Friday, January 24, 2014

G is for Goat (Farm Week 1)

We have three units in our kindergarten curriculum that are about farm animals.  The first one is about goats.  I am glad to have three units in a row that form a cohesive theme, so we've been doing a fair amount of general farm theme stuff.  Especially for my little man, this has been great because he'd rather talk about tractors than animals anyway.  In fact, when I filled a bin with some popcorn seeds and put in a few tractors and some soft farm animal toys we had, he took the animals back out and said, "No animals.  Only tractors."

One of his favorite things to do throughout the week was to fill up his tractors with the popcorn seeds.  Big brother often jumped in to "help" him.
Both of my boys REALLY love dot markers.  I often am a little sparing with printing out things like this because it uses expensive colored ink for something that only takes them about 5 minutes (or less).  But, I know how much they like them, so I try to do them at least sometimes.  I try to figure out some other ways for them to use the dot markers other than just for printables like this because they view them as such a treat.  I'm always looking for more ideas for things like that!

Even though the dot marker printables are meant for little man and quite easy for Isaiah, I still usually print two if I'm printing them because he still really wants to do them, and it takes so little time, so it isn't as if it is taking away from his tasks.
Little Man has also really been enjoying stamps lately.  He wasn't really interested in the intended task to stamp "g's" on his goat.  He just wanted to put train stamps and letters from his name and such.  He was loving it, though.

Handwriting is not Isaiah's strength, and I am not a big proponent of pushing too hard for a boy of his age since he knows his letter formation for all the letters.  I do want to try to keep some practice and work on it as part of our work, obviously, so this week I tried a couple of low-pressure and new (to us) ways of working on his letter, as handwriting worksheets are just not a great fit for him or really a fit for what me philosophically for this age.  Anyway, both things were pretty simple.  The first one was that I just wrote the capital and lowercase letter with highlighter and had him trace them.  My good friend had been suggesting that since he gets really hung up on dotted lines and needing to be exactly on them and gets frustrated.  The highlighter worked well for him.
Secondly, I just gave him some smiley face stickers and had him form the capital and lowercase letter with them. He liked this.

One of the things I haven't loved about our curriculum is that the reading is almost entirely focused on phonics.  There are lots of great discussions about approaches to reading instruction, and I am not attempting to engage that, but this wouldn't be my natural preference, and I think Isaiah gets a little too bogged down in the mechanics, and I don't want him to lose his love for reading and books.  Much more could be said, but I had purchased You Can Read from Carissa at 1+1+1=1 some time ago, and we've started to use it now, and I think it is offering some good balance to things.  Here he is doing the stamping from the extras bundle.  Another thing that I just need to stay really accountable to is simply just READING a ton to and with them. I can get so focused on our agenda and the things that we are supposed to finish that I can often let this slide, and it is one of the most important things and one of the things my kids love most.  We read, and we read several books a day, but I just recently have had to remind myself to keep abundant reading time as a core part of what we do and not an "extra."

Linking up with other great folks at the Tot School Gathering Place!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I is for Insect

There is something about boys and bugs.  Maybe all little kids, but I only have boys, and they are fascinated by bugs--even my older one who is kind of afraid of many of the little crawlies still is totally fascinated by them!  So, it was fun to do a little unit on insects.  Isaiah is a man of precision with his information, so he was thrilled to learn about corrections to common thoughts and was eager to correct anyone who talked about things like spiders as insects and such.
They really had fun building some bug snacks for a co-op day with our friends.  We just made some energy bites and added some pretzel stick pieces for legs (Isaiah was quick to point out the SIX legs for anyone who called them spiders) and some candy eyes we had on hand.

On the ladybug day, we made a ladybug out of a paper plate, some wiggle eyes, and some pipe cleaners.  Zeke lost interest in pretty quickly and didn't finish his.

We actually had a bit of a hard time getting the pieces to stick, as the glue just wouldn't dry.  It was just regular Elmer's school glue, but I think with the temperature being so cold in the house these days, it is affecting that.  But, Isaiah was determined to finish it, so we had to wait until a time that the electricity was on and run our little glue gun through a converter to finish it off, but here it is!

I made the boys a ladybug snack that day from things we had.  I cut an apple and then attached a few chocolate chips with dabs of peanut butter, again stuck on some pretzel legs and antennae, and I used a little chunk of chocolate to try to look like a head (which it doesn't really, but they were happy for the chocolate treat!).  

