Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Learning, Living, Loving, and Sharing

“There must needs be opposition in all things." (2 Nephi 2:11) When there is, it’s nice to have days like this one to pull out, reflect on, and then build upon.

Woody was able to make working from home today work, even though this week he’s filling in for his boss (who is cruisin’ with his wife for a couple of weeks to Hawaii). We were able to take advantage of an afternoon field trip sponsored by one of our local homeschool group moms. (Thank you, Phyllis!)

Starting our day together, including Daddy, just feels right. Our devotionals are simple - a song, a prayer, and scripture study (personal and together)- but they sure make a difference!

The girls took their math tests in the van (Hurray, carschooling!)
as we drove (thank goodness for HOV lanes!) to the coast. Woody and I saw a gorgeous hawk fly right overhead, so we had a really close-up and detailed view of its feathering and structure. Awesome! The girls even finished in time to enjoy some of the scenery, too, as we got closer to the ocean.

We visited a small aquarium, in San Pedro, CA, that we had not even been aware existed – a little hidden treasure. At the Cabrillo Aquarium we saw sea animals, birds, and other creatures. Nature Studies sketchpads added to the adventure fun as the girls drew some of the things they saw and documented their sketches with notes, scientific names, and the date.

We watched some jellies getting their lunch – a specialty shrimp soup concocted to best meet their nutritional needs. They eat, um, the brine shrimp that are the sea monkeys Jelly keeps in a special tank in her room!
I love the reflections in this picture - Jelly's profile, and an awed Adelle, a little member of our homeschool group.

Jelly especially wanted to visit the sea horses where a helpful marine biologist in the Aquatic Nursery taught us how to tell a male from a female. The girls also had their eyes opened as they studied shells, and their own hands, under a microscope. I think Doodle’s favorite parts were the hands-on mud flats you could crawl through and explore and the tank you could crawl under and then stand up and view from the inside out.
We had planned to experience the touch tanks, but a HUGE crowd of public school field trippers changed our plans. Now that we know it’s there, we’ll go back and explore the aquarium and its inhabitants at a less-busy time. (We made sure we got that very useful information from a very helpful young lady in the Exploration Center.)

Leaving earlier than we had planned turned out to be a blessing. Daddy Woody gave us a guided tour of the area where his grandpa had moored his boat, the Seagull 3, when Woody was but a lad. Some things have changed a lot, others not at all. Woody was able to locate the exact area where he spent to many happy times making wonderful memories and even having learning adventures as he shared Grandpa’s passion for the sea. He told the girls stories, and they were as enraptured as they listened as he was in the reminiscing and the telling.

Today was full of learning, living, loving, and sharing – things good for the heart and soul.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

St. Patrick's Day the Homeschool Way

St. Patrick’s Day has officially been moved to Saturday, March 15th this year, because if left to it’s own devices, it interferes with Holy Week.

We’ve decided to focus on Easter this year, but the girls did make some great St. Patrick’s Day lapbooks a couple of years ago. There are some great ones available now, but when we did ours we were on our own. First ours:

Front covers – Mosaic art

Lapbook open – Cloze story (w/word bank words crossed out), Printing name practice, jointed leprechaun, flag of Ireland, March calendar, Lucky Charms accordion book, Music of Ireland

Open showing detail of Lucky Charms accordion book and two of the Music of Ireland minibook pages

Open with top extension flap lifted (Doodle’s) – left flap: Potato Pandemonium shape book include info about potatoes, shamrock fan book has a wish written on each of the three leaves

Open with top extension flap lifted (Jelly’s) – Top extension shows When? Why? Double-flap book and Where in the world is Ireland? shutterbook; slightly different arrangement of minibooks than Doodle’s

The girls LOVED dressing up like leprechauns! It was a little tricky at first, but when we raided MY closet for green (just happens to be my favorite color!) we found shirts that worked great as leprechaun tunics.

Both extension flaps open - You can see the detail of the potato preference graph on the lower one.

