Thursday, April 28, 2011

Montessori Inspired Activities

Studying and Labeling the Parts of a Plant

Scissors either vegetable sheers, garden or household
Flowers or herbs

Before gathering the flowers, show the children how to cut a flower close to the root or if you are wanting only part of the herb, show them how to snip off just a part. With the children, gather flowers or herbs to use in identification project. Place the flowers into a basket.(You may want to remind the children that they need to ask permission before cutting flowers from the garden.)

Once collected, place the flowers/herbs into a vase. A clear glass vase or jar works well, as it allows the child to see the stem as well as the flower. Encourage the children to observe the flower. You can also show them how to use a mirror to reflect the flower, this makes for a nice painting activity.

Later in the day or the following day, introduce the part of a flower cards. Lakeshore Learning has the above set, which I purchased. Using the stamp and a good resource book, help the children to identify the parts of the flower/herb, with their herb.

The next day, explain that you will now slowly dissect the flower to get a closer look at the parts. You could do this activity before the labeling activity. I prefer a more concrete approach before the more abstract activity but they can be interchanged based on the child.

This is a great activity to do throughout the year, as the flowers begin to emerge, as they flower and as they die away.

Food for Thought Thursday: Cooking Maple Syrup

Good Thursday All! Today, the girls and I will make a dessert that is sweetened with maple syrup. Maple Syrup World, has many great recipes. The Vegan Peanut Butter Pillows look great and we are in the mood for peanut butter, so we will make those.

If you happen to visit a state that produces maple syrup, consider purchasing it, it really is a tasty and pretty economical flavor enhancer, not to mention a more natural sweetener. We avoid high fructose corn syrup and traditional table sugar as much as possible, so recipes that have a sugar substitute like using agave or maple syrup, are preferred.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Student | Teaching Tolerance

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Student | Teaching Tolerance

I am just disgusted with people! Honestly, even though we are over weight (hubby and I), our kids are not. Even if they were, there is no way I would allow their BMI to be on their report card.

Food for Thought Tuesday- Community Supported Agriculture

As a UU family, we discuss how we care for the earth, and our community. One way for us to do this is through Community Supported Agriculture, otherwise known as a CSA. You can find a local CSA by visiting the link.
There are many benefits to buying a share from your local CSA. As part of our curriculum, I will ask my girls to give their reasons for why.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Morning Material: The Living Tradition Ideas and Activities

Each Sunday, the congregation of our church recites our Living Traditions. On the weeks our children are in service, they do their best to recite them with us. I remember as a child reciting verses, singing hymns and participating in the rituals of the service. Our own children are growing up with this same weekly ritual, but I wonder, what is their understanding of them?

So, for this week, we will begin to learn about what the Living Tradition means to us on a daily basis. Given that Mondays tend to be rather slow in our house, I will find an activity that is hands on.

Day 1
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

What a mouthful for a child, right? I know many adults who would struggle with this. Let't start with dirt. I think every child has experienced dirt, right? So, either head out to your backyard for some diggin, or use potting soil. Place the dirt/potting soil into a tub, like a dishwashing tub or if outside, loosen some dirt from the pile. Place seashells, stones, marbles, pinecones in the pile and cover with dirt. Allow the children to explore, dig, and investigate the many hidden treasures.

Pine cones, dirt, etc are treasures, mysterious items that are given a special place in all cultures. For young children they experience life as a wonderous adventure filled with spirit and life. While this activity may seem too simplistic, we must recognize that living simply, allowing our spirits to renew is essential to living. By participating in simple pleasures, like getting our hands muddy, we are connecting with the divine.

More to come

Day 2
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

Day 4
Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

Day 5
Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

Day 6
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

So, lets start with a fun, simple but amazing activity- Goop. Good is an amazing substance, a non-neutonian substance to be exact. It is make with cornstarch and water, but for this activity, we will keep the ingredients hidden during the process. If the children have already encountered this substance, they may be on to you, and I will give an alternative activity.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Day in the Life Of a UU Homeschooling Family

Today is Friday April 22, Good Friday
8:15 wake up and make breakfast- the kids are already up, but they let me lay in bed for a few extra minutes
Kids watch tv
I make breakfast, today we tried Crepes. They turned out pretty good and the kids said they were ok

8:30 Eating breakfast, the kids are watching Dragon Tales
I browse the webs, checking facebook, replying to emails

