Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tot School

Tot School
(23 months)
"Tot School" has been a challenge for me with my second.  I have found it difficult to manage time focused just on things for him.  Frequently, the times I have tried to set my older one working and then do something with my little guy, he wants to do whatever big brother is doing, and big brother thinks the tot item looks interesting and jumps in to sort of take over.  It has been fun to watch my little guy enjoying the school stuff big brother does and to try to participate and mimic the same thing, but I also really want to do some things that are focused just on him and his level of development.  Over the course of the past few weeks, I've tried a few things, and I'm trying to really focus on more.

One thing I tried while brother was occupied with something in another room was a bit of color sorting using the laundry baskets.  Zeke loves to push the laundry baskets around the house lately, especially after filling them with random things.  One happens to be blue and one green, so I gathered a bunch of blue and green toys and tried to sit down and work on some sorting with him.  Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of great pictures, as he was enjoying some minimally clothed time near the heater! :)
He had fun dumping the toys in, but he mainly wanted to dump them all in one basket together.  I think it would have been a bit easier with two more contrasting colors, like red for one of them or something.

I have been trying to be more intentional about doing sensory bins, which both of the boys actually love.  I'm trying to gear them toward Ezekiel and get him rolling with them and then allow Isaiah to jump in and enjoy as well, and that seems to be a good plan for us at the moment.
Here is the sensory bin I did for Valentine's Day.  I dyed some of the local puffed rice and some stale noodles red for the base and added some fun foam heart shapes a friend sent us in a package.  Then, I put in pairs of animals (one small and one big).  I got the idea from reading Hug by Jez Alborough a lot lately, as Ezekiel is loving it.  I thought I would have him try to match up the animals for their hugs.

 At first, he just liked digging out the animals and wasn't interested in matching them, and then when I tried to connect to the book (which we had just read several times before using the bin) and asked him to help them find their hugs, he decided to give them hugs himself!

I decided to add a layer of cotton balls the second day, as my base wasn't very deep, so that it would add a bit more of a search for the animals, and I added a few new pairs of animals.
 Big brother jumped in and was having a great time helping little one find the pairs.

We are almost to Ezekiel's second birthday, so I decided to make our theme for a couple weeks centered around his main love these days--transportation!  Anything with wheels and motors, especially big trucks and buses, totally capture him.  I'll post a separate post on this theme, but here is one activity I did with him.  He is on the verge of learning his colors and seems to really want to say the words and label the colors correctly, so I just laid out a foam sheet of each of these 5 colors and one car/truck of each color.  He actually did pretty well with matching them up on the corresponding mat and seemed to really have fun with it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Knights Theme

Isaiah has been really into all things involving fighting and weapons lately, which is a huge challenge for me having grown up (and really still at heart am) a pacifist.  He liked some things about knights when we had read in his current favorite series Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne.  We got the "Fact Tracker" she wrote about Knights and Castles, and I decided that might be a good theme to grab his attention and try to connect up what I think is, at the root, a good boy trait to want to fight for what is right and noble.  Anyway, it also turned out to be a lot of fun! :)
Our main story for the theme was In the Castle by Anna Milborne, which the international school library that we had just joined actually had!
In the Castle (Picture Books)

Both boys really liked the book, and we found a knight unit at Homeschool Creations that was based around this book.  We used the vocabulary cards in the unit to do a variety of activities.  Isaiah loves to find hidden things around the room, so I would hide one set and have him match them on our tabletop chart to the other set.  Zeke jumped in on the action and kept wanting to stick the cards somewhere on the chart, though he didn't really get the matching part.
We also used the cards to play "Memory" and "Go Fish."
The unit also had some prewriting sheets, which are good for Isaiah because writing is not his favorite, but these seem fun to him, especially if we put them in our wipe-off sheets I brought with us and use wet-erase markers.  As usual, Zeke wants to have the same thing brother has, and he went to town with the markers!

I really wanted to incorporate the "armor of God" from Ephesians 6 into the unit.  I found this great coloring set of the armor pieces.  There were little figures to cut out to put the pieces on, but I thought it would be fun to take pictures of the boys and put the pieces on their pictures.  We talked about 2 pieces each day, colored them, cut them out, and glued them on.  
I wasn't precise at all about measurements, so I wasn't sure if it would work out, but I have to say these turned out to be one of my favorite things they boys have made because I just think they look so fun and super cute!

Of course, we had to make some "real" armor for the boys to wear and play in, so I cut up some fabric bags we get here for their "belts of truth" and "breastplates of righteousness."  
They enjoyed playing with their swords and shields.  To be honest, Isaiah did very little of the work on his, and it turned out to be more of a project I made for him.  Ezekiel drew his artwork, though, and really wanted to help fasten on the foil.

We also read a book we bought for the kindle called Will, God's Mighty Warrior.
Will, God's Mighty Warrior
Isaiah seemed to enjoy it, and the whole "armor of God" theme sparked some really great conversations and a lot of challenging questions from him!

Of course, making some other medieval weapons was a favorite!  We found these great little bow and arrows at The Brooding Hen, and they actually work to shoot quite far!
It was a little fine motor skill work for Isaiah to clip the heads off the cotton swabs with nail clippers.
We did make a rule that there would be no shooting at other people!