The Pot of Gold shape book holds a original illustrated poem titled Where is the Pot of Gold? Here’s Jelly’s as told from the leprechaun’s point of view…

It’s not in my shirt, it’s not on Squirt,
It’s not on Matt, it’s not where I sat.
It’s not on my cat, it’s in my HAT!

And the back covers --

And now, check out these St. Patrick’s Day resources!!

Download a FREE lapbook at Homeschool Helper.

Homeschool Share has four FREE literature studies for St. Patrick’s Day!

Knowledge Quest also has a FREE unit study for St. Patrick’s Day.

Hands of a Child has two lapbook choices:
Learning with Leprechauns (for Early Childhood) and
St. Patrick’s Day, which you can easily adapt for ANY age!!

Live and Learn has a free one that you can download if you join their yahoo group here.

You can find some great St. Patrick’s Day math ideas and links to printables at Googol Learning.

Send someone a green e-card, at Dover.

I’ll leave you with this bit of Irish wisdom,

You'll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.
--Irish Saying

So, don’t just think about it, DO IT!

And then have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Teaching, No Greater Call

I love teaching. I always have. I always will.

Because I’ve been thinking so much lately about the process of teaching and learning, I’d like to share some thoughts and ideas on the subject. Some are my own, most are from my collection of master teachers.

“When we study how Jesus taught, we might note that He employed one principle of teaching more than any other. …Educators refer to it as the principle of apperception.

Apperception is defined as “the process of understanding something perceived in terms of previous experience.” This means that if we have something difficult to teach, such as honesty or reverence or love, we should begin with the experience of the student and talk about the things he already knows. Then when we make a comparison with what we want him to know, he will perceive the meaning.

Jesus was indeed the master of this process. “
--Boyd K. Packer, “Using the Apperception Principle in Teaching,” Tambuli, Aug 1977, 31

“Excellent teachers do not take the credit for the learning and growth of those they teach. Like gardeners who plant and tend crops, they strive to create the best possible conditions for learning. Then they give thanks to God when they see the progress of those they teach. Paul wrote, “Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).- From Teaching, No Greater Call

The name of our school, and school motto, come from this quotation from Albert Einstein:
“To wonder is to begin to understand.”
Anyone who has ever watched a small child explore their world will have no trouble understanding why I love that quote. The light that shines, first in their eyes, and then spreading to their whole face, is such an amazingly visible outward sign of the inner wonder and understanding they gain as they learn. Our goal is to not let go of the wonder!!

So, this is my job description, in part:

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." --Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." -- John Cotton Dana

"You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives." -- Clay P. Bedford

"The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards." - Anatole France

If you want to learn, because you wonder about something, you WILL learn. Unfortunately, there is also this:
"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education”. --Albert Einstein
No matter where a child spends the day, they are permanently affected by their teacher/s:
"A teacher affects eternity – s/he can never tell, where her/his influence stops." -- Henry Brooks Adams
There are days when my influence isn’t as “wonder-ful” as it should be. There are other days when learning seems to grind to a complete halt. Those days are fewer now, though, than they've ever been. We’re all working together to keep a joyful spirit in our home, and that makes all the difference on the more challenging days. It doesn't take as long, these days, to get our little train back on track and headed in the right direction.

"The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursing his own education. This will not be a widely shared pursuit until we get over our odd conviction that education is what goes on in school buildings and nowhere else." -- John William Gardner

"You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it for himself." --Galileo Galilei

"A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary." -- Thomas Carruthers

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime; teach a man to teach others to fish, feed a generation.” – Chinese Proverb

“Teach a man to fish indeed. But don't take his pole away and snap it over your knee if he doesn't fish exactly the way you want him to. And if you want to do even better, teach a man to teach others to fish.” – Unknown

"...since we can't know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned." - John Holt

"A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on a cold iron." -- Horace Mann

“An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child." -- Carl Gustav Jung

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” --William Arthur Ward
The Master Teacher is Jesus, whose example, life, and resurrection we celebrate this month.

