas all their lives.  I have a lot of activities (a list of more than 20!) for all three kids planned for a North American bird unit.

**TIMELINE UNIT STUDY: We will be using the Second Great Montessori Lesson as the springboard for a number of explorations (here and here are two resources about the Second Great Lesson). We'll explore the geologic timeline ideas developed by Maria Montessori (the long black strip, the clock of eras and a homemade timeline version of the clock of eras that I made this summer). And of course, looking closer at the geologic eras, we'll talk/learn about fossils (no surprise, eh?) and dinosaurs (which, believe it or not, we've never learned about in much depth).

We will also talk about other timelines and schedules used in our daily lives:
   *our daily schedule
   *the yearly timeline including seasons (which we never experienced in our desert environment) and major holidays
   *the kids' life timelines (which will hopefully spur me on to work on ED's baby books).  I think this will be a big hit for all the kids as even ED will be able to sort through and 'talk about' her life milestones now


From our works last year, DD and LD can identify the seven continents.   What I'd like to do in an informal way is get them interested in particular countries from these continents.  My hubby's father was a foreign diplomat and they lived in countries all over the world.  As a consequence, his family has an amazing array of small objects, masks and more representing various countries. Not only that, but my Dad and step-Mom travel extensively, as have I.  Also, I participated in a number of continent object exchanges this past year.  I'd like to make use of these materials by setting up a geography station that I'll swap out weekly with whatever I have on hand -- coins, paper money, nick-nacks, language examples, paintings, books, plus the country flag, country and continent information/activities. I have lots of country-cards that I printed out from one of the Montessori groups (can't remember which off the top of my head) with photos of some of the famous land-marks of various countries, representative dress and so forth as well. We'll also continue to use geography pin maps with country flags. Someone shared these paper dolls from around the world.  I don't think LD will be very interested, but DD and ED may be. We'll see how it goes, but my vision is for them to slowly color in a world map with countries around the world.



We have been slowly progressing through history and I haven't decided whether we'll jump back to Ancient Greece to finish a few things. LD and I were reading a series of books on The Odyssey that he LOVED, but we only finished 4 of the 6 books. At any rate, from there we'll head on to Ancient Rome this next semester/year. We use a vast array of resources for our history studies and do lots of reading and crafts (you can browse through our Ancient Greece label on the side bar for a better idea of how we cover history).


Music and art appreciation are just a part of life for us.  I play lots of music in the mornings which helps to calm the mood when one of us is grumpy.  I play lots of classical and folk music on the CD player. I have composer pictures posted either in the calendar or up on the wall which I switch out. I'd like to make a concerted effort to play more music myself now that ED is a bit more independent.  I'd like to brush up on my piano and guitar skills (don't know how much oboe playing I'll do at the moment; it's not really a solitary instrument!)

We'll continue to play lots of music related games (last year's music games and activities are here).

I'll also continue to swap out an artist each week in the calendar.  I've read lots on how kids need larger art prints to truly appreciate art works, but for now I don't have the space/time to set up yet another center (another goal for this year?). For now, I'll continue with the 7 homemade prints I put up each week in the calendar. Here's an example of what I mean.

Arts and Crafts: We do lots of crafts as you can see in the sidebar to the right.  I am inspired by these amazing sites:
Art Projects for Kids
The Crafty Crow
Deep Space Sparkle

LD will continue to learn to play the piano.  We will continue to do kindermusik type activities either in the home, with friends, or in the community. DD is anxious to learn an instrument this year.  She wants to learn piano, but I might encourage her to learn the glockenspiel first as LD did when he was 4 1/2 -5 years old.  That'll depend on her interests, though!

I have obviously focused more on LD's schedule than the girls'. In large part, we work together on things.  Even when I work with LD on his math, for example, I set up math activities for the girls as well or they play along with the math games with a bit of help from me. But life also includes lots of preschool activities too numerous to mention in this post!  The theme table worked well last year and I'll probably set up a theme table once a week for the girls.

That's about it for now.  It's nice to put all this down on "paper."  Often I plan lots of things and simply let all the ideas whirl around in my head. If you made it to the end of this post -- thanks for reading!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bad Bugs, Good Bugs

Earlier today LD, DD and I went out to collect some fossils for some cyber-friends. As LD reached under a rock he got stung by something pretty terrible. I know there are scorpions in Missouri as hubby once stepped on one here in Grams and Gramps' house. We don't know what it was exactly that got LD today, but cold ice compresses and benadryl spray seemed to alleviate most of his pain (after an hour or so).

Anyway, LD wanted me to take a picture of this cicada since it is green instead of bright orange like the ones in central Australia. So here's his cicada friend.

And on a similar note, here are some photos we took last year of a couple of cicadas emerging from their shells:

Delicate Looking Fossil Impressions

We walk Boomer around Grams and Gramps' neighborhood several times a day. Now that we know there are fossils around we keep our eye out for new discoveries. This morning, ED wanted to jump off a big, flat boulder. I leaned down to have a closer look and noticed these delicate fossil impressions. The rock face was a different consistency than rocks in which the crinoids (see the posts below) are embedded. This rock face was relatively smooth and flaked/chipped away easily. Anyway, I found these impressions amazing too and had to share more fossil pictures here.

