Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Starting Our New Routine

Sorry about the endless postings about our ocean unit... just a couple more and that's that!  Blogs are funny because they sure don't show the whole picture. From looking at our blog our days are consumed by oceans!!  Heh heh! Well, that's not at all accurate.  I read and read, planned and planned and finally the older kids started back to school last week. As you've seen, ED has been "in school" for a couple of weeks now.  That was brilliant because she has a pretty good understanding of her 'work' and has chosen her own work to do while I'm busy with the others. Today, for example... she utterly shocked me by spending AN HOUR doing the push pin drawings I set out two weeks ago (which she said then were too hard!). I had a pile of 25 or so since DD often likes to do them as well.  She did them ALL!!!
Okay -- so back for a moment to DD and LD's new school routine.  I decided that we'd have a three hour work session in the mornings. I start with "collection" ... which many people refer to as circle time. Since I have so many things to introduce them to as we start the school year, it's been longer than it will be normally. Here's how collection is going for us at the moment:
  • Join together
  • German -- greetings, hello, how are you, review of the numbers and saying the numbers without counting (seeing the symbol 8, saying "acht").  German Reader (short, cute, easy stories with cute graphics)
  • Calendar time -- change out the "yesterday, today, tomorrow cards." Check the sky and add the appropriate cloud card.  Write their name, day and date in their collection notebooks.  Check the outside thermometer and record the temperature in C and F.
  • Song -- We started with Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes in order to include ED (and to be silly together!)
  • Rules for our Homeschool Session (each of us shared one rule to write down, adding to the list each day)
  • Presentation
  • Write their daily plans in their collection notebooks (I have a list of ideas of things they can work on... some are 'must dos' like math and language arts, but they have a half-dozen things they can do in each of the various categories.)

Now ideally, I'll do just one presentation, but the first week I had to introduced our various units so the kids know where things were kept and what they could start working on independently. If you've read through my planning stuff the past month or so, you know that our main units this semester or so include...
  • The Montessori Great Lessons (the first two)
  • This is the USA (an introduction to the symbols and landmarks of the US, basic US geography)
  • The Human Body (using this and these kits as our core)
  • Animal Discovery Notebook (Science Sorts)
  • Landforms
  • and will also include material to go along with ED's preschool themes (oceans, deserts, rainforests, etc.)
  • My husband and I also want to include a presentation each week on Health and Safety. We brainstormed together on our long drive from Missouri and decided that we should cover topics like our phone number, address, emergencies, fire/fire safety/using a fire extinguisher/fire do's/don'ts/stop-drop-roll, being lost in the woods, germs, teeth-care, strangers, general first-aid how-to/whys of cuts, broken bones, etc. 

So the presentations last week included:
*Let's Learn About the World (basic facts about the largest continent, country, mountain, etc.)
*A discussion of ocean invertebrates (Mollusks-Crustaceans, Echinoderms, Cnidaria) See pic below.
*A few of the landmarks in the US (looking at the cards) and discussion of the southwest

But the presentations led to their own work... drawings, notebook work, read aloud time, etc.
You can find classification charts on the kingdoms, vertebrates and invertebrates, etc. here and on invertebrates herearthropods here. We used all those and then drew one together as we talked about it.
Here are some invertebrate cards I made to go along with our discussion. Remember, crustaceans, arachnids and insects are all part of the arthropod group (look at this chart to see what I mean).  This is not a complete list of invertebrate groups, just some of the ones we have been discussing.

What will the kids do after collection during our school session?  Well, this is the hardest part for me.  I've been reading a lot (I mean a dozen books!!!!) On the Montessori method and a fabulous book about motivation Drive, The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. I really am solidly convinced that the kids need to have the autonomy and independence to direct their own learning.  So, I'm trying to create an environment that sets forth lots of learning materials, but I'm trying to step back just a bit to be more of a facilitator than a teacher. I'll obviously be in the room with them at all times (no phone, no Internet), but I'd like to give them more freedom to choose how and what to work on.  Stepping back a bit is quite difficult for me since I am a very hands on type person.  I hope that by presenting things and then leaving them with lots of choices and options. As I see it that choice may be... "Mom, let's do xyz" or "Mom, let's read together" etc. so very likely at this age I will be involved, but hopefully they will initiate things and they'll embrace the things that interest and intrigue them and learn lots this next year. I am needed for many things --for example, DD is learning the piano for the first time this year so I need to be right there with her for that. Or, LD needs me to sit/read through his math text with him before doing the problem sets on his own. But I am at least cognizant of the fact that my role is to suggest, but never to nag or over-direct/demand.  No nagging. There, I've laid it out!!!