I’ll close with a quote from a children’s song, written by Janice Kapp Perry.

“I’m trying to be like Jesus.”

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fresh is Best

Fresh bread, right out of the oven, can’t be beat. As Rachel Ray says, “Yum-o!” The same bread, a week later, uh, not so yummy. Do you need some ideas to keep your teaching fresh? Here are a few, some of which I’ve never heard of, in alphabetical order:

From Teaching, No Greater Call:
Activity Verses
Application Techniques
Attention Activities
Audiovisual Materials
Buzz Sessions
Case Studies
Comparison/Object Lessons
Drawing Activities
Flannel Boards
Guest Speakers
Overhead Projectors
Panel Discussions
Paper Stand-Up Figures
Readers’ Theaters
Roll Playing
Roller Boxes
Special Reports
Work Sheets

There are some there that I am going to have to give a try!

Here are my additions to the list:
Unit studies, living books, lapbooks, notebooks, scrapbooks, recipe books, personal-size whiteboards, paper dolls, puppets, timelines, poetry, special personalized correspondence courses, journals, sketchpads, and toys!

(Do you have any teaching methods to share that you especially love? I’d love it if you left a comment!)

David O. McKay once said, “No greater responsibility can rest upon any man [or woman], than to be a teacher of God’s children.”

It isn’t a burden, it’s a blessing.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Who's in Charge of Your Village?

No one seems to be quite sure where the quotation originated, but many are quoting this these days:

"It takes a whole village to raise a child."

Does it?

If it does, as parents, it is our responsibility to make sure we choose the right village in which to raise our children. There are lots of villages out there that I don't want my children going anywhere near!!!

Now having said that, I am very grateful that we have wonderful support from many sources as we raise our daughters. There are some mighty incredible villages out there that add much to the quality of our lives.

Family – We know, unfortunately, that there are many who deal with unsupportive family – thankfully we’ve never had that particular challenge! Our extended family is completely wonderful, blessing our lives in oodles of ways. When someone is occasionally cranky, they don’t focus their frustrations on us. The girls love to show off their projects or tell about their latest adventure, and family makes a great audience. It’s even better when we can share the adventure together!! Muchas gracias, guys!!

In-Real-Life Friends – Near and far away, again we are supremely blessed! You know who you are, and what you do, and we appreciate you more than we can say. You are precious treasures!!

Church Family – Admittedly it took us a while to settle in, due to our own limited perspective, but for a long while now we have felt loved and supported by many we feel grateful to call brothers and sisters in Zion!

Local Support Group – Small in numbers, they are HUGE in heart! Our once-a-week park days or field trips really add to our love of homeschooling. The girls both have some special friends that they want to keep for life! The moms (and even some dads!) are pretty great, too!

Online Support Group/s – Cyberspace is a much less scary place when you connect with other like-minded folks. Generous, understanding, sympathetic, and willing cyber friends contribute SO much! With so many different groups out there, it isn’t hard to find one (or many!) to belong and contribute to. Some of our online buddies have been part of our lives for YEARS now, and yet we’re still making new ones quite regularly. We can count on you!

I'm leaning toward thinking that it does NOT ultimately take a village - our Heavenly Father assigned that responsibility to parents, and we are the ones who will some day stand before Him to make an accounting of our stewardship.

When a village is threatened by natural or manmade calamity, whose children do the villagers choose to save? Are the threats to all villages the same? Are some villages just plain and simply better for the welfare of their citizens than others or is that distinction completely dependent on the individual villagers?

We do need each other. It’s not the concept of a village that I disagree with – it’s the assumption of responsibility. That rests squarely on our shoulders as parents.