9:15 We decide to take the morning off of school and instead pick up the house
The kids actually got right to work, one dusting, one washing, one sweeping

11:00 We are almost done with chores, just the bathroom is left

11:30 Kids declare they are hungry, we wrap up a minor search for Gillian's lost sandal. Mission accomplished
Time to make lunch

11:40 The girls cut up colby cheese, and oranges

12:30 Mommy declares "rest time" and the girls head to their room for reading, listening to music and small projects. Today I heard them discussing "farts". Oh dear, fart humor already, I try my best to ignore it.
Mommy watches a documentary, today
I know some people probably find the girls too old for rest time, but I find it makes our afternoons more calm since we have all taken time to relax

2:00- Rest time over
We finish the bathroom

3:00 The girls grab a snack, today they are having sugar cookies we made yesterday. They ask to watch the King and I. They have become very interested in musicals in the last few weeks.

Today we discussed the following:
Overtures- what is an overture, why was it used?
Easter Plans- ingredients for our cake, rolls and what to make Grandma Finch who has celiacs

While today wasn't officially academic in anyway, we still learned a lot. We won't count today as an official attendance day, mainly due to fulfilling our commitment already but today was pretty typical of our life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Education Reform: What Reform Would That Be?

During a townhall meeeting, President Obama was asked to address education.

2:41pm- EDUCATION QUESTION: Zuckerberg praises “Race to the Top” program. Used to be the Left saying more money and the Right saying let’s blow up the system, Obama says. We took 1% of total spending on education, to get it show us you’re reforming education, Obama says. Every state and school district could apply. You have to measure with data, he says. Over 40 states in the process of competing ended up initiating some of the most meaningful reforms in a generation, he says. Even those that didn’t win the competition. That’s a creative approach some Democrats and Republicans support. The most important thing to make a good education is having a good teacher. Recruiting, providing compensation and good data are important. Not just standardized tests, but real good data you can present to the teacher and say this child is falling behind.

What meaningful reform was done? States competing for education funding is not reform.
At least he got on area correct, having good teachers is important!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food for Thought Tuesday: Bread

This week I bring you bread. Some call it the staple of life. I call it delicious. In a continued effort to eat healthier and eat organically, I purchased millet flour. I tried my first batch on Thursday, using 2 cups millet, 2 cups organic white, yeast, maple syrup and vanilla rice milk. The result was a rather crumby, dense bread, which the girls declared was "bleck." Honestly girls, it wasn't that bad. So, I decided I needed to try recipes that others have tested.
This one looks promising. It is for an indian flat bread, and it is gluten and dairy free.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter: A UU Story

As a Unitarian Universalist homeschooling family, we, much like many other religious homeschoolers, celebrate important holy-days, special seasons and do so in a way that makes sense to our family.

In a discussion group that I participate in, we have been discussing Jesus. The Easter Story is a story of life after death, the resurection but as a UU, what meaning does that have for us? So, I began searching for a story for the children that helped to give the sense of Jesus's life and death. I found this. I found it on a blog but it is originally from Jim Wallace.

I also purchased a Tomi DePaolo book,Easter. I have become a fan of his stories in the last year, and have used many of his books in our homeschooling. We also found a stained glass coloring book of Jesus, so we will use the pictures as a jumping off point to discuss the parables.

The Wiki link is actually fairly decent, especially if you are curious as to what titles he has written.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Montessori Inspired Lessons: Pencil Sharpening

Building Practical Life Skills: Pencil Sharpening

Most, if not all, Montessori activities are introduced via a lesson. A lesson is when the adult introduces a new activity by showing the child the parts of the activity, the necessary materials, and how to use it appropriately.

Pencil Sharpening

Pencil holder
Pencil Sharpener
Dish to put shavings in

Introduction: Ask the child to bring the tray from the shelf to you. Sit with the child and name the various items.
Pick up the pencil and the sharpener. Show the child the tip of the unsharpened pencil.Place the pencil in the sharpener and turn the pencil clock wise over the shaving container.Show the child the slightly sharpened pencil.

Ask them if it needs to be sharpened more?
How many times should they turn the pencil before it is sharp?

Once it is sharpened, place the pencil back on the holder. Pick up the next pencil to sharpen. Once completed, show the child how to empty the shaving container into the waste basket.

Give the activity to the child to begin working.

**At this time, in my current understanding of Montessori, this is how I view a lesson.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Montessori May Be a Good Investment for Many Childre

I believe a Montessori education can significantly affect a child's sense of self and create active, think out of the box, self directed learners.