One thing I have to say about this past week is that I had to end the school day because *I* had other things on!! So far so good! We went well over three hours each day since we leapt back into things straight after lunch as well.

Well, I'll bring this post to a close for now.  We sure have had a fantastic week though (plus it included our first field 'official' field trip... the first of quite a few this semester, we hope!).

Happy Homeschooling! More soon!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ocean Animals -- the real deal

Even though it was quite a drive for us, I decided a trip to the aquarium was in order with all our studies of ocean animals. We went last week. We sure had a terrific day!
We all LOVED the jellyfish displays!
We were so lucky to see the octopus moving all around! 

Everyone loved the sharks and we were lucky to see the sharks, sting rays and sea turtle being fed.
We even squeezed in the dolphin show.

Friday, August 26, 2011

LD turned 8

LD turned 8 almost two weeks ago.We had a family celebration on his big day since my brother-in-law and nephew were here on LD's birthday.  Then we had a small party for friends last weekend.

He likes Harry Potter and is reading through those books -- thus the Hogwart's Castle cake (or my attempt!!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ocean Animals and Their Groups

I made this activity for my older kids (5 and 8).  You can download and print these sheets here: Ocean Animals and Their Groups. There are two pages.

You might want to make a colored circle on the back of each of the three related cards. Use a different color for each animal. That way, the kids can check their own work as needed.  Natasha shared this great idea with us at her blog, Leptir.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sewing Ocean Animals

 We haven't done that much sewing here at the Homeschool Den, so when I saw these cute projects over at future girl's blog I thought they'd be perfect. The kids each chose their own project. I thought they turned out pretty cute!

DD made the octopus. LD made the jellyfish. ED made the fish. DD and LD did the sewing completely on their own, although I threaded the embroidery thread through for the tentacles and LD did the knotting. I had to show ED where to place the needle. She only stabbed me once!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The east coast just had an earthquake.  The news says it was 5.8 on the richtor scale -- and what that meant for us was lots and lots of shaking and rattling. A few things fell of our shelves in the pantry, but we don't see any other damage at this point. We read that the Capitol, Pentagon and White House are being evacuated.  It sure scared us!

Ocean Activities: School of Fish

Why do fish swim in schools?

We cut up little pieces of tin foil and paper to be our fish. First we dropped in one and stirred the water.  It was easy to spot. Then we dropped in a whole lot of fish, stirred it, and tried to follow just one with our eyes. It was much harder to follow one in the midst of many others.  We talked about how there was safety in numbers.

This idea was adapted from Awesome Ocean Science by Cindy Littlefield. She suggests using glitter.

We went on to do a lot with this ocean unit.  Be sure to check out this post at our new location, homeschoolden.com:

Ocean Unit Activities for Kids

Some of our activities included:

 Ocean Animal Preschool Game

UPDATE, 2016: We are doing a unit on the Ocean again. You might be interested in these posts (I'll try to add to the list as we go!) :) ~Liesl



Monday, August 22, 2011

Ocean Animals Math Game for Preschoolers

I made a preschool math game for ED.  ED worked hard to cut out all the pictures.  In the picture to the left, she rolled a 10 and I rolled a 1.  We each chose that many ocean animals to put on our gameboard. Then ED spun the spinner and it came out "even." I showed her how to make partners and that she had all partners, so she had an even number and won the round.

It's a short, quick counting game and we played over and over again!  Below are a few more photos and a link to the game if you want to download it for yourself.

Math Grid Game: By the way, you can also use the ocean animal sheet to play a simple math grid game. Keep the animal sheet intact and print out one sheet for each player. Have each player take turns rolling the die and covering up that number of animals. The first person to cover all the animals wins that game.
Download the Ocean Animals Preschool Game Here.

You can also use these cards with your kids to sort into vertebrate and invertebrate groups.
To Play:
 Player 1 rolls the die.  He/she takes that number of ocean animals and places it on his/her game board.
Player 2 rolls the die and takes that number of ocean animals to place on his/her game board.
One player spins the spinner to determine the winner -- the one who has less, more, odd or even. You may have two winners!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ocean Activities: The Ocean Zones

The ocean is divided into different layers. The zones differ in temperature, water pressure and available nutrients.  Marine organisms live in different zones according to the amount of sunlight that reaches there. More than 90% of marine life lives in the Sunlit Zone.