It’s not a burden, it’s a blessing.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Magical Creatures

Yesterday Jelly pulled out a little comb-bound, 8.5" x 5.5" volume, about .75" thick titled Magizoology: Our Study of Magical & Muggle Creatures, Volume 1. It is a textbook that I put together in the fall of 2004 for a special class the girls "took" during the month of October - a Hogwarts Special Correspondence Course. It contains mini units on dragons, cats, fairies, phoenixes, owls, werewolves, and unicorns. As I am inclined to do, I OVER planned, and we didn't get through the whole thing that month, and the books got tucked safely away.

Fast forward to March 2008. We're planning on participating in two online co-ops with Hands of a Child in April. (You can sign up by joining this Yahoo group.) I've been talking them up to the girls, because we think that anticipation is part of the fun! I think looking forward to doing lapbooks on Mythological Creatures Around the World and Cinderella Stories Around the World is what prompted some long-remembered memory in Jelly.

Wanna know just ONE of the things that is really cool about all this?

We picked up right where we left off and I didn't need to do a thing extra!! We had stopped right in the middle of a study on owls, so that's where we started yesterday. It rekindled so much enthusiasm - in me, as I think about the work to be done for the co-ops, AND in both Jelly and Doodle! I believe our (stuffed) snowy owl, Hedwig, enjoyed the afternoon as well. We may end up slipping in an entire lapbook on owls. HOAC has recently updated their "Owls"research pack to a project pack - what could be easier!

Yes, indeed, we do love unit studies and rabbit trails. Studying Mythological Creatures and Cinderella Stories is going to be such a fun transition from Greece and Rome to our next unit on the Middle Ages.

We will finish Year 1 of Learning Adventures eventually. ;o)

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Leapin' Lapbookin'!

Jelly was heard to say during a lunchtime prayer today, “Thank you for letting us have a fun Saturday school morning!”

We were going to do it all in one day yesterday, but we decided to add watching a Leap Year movie to our list of activities in honor of this once-every-four-years holiday. (Ed. - If I’d planned and printed ahead, so that we cold have started school at our usual time on the 29th, it would have been darn-near perfect for a one-day mini unit.) We actually (horrors!) “did” a bit of school this morning – on a Saturday! – so that we could finish up the last few mini books. It isn’t too late, though, to still do this mini unit study THIS leap year, because it WILL be Leap Year all year long. So, having said all that, let me also say that once Jelly got used to the idea of having school on Saturday, a very good time was had by all, and especially by Jelly.

Here’s what we did.

A Leap Year Mini Unit Study and Lapbook
All of our information came from the original link I posted yesterday. I did do some link chains, and I was in a hurry, so I can’t give you many exact references. Sorry! I’ll do better next time. I used templates from (If you’re out there, ladies, I’d be happy to add this to your freebies if it is feasible.) and Mirkwood Designs, and added text and graphics (mostly using simple image searches) myself. Next time I do a "from scratch" lapbook, it'll be WAY easier, because I'm going to get the Template Pack from Hands of a Child.

1. Introduction and a very brief discussion: What is a “Leap Year?”
Source: Wikipedia

2. 5-petal pentagon minibook titled “Measuring Time”
General Information about Calendars, Clocks, and Keeping Time. Minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days in a week, months in a year, days in a year. We “closed” the book with a graphic of Earth as seen from space.

Did you know that if our days were just a minute longer, we wouldn’t need leap year?

3. Leap Year History - *Three-tab book with separate cover
Tabs with pics and info – Julius Caesar (45 BC), Caesar Augustus (4 AD), and Pope Gregory XIII (1582)

4. Gregorian Calendar Rules – Circle book
How to calculate leap years. To reveal and read each of the three rules, spin the top circle.

5. A Leap Year Riddle - Two-flap book
To put together the answer, which is in two parts, you lift the flaps with pics of a kangaroo and of a calendar.

What do you get when you multiply a kangaroo with a calendar? A Leap Year!

5. Leap Year Poetry – Large Fan Book
Read, compare, and contrast (then memorize and recite your favorite) three poems regarding the number of days in February. You could also do this for copywork.