Food For Thought Tuesday

After visiting another blog, I became inspired to add another section to this blog- Food for Thought Tuesday. As a homeschooling family, one of the most rewarding and appealing parts of it is the food. I love that we can cook together, creating healthy, well, usually healthy foods. As a UU family, we strive to use local growers and organic products as often as we can.
This week, I am picking up grass fed ground beef, no-gmo's, no growth hormones. So, this weeks Food for Thought Tuesday brings you a recipe for Mexican Albondigas Soup Recipe.
Thankfully, we have on hand most of the ingredients, so this recipe only requires a bit of shopping, as I haven't picked up the beef yet.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Monday Morning Material: Lapbooking

This week, I bring you a lapbooking Monday Morning Material. The girls have been working on information, facts and other tidbits about Massachusets. Enchanted Learning had a great little page filled with the state bird etc, even the state dog was included.
If you visit the site, you will find lots of print outs on a variety of topics. As we wrap up our mini unit, the girls made 3-D maps, and really seemed to enjoy the experience, so I decided to add another 3-D activity to our plans.

For this activity you will need:
Printer, paper for printer
Crayons or Colored Pencils

Print out enough copies of the planned topic (in our case the state of MA)so that each child can make their own.
As the children cut, you could review with them what they have learned about their topic.
Color the individual pictures.
Fold the very bottom edge of the picture so that it can stand up on your cardstock and glue it in place.

Added appeal- using magazines or other colored print outs- the child could add trees, flowers, grass to their card stock.

You could also hole punch the card stock to make a book out of this activity.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Music Education: Do I Need a Curriculum?

Today, I am seeking advice as well as writing a quick post. I believe most children are born singing,even babies seem to babble to a tune at times. My children, all three of them, will often sing as they work. Yes, three young children, singing different tunes, at different volumes, at different times. Yes, I sometimes need tylenol to get through my day. Be that as it may, I love that they have so much joy in their heart, that they want to share it with the world.
Last year we used a wonderful book and CD that introduced the children the composers, styles and time periods. (The book is upstairs, so I will share the title later.) They were quite enraptured with baroque music and some classical. It was something I could share with them, a passion of mine.
Still, I felt like we were missing something. I really wanted us to sing as a family, to learn how to read music (which both my husband and I can do) and get involved in composing. So, here I sit, almost a full year after I had this brilliant idea, no music program or curriculum to help us reach our goal.

Do you have any suggestions? Ideas for websites, DVD's or other resources? We live and work at SUNY Fredonia, which has an excellent school of Music, so that is one resource but I am looking for others.
Please leave a comment!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Morning Material: Polishing, Cleaning, and Tidying

This Monday I bring you a cleaning and tidying task. Children who are engaged in shared household activities, such as cleaning, scrubbing and polishing, develop the habits they need to grow up to be capable and responsible young people.

First Activity: Cleaning The Mirrors
We purchased this polish.
Apply a thin coat to the mirror. Allow to dry and then wipe with a clean cloth.

White Vinegar Mirror Spray
Place white vinegar into a spray bottle and spritz it onto the mirror. Using newspapers, wipe streaks dry.

Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

Bucket and Rag or Sponge

For this activity, I like to give the girls a tiny bit of soap, like Dr.Bronners and water, in a shallow bucket or dishpan.

You might want to demonstrate the activity, and how to wring out a rag before letting the kids start. Most young children use too much water.

Scrubbing The Tub

A fun was for the kids to help with this activity is to use a little baking soda, white vinegar and Dr.Bronners. The kids love the fizz. You can use old toothbrushes to scrub the tub, which makes it extra fun.

Sometimes, just trying a new cleaning recipe or store bought product is enough to re-energize myself and the children into cleaning.

I hope you enjoy these ideas. You can add a little peppermint or lavendar essential oil to the cleaning water or scrub, it really helps rejuvenate the house.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Monday Morning Material

I am adding a new feature to my blog to try and get more readers, the Monday Morning Material.

Monday Morning Material is a phrase coined by a professor of education at SUNY Fredonia. Monday Morning Material is something you can pull out when you or the kids are needing a break, or when it is a full moon, or when you are getting ready to introduce a new concept. MMM is a simple but engaging activity that is ready to go in a matter of minutes. MMM's can be a jumping off point or a one time activity.