Friday, September 19, 2008

Our little chanteuse

Speaking of Julie...

Untitled from Melissa C. Finkelstein on Vimeo.

Our first Weekly Report of the 2008-2009 school year

We had a good week! And may I just say, I HEART LESSON PLANS. Seriously, the lesson plans I made are helping me SO much, really keeping me on track. They make my days so much easier: Instead of having to start from scratch every morning, trying to figure out where we left off yesterday, what I had thought of but not written down for today, what we didn't do yesterday that I wanted to add in today, etc., I can just look at my Excel sheet and see where we stand. It's so freeing.

This week we did some combined history/science, reading Born with a Bang and discussing the Big Bang theory, space, matter, the planets, and more. Today we're going to watch a United Streaming video clip about the Milky Way. It's meant for high-schoolers, but is simple enough that Bella will understand the majority of it, and it will provide more fodder for discussion.

We also started using Queen's Language Lessons for the Very Young. I really like this resource, and I think Bell will too, when she gets used to it. The first few lessons had us discussing a painting and a poem, which she enjoyed. There's also a drawing to be done, which she always seems to balk at (she's a perfectionist, so she doesn't like to draw anything that's outside her comfort zone, which at the moment consists solely of flowers). I'm going to strongly encourage her to do the drawing though, because I'd like her to branch out a bit in this area. We'll see how that goes!

So far, she hasn't liked Spelling Workout, but that' s mainly because the handwriting frustrates her, and the first lessons are all handwriting. I let that fall by the wayside last year (bad mommy!), so we're going to go back to where we left off in HWT and start over. She seems to have forgotten everything we learned, so...Bella, meet Square One.

She loves Right Start Math, as always. When I say it's time for math, she cheers. (She gets that from her father, I'm sure of it.) The lesson have been very simple--we're still in the beginning, review portion of the book. It's nice to be able to rely on this great program that I know she enjoys.

We read our first lit selection, The Five Chinese Brothers, and discussed using some of the recommended questions in Suppose the Wolf Were an Octopus. Both girls really enjoyed the story, and Bella liked answering the questions. We're also reading Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick at bedtime. This is my all-time favorite children's book. I must have read it 20 times when I was a kid, and then I forgot the title for years and couldn't come up with the book anywhere. One day, around my birthday, a package arrived in the mail from my Aunt Sue, whose book it was that I'd borrowed repeatedly as a kid. She'd come across a hardcover version at a book sale, bought it for 50 cents or so, and sent it to me. I've been waiting almost six years for Bella to be old enough to enjoy this book, and I'm loving it every minute of it!

And finally, our REAL Science group has gotten off track temporarily, but next week we plan to go to a local nature center and do our plot survey. In the meantime, we kept ourselves busy with this:

Near as I can figure, she's some kind of sphinx, but I haven't found an exact match. Either way, she's the biggest, fattest caterpillar I've ever seen in my life. Julie spotted her on our patio and we looked her up, then stuck her in our caterpillar tent (coincidentally, also a gift from Aunt Sue and family!). If you look carefully at the jar o' dirt, you can see a hole where she burrowed down into it.

She'll spend a few weeks in there and emerge as a some kind of moth, and then we'll let her go. In the meantime, I have an open jar of dirt on my windowsill. With Julie around, that's just ASKING for trouble. Should be interesting!

Monday, September 15, 2008

We've finally started!

I'm so energized I feel like I'm vibrating (or maybe that's the coffee, LOL)! We flew through a math lesson this morning, then read Born with a Bang and discussed how all matter in the universe has always existed and will continue to exist. I used the analogy of a tree using water, nutrients, sunlight, and carbon dioxide to grow and create fruit, which falls to the ground, rots into the soil to nourish it and feed the growing seed, and how nothing is actually lost, it just changes form and is used in different ways. She listened thoughtfully and then said, "So, it's like recycling?" I wanted to hug her! I love watching the light bulb go on, and she was very proud of herself.