We made some goblets to use for our feast.  I decided, at the last minute, to pull out my glue dots since Isaiah doesn't like to get his fingers sticky, and it turned out to be a really great fine motor activity for him to put the dots on the sequins and then put them on the cup.  I was surprised at how incredibly focused he stayed for quite awhile doing this!

Isaiah also really enjoyed the castle-themed playdough mats I printed and laminated.  That site has a ton of great mats for other themes as well, and I've saved several for future use!

As is often the case, life took some unexpected turns for us, including several days in the hospital for Zeke, so we didn't finish many of the activities we had planned, including building a castle and that I had promised Isaiah we would end the unit with a family night medieval feast--a chance to use our goblets!  So, even though we've moved on, I hope we'll get the chance to finish our castle, and I know we'll need to plan our "feast"!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Random School Things

I was sorting some pictures and thought I'd post a few that don't fit well with specific themes or anything.  The last two weeks, I put together a bin for our letter of the week.  I don't do this every week, but when it hit the letter Y, and we had yellow yarn and multiple yaks, it just seemed like a good week to do one!  Besides, who can resist the chance to pull out a yeti when you have one?! 

Then when last week was "N," I went ahead and had fun putting together some stuff we had.  My husband enjoyed the Northwestern representation for the week!

 Sometimes I forget the value of just simple things, like pulling out puzzles!  We got this chunky construction vehicle puzzle used when some friends were leaving, and Ezekiel really likes it!  I need to remember to pull it out more for him.

Isaiah loves legos right now.  It has been really exciting to see him create things of his own to build and gain some confidence in his imagination.  He is a focused kid, so he could build stuff for quite a long time!  
I decided to have a little lego school activity with him one of the afternoons when Ezekiel was napping.  I made something and asked him to build a copy of it.  He intentionally decided he wanted to use a couple different colors than I did, but then he went ahead and built the same one.
 He, however, didn't want to do it more than once, and I let him just lead in some building time together.  I realized I very rarely just sit down and build with him.  With the little guy down for nap, we had time to just build together.  I'm not great at coming up with ways to build things he wants me to build, but I need to try to roll with it more often so that he'll be willing to just try things that he isn't sure how to make work without trying them!  He had just watched Beauty and the Beast recently so insisted that we build all the characters.  So, here is our attempt at some of them.  I'll let you guess which one is which, but I will let you know that Isaiah insisted on adding a sword for Belle. :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Last Week--Angry Birds and Kids

I guess it has taken awhile to recover because this isn't even from this past week now.  It is from the week before that.  I was working on some bigger units I wanted to get rolling on soon, and I had some Angry Birds stuff already around (though I never seem to be able to just let it go at that and keep digging and pulling more stuff together, even on my "easy" units), so I thought we would just do a little Angry Birds theme for the week since both boys love Angry Birds.
To sum up the week, the birds were not the only angry ones.  It was a rough week!  There were a lot of things that threw us off routine, so we really didn't get much school done, and the times we did have school were NOT smooth.  Isaiah seemed to fight me every step of the week with school, and on Wednesday, I was seriously thinking I have made a huge mistake and just need to put him in school here.  
So far, I have really enjoyed this journey with homsechooling most of the time, but I find myself constantly feeling like I'm falling short and often getting stressed about how things are going.  I've always been invested in the students I've had in classrooms, but these are truly, in every sense of the word, MY kids!  It is so much fun and so amazing to get to be part of the learning and education and growth, but it is also a big struggle in the moments (or weeks!) that aren't going well.
I don't have any conclusions about the schooling thing for us.  It was a better week this last week, and for now, we are going to press through (and hopefully continue to enjoy) the homeschool thing, and we'll just try to keep seeking what is best for our kids and our family.  And, giving thanks for grace for hard weeks!
One thing I did decide is that I need to put down the camera more and just enjoy!  So, it may just be a highlight or two per week from now on.
Here are my angry birds, I mean boys, with their work from this week...
Isaiah was working on cutting for his verse of the week.  So, of course, Ezekiel had to get out scissors and glue as well!
 I am trying to give a bit more focus directly to some activities for Ezekiel.  I loved doing "Tot School" kind of stuff with Isaiah when he was smaller, but it is a bit harder to manage with two!  And, Ezekiel usually just wants to mimic whatever Isaiah is doing.  But, one of the days, I got him to focus on his stacking cups and pom poms, both of which he loves.  We were counting and putting pom poms in different cups and trying to do a bit of basic color recognition. ("Put one pom pom in the pink cup," etc.)

 Most of the materials we used from the week were from an Angry Birds Kindergarten pack from 1+1+1=1 and some free Angry Birds printables from The Activity Mom.
Here is Isaiah tracing or filling in numbers on a chart from the 1+1+1=1 pack.  He only got to 12 before he melted down that day.

This is a chart from The Activity Mom, and I used some of the cards I already had printed out from 1+1+1=1.  Isaiah does really enjoy his math, so this was one of our more successful activities for the week.