By the way, we also did some fossil hunting south of Alice Springs where we used to live. We found a lot of brachiopods and gastropods (I think that's what the ones that look like snail shells are called): 

A Day at the Lake

We have had a wonderful time with Grams and Gramps. One afternoon we went to the lake for the day. The water was beautiful and we all enjoyed our swim.  Afterward we had a lovely time at the edge of the lake feeding the birds, turtles and fish and playing at the shady playground.

We've also thoroughly enjoyed the local attractions near Grams and Gramps.  We've been to a number of shows in the past couple weeks. We saw a magic show, a stunt dog show, a ventriloquist and more. Plus, the kids have loved the local amusement park and have had lots of fun on the rides and visiting the attractions at the park. ED especially loved petting the goats, but was scared by the guinea fowl and ran away from them saying, "Don't hurt me birdie, don't hurt me!" I guess we gave too many warnings about the Canadian geese below.

In other news, we are settling on a new house in about 10 days and will be leaving Grams and Gramps tomorrow for the long drive east.  Plus, we had an offer on the house we're selling in Colorado and things are looking promising in that regard as well.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LD Finds a Fossil

Grams uses rocks from the area to decorate her garden. As LD was exploring and looking around he noticed a brachiopod fossil embedded in one of the rocks. The more we looked around, the more amazing fossils we found in the rocks around their house!

Well Preserved Brachiopod Fossil

We all walked up the hill from Grams and Gramps' house and looked around at the rocks in the field there. LD found an amazingly well preserved, complete brachiopod fossil! It's about two inches across. From what I can tell, this fossil and the others we found are well over 300 million years old.  I find that simply astounding.

Fossil Hunting

A few days later while we were walking around Grams and Gramps' neighborhood we saw an outcropping of rocks. Upon closer inspection, we saw that the ENTIRE rock section was covered with fossils. Most of the fossils and fossil bits are crinoids (ancient sea lilies). Many of them were loose on the ground, thousands are embedded in the rocks and they vary in size from just barely visible to as big around as our thumb and 5 inches long! We only found a few other fossils in that outcropping: a tiny little starfish and a couple brachiopods.

You can find out more about crinoid fossils by viewing this power point presentation.

And more fossil hunting!

Above you can see a brachiopod embedded in the rock along with lots of crinoid pieces.

Look how long this crinoid stem is!

We brought a fossil book out with us and LD spent along time reading through the book and comparing our finds to the illustrations and photos in the book. That's learning at its best, right?!

Ancient Sea Life

When we were at the La Brea Tar Pits in California last month, I took this photo of a painting depicting ancient sea life. In the painting you can see crinoids (sea lilies) in the background, trilobites (towards the bottom of the painting), ammonites (which look like snail shells) and more.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Free Montessori Downloads

I was browsing through Montessori Spanish's blog this morning and she shared a wonderful resource:
Goldmark Montessori. This Montessori teacher has shared some of the cards and activities that she has made for her classroom.

I checked it out and was impressed by her 3-part nocturnal animal cards.

I can't wait to move to a new home and resume the regular routine of homeschooling.  We're still in limbo (we're staying with Grams and Gramps), but have an offer on a house and have our stuff arriving from Australia in a few weeks.  Gulp!  Hopefully all the pieces fall into place and we settle into a new home by August!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wildflowers: Chickory

More or less as long as I can remember, I've loved being outdoors and exploring nature. As a youngster, I used to take my miniature poodle and go for long walks along the trails of the local park (there was a pond, a stream and rumors that an "electric eel" lived in the water hole!!). Later I became a camp counselor, hiked sections of the Appalachian trail with friends, did wilderness training courses and was an outdoor ed instructor for teenagers. Of course that love of nature never left me as you can see scrolling through the "Where we Live" (now past tense!) pictures of central Australia.

But now... now we're home. Back to the familiar plants and animals of America. I'm loving it and am thrilled to be introducing all this to the kids more or less for the first time! I mentioned before that this week we've seen squirrels, skunks, a fox,a ground hog and lots of deer. These are all "exotic" animals to my kids at the moment. How neat! I've also really loved being around the summer wildflowers again and pointing them out to the kids. And just because flowers are so beautiful, I'll share some of them here starting with the chickory.

Wildflowers: Yellow Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan

I'm not a flower expert, but I think the yellow wildflowers that we've seen abundantly all around at the sides of the roads (the top two pictures below) are not Black-Eyed Susans, but Yellow Coneflowers. I think the third picture below is a Black-Eyed Susan (it's growing in Grams' garden). If you know a lot about wildflowers, I'd love to hear what you think!!

Wildflowers: Blue Vervain

Wildflowers: Daisy Fleabane