We have Handwriting Without Tears to do this afternoon, and we can call it a full day. Woohoo!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ooooh, right. Now I remember...

...why we only get her hair cut once every three years.

The haircut is done. After I hacked and chopped on Wednesday, Bella agreed to go to a local kids' salon to have it finished on Thursday. Everything went well...until we got to the salon. Suffice it to say that Bella was NOT amenable to getting in the chair, but I couldn't leave her hair like that, so some decisions were made, some (ok, many) hysterical tears were shed, some hair was cut, and we departed. By an hour after the visit, she was in the back of the car (on the way to grandma's) with a mirror, ooohing and aaahing over her bouncy new hairstyle. She looks fabulous, and she loves her hair, but it was traumatic for all involved. Thank goodness it's short enough to let it grow in for maybe until she's 12?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tropical Storm Hanna, Birthday Edition

Tomorrow is this kid's 6th birthday:

Happy birthday, baby!

(This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book she's holding. I read almost all of the ones that were available when I was a kid. Never in a million a years did I envision myself buying one of these for my 6-year-old someday. But that's another post.)

THIS kid's birthday isn't until Thursday:

But watching her sister open her presents was just too much for her, so we let her open one of hers. She chose the package that contained this dress, which is just too cute for words.

This guy's birthday isn't until December, but isn't he handsome?

We're also riding out tropical storm Hanna here today. So far, so good. We settled in and watched Nim's Island, and baked these:

Just like the name says, these are the best chocolate chip cookies you'll ever have. Seriously.

And Bella did a little of this out in the pouring rain:

Julie napped.

What a day!

Making evolution FUN!

Here are the books we picked up at the library today:

From Lava to Life : The Universe Tells Our Earth Story and Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story by Jennifer Morgan (NJ resident and fellow Rutgers grad)
Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters
Dinosaur Claws and Crests by Joanne Mattern
The Great Dinosaur Search by Rosie Heywood
The Best Book of Early People by Margaret Hynes

We've also got Usborne's Who Were the First People? coming from a member (oh, how I love that site!).

I'm thinking we're going to start with a very light version of the Big Bang, cruise through an age-appropriate discussion of evolution, and then spend some time on dinosaurs and the first people--maybe 4 weeks of prehistory? I also want to do our first lapbook at some point during this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience, but--surprise, surprise!--there aren't exactly a lot of pre-designed lapbook units on evolution. I know I can find one on dinosaurs, so if I can't rise to the occasion and design my own, that might be the way we go.

In general, though, I was able to find some great ideas to make this prehistory study fun:

Little Acorns Treehouse prehistory ideas (Aside to Kate: I came across this while Googling for ideas, and I knew the name sounded familiar. Sure enough, I checked your blogroll and there it was, LOL!)
Land of the Wee Ones dinosaur ideas
PBS's evolution site

I'll report back with any ideas and lapbook designs I happen to develop. Don't hold your breath, though!

T-minus 8 days and counting

We start school in 8 days, and I'm only halfway done with my lesson plans. In fact, I've been halfway done with my lesson plans for about...3 months now. I can't seem to get started again after the initial burst of gung-ho. But I really need to get my butt in gear this week, because I am way, way more effective when I have a plan to guide me.

Part of what's holding me back is my plan to cover some prehistory before launching our Ancients study via SOTW. I have loads of books on hold at the library (seriously, like, way too many) on the Big Bang, evolution, dinosaurs, the first people, etc. But with someone to lead me by the nose, I'm at a loss. I also want to sneak a lapbook in during this prehistory survey, but again, I'm at loose ends here.

Also, I'm starting to try to factor Julie into our weeks now, via Letter of the Week. That sounds so easy, right? But it's turning to be more problematic than I expected. I think the problem here is that I have too many ideas and too few children/too little time! I need to narrow my focus, and I'm not entirely sure how.

Well, I have one more week to figure it all out. Wish me luck!