6. Why Leap Year is Like Swings on a Playground - Minibook
I read this analogy, (you'll have to scroll down to "Why It's Such a Big Deal" to find it) then had the girls do a simple narration in a simple, one-fold minibook. It includes two pages with the top half a blank rectangle for an illustration and the bottom half lined.

7. Leap Year Number Line – One and one-half inch strips, taped together. How many you need depends on how big your child writes.
Skip counting by fours. Draw in ruler-like markings with the line pattern – short, short,short, LONG. Think of a ruler. Count each mark, but only label each fourth one.

The girls “checked” their work for their number lines by listening to Cat Man Math Blues. The song ends with …Scatting... and then “cat says meow.” Because Daddy was available, we added an impromptu music appreciation lesson here. He played the song called “Mas Que Nada” (Al Jarreau) for us, and then gave the girls a short lesson on “scat/jazz” music. As I’ve said before, we LOVE rabbit trails!! Thanks, Daddy!

(Woody adds: "Mas Que Nada" [or "Mais Que Nada" sometimes] was originally written and recorded as a samba piece by Sergio Mendes and the Brasil 66. As far as I know it's only ever been recorded in Portuguese. You can find it on YouTube nowadays, which is where I came across the Al Jarreau version. I used Jarreau's version because he is one of the masters of scat in the world today. Besides that, it's just plain fun! Note: I would not recommend the "Black-Eyed Peas" version. Too immodest for our taste!)

Scat music or scatting is the use of nonsense syllables in jazz music. Source: Wikipedia

7. One Leap Baby We Know – Tri-fold Horizontal Minibook
(Note: I was going to have the girls make a timeline and include LOTS of famous leap day babies, but decided we’ll save that for when they’re older and know who more of the people are.)

On Feb. 29. 1932, Newell Kay Brown was born. In 1970, he wrote the children’s song, “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission,” which children all over the world sing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

8. Why Leapers Are Special – Large Matchbook
Leap Day Birthday Probability Statistics Table. The chance of being born on leap day is only 1 in 1,461! The girls drew and filled in the whole table as I gave them verbal directions one step at a time.

9. Leap Year World Record – Large Matchbook
A mom in Norway had children on three consecutive leap year days!! We included their pictures and names.

10. Leaping Animals – Keyfan book
The girls illustrated and labeled animals that leap (or jump or hop). Too cute! They each came up with the fact that PEOPLE leap, which led right in to the next activity.

11. The Jump Rope Rhyme – Minibook with lined-paper pages
The girls took dictation (a la Charlotte Mason) as I slowly read the rhyme one line at a time. They want to memorize the poem so that they can practice their “leap-roping.”

12. Leap Year Wordsearch – Square Petal Card
As Doodle finished up, Jelly decided to add a couple of extra activities.
13. Origami Leap Frog
She followed the directions here (this was the simplest version I found), then used a sealed envelope cut in half to make a pocket to hold her creation - “Leap, the Amazing Frog.” There are LOTS of variations on origami frogs, including this one you can watch and fold as you go.

Doodle was still doing her word search, so Jelly kept creating.

14. Leap Year Fortune Teller
She’s big into “cootie catchers” lately, so she made one with leap-related fortunes. She decorated and used the other half of her sealed-then-cut-in-half envelope to store her game.

15. Watch a leap year musical – Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
There is a made-to-be-a-movie version, but we liked the version that was filmed of a live theater performance. Almost the same cast does both versions. Kevin Kline, the Pirate King, was especially fun to watch.

I don’t want to spoil the story if you aren’t familiar with it, so I’ll just tell you that Frederic’s leap-day birthday causes some confusion as to when his indenture to the pirates is concluded. If you’re a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, you’ll understand why this is Woody’s second favorite, after “The Mikado.” If you’re not, give this one a try. Completely family friendly. It makes a great mini-unit-study-culminating activity.

There are LOTS of other LEAPING options out there, but this combination of activities worked really well for us.

Maybe we’ll do this all again sometime… like maybe four years from now!

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