I made cards of the various ocean zones for the kids, cut them out and laminated them together.


This is a picture of the original activity I made for the kids, but I couldn't share it publicly because I wasn't sure of the copyright status of some of the pictures I used. 

 Recently, I made new animal sorting cards for the ocean zones and that is now available. The pictures I used for this new packet were either purchased (from canstockphoto.com) or have a creative commons license.

 Here is more about the new activity packet I made:

Animals of the different Ocean Zone Layers:
  • Sunlight Zone - Blue Marlin, Sperm Whale, Grey Reef Shark, Plankton, plankton, sea stars, jellyfish, sea urchins, sea turtles, dolphins, seals, sharks, sting rays, sand dollars, fish 
  • Twilight Zone - Octopus, Squid, Deep diving whales, Hatchetfish, Viperfish, Cuttlefish, deep diving whales
  • Midnight Zone - Angler Fish, Snipe Eel, Lizard Fish, Sea Cucumber, Lanternfish, Sea Cucumber
  • Trench Zone - mussels, crabs, tube worms, viperfish
This is a glimpse of the new Ocean Zone Layers Activity Cards:

Layers of the Ocean Activity Packet: There are two Ocean Zone Activities.   It includes the ocean animal sorting cards and zone cards that you see above.  And it also includes an Ocean Depths activity, which covers things like--how deep was the deepest scuba dive, the Titanic wreckage, the deepest recorded fish, or how far down is the Mariana Trench.  Students can cut out pictures of these and place them at the appropriate depth. (Also in the packet, you'll find this same activity in meters.)

The Ocean Zones Activity Packet is available for $3.00.
Once you pay for this packet, you will immediately receive a link to download this file (which will open in a browser window).  You will also receive an email to your PayPal email address from Sendowl  (the service I use), which will have a link you can click on to download the Layers of the Ocean Activities pdf.  (It will say, “You can download your digital products…” with a clickable link.)  Of course, if you have any issues just email me at — liesl at homeschoolden dot com.  You can also reach me by using the contact form on the blog or can reach me over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page. ~Liesl

More Ocean Curriculum...

Ocean Packet: We have been studying the Ocean again in the spring of 2016.  Our 65+ page Ocean Unit (see details about our ocean worksheets and materials here) is now available!
  • Ocean Unit: Marine Habitats, water form words (bay, strait, fjord, etc.), tides and currents, salinity, features of the ocean floor, Ocean Life:
    • Special Body Features
    • Fish Body Shape and Movement
    • Biological Interactions: Mutualism and Commensalism in the Ocean
    • Deep Sea Life – Bioluminescence, Anglerfish

BUNDLE: Ocean Unit Packet AND Layers of the Ocean Activities Packet (above)


Don't forget to check your PayPal email address for the download link!

Here are some of our other ocean materials:

Ocean Unit Activities for Kids

Some of our activities included:

 Ocean Animal Preschool Game

Montessori Math Addition and Subtraction Worksheets

Back in February, I mentioned that we supplement our math curriculum with Montessori math worksheets. I just thought I'd pass along those links again for those who are getting ready for the new school year.  I like that the numbers are fairly large and divided into columns so it makes it easier for LD to see his mistakes.  You can choose the regrouping option or not as your child's ready.

Montessori Addition Worksheets Link
Montessori Subtraction Worksheets Link

UPDATE: These no longer work, but good news... I made a whole series of Montessori Style addition and subtraction pages for my youngest daughter that are free over at my new location, homeschoolden.com. These links will take you there! ~Liesl


My old post which has a quick picture of the worksheet (and a picture of a neat math clock you and your child can make).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ocean Activities: Parts of a Fish, Parts of a Shark

While ED has some basic ocean matching out, DD and LD are working on slightly more challenging work. They're learning the parts of the fish, parts of the shark and the zones of the ocean and the animals that live there.  (More about the zones tomorrow.)

The kids can check their work by folding down the answer key under the picture. I got the parts of the fish page from Simple Schooling at currclick. (The unit is on sale at the moment for 50% off.)

The parts of a shark was from Ask a Biologist.