Isaiah did his honeycomb project from our curriculum, but we modified it to trace some of our pattern blocks to make hexagons on the paper.  The brown paper scraps are supposed to be bits of honey, and we used grains of rice to be eggs and beans to be larvae.

Here is one of the times the boys are just sitting to do some pages.  Ezekiel (well, both of the boys) love to use dot markers.  I've actually been really surprised at how often little Zeke wants to sit at the school table and do work like big brother.  He's a kid who tends to be in constant motion, and while he does love when I make him sensory or play bins or things, I have been surprised how often he chooses to do seat work kind of things that I get for him.  I think he really just likes the idea of being a "bid kid."

He definitely puts his own twist on those seat work/printable kind of tasts!  Here, I think he was making up a song to the pieces he put on the glue stick for his insect sorting sheet.

This is the insect sensory bin I put together.  I had intended to make the base all "grass" (shredded coconut I used food coloring to make green), but I didn't have enough coconut to fill the bin, so I put some "sand" cloud dough I had saved as the bottom and then put the "grass" on top of it.  Then, I just put in some plastic insects we had, a plastic log, and a strainer and spoon for scooping.
Who can resist this kind of reaction?!

One of the days when I had time just with Isaiah, we pulled out the sensory bin, and we made a bar graph of which colors of insects we had in the bin.

He asked me if he could write the numbers in the spaces instead of coloring them in.  His writing is one of his biggest growth areas, and he usually does not like to do much of it, so I let him go for it.   

When I told Isaiah we were going on an insect hunt, he asked me if he could make a map first to show where the insects are in our colony/neighborhood.  I love when he comes up with ideas like that for himself!

While we didn't actually find all that many varieties of insects, given that it is winter, both of my little bug hunters thoroughly got into the search!

Linking up this week with the Tot School Gathering Place over at 1+1+1=1.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I love Christmas!  My son's kindergarten curriculum doesn't have anything related to Christmas, so we did the minimum activities from that so that we could add some fun Christmas things.
We made a lot of cookies, including a couple of times of decorating cookies with friends,  had lots of Christmas treats to eat, and made decorations.
One of the boys' very favorite projects was making a gingerbread train with Grandpa and Grandma who were visiting us!  It was really fun!
Here is our final product.  It was messy and started falling apart within a few days, but the boys loved it!

I decided to focus most of our "school-time" Christmas activities more around my toddler, and I knew my older one would enjoy jumping in on many of them.
We did a Christmas "Write the Room" because my older son LOVES those!  He always begs to hide the cards over and over again, and he is usually willing to do more writing than usual with it.  I gave him a sheet to write the whole word/name once he found a card, and my little guy had one that had the words in dotted lines, and I just had him color in or circle (or really however he wanted to mark) the item as he found it.  Oh, and this time (due to past disputes), I hid two sets of each word, so if they already had a word that they found, they were to leave it there for the other one to find.

I found this simple Decorating Felt Christmas Trees at Buggy and Buddy.  Ezekiel has often not been that interested in tongs for things, but he really enjoyed this. 

Here is a Christmas sensory bin that I set up for the boys.  I died some rice red and then added peppermint extract to some white rice.  I filled the tub with the red rice and then made some lines of the white pepper mint rice to look like candy cane stripes.  One of the things that I love about preparing sensory bins here is that they often include items that people have sent us, so it is a fun reminder of those sweet people while I am putting the bin together.  For example, in this bin, the peppermint extract is something a friend had sent us, the candy cane and the candy foam stickers and the Happy Birthday, Jesus sticks are all from my mom, and the Christmas bulbs are from a stash that a dear friend's mom had brought here during her visit.  I like to try to make most of our sensory bins from things we have or can get here, but it is really fun having sweet family and friends who send us treats that we can incorporate into special bins!

Both of the boys had a GREAT time playing with the sensory bin!

Ezekiel loves to scoop and pour/dump things!

I gave he boys a color by number (from this Christmas pack).  Well, I gave it to little man in one of his work boxes, but I knew full well that big brother would want one, so I had made an extra copy.

Another day I set out a playdough invitation to play. 

I sort of expected, what with the green color of playdough and it being Christmas and all, for the boys to make some Christmas trees to decorate.  But, Isaiah went for making a snow man...
...and then some sort of hideout or something for Green Lantern (that figures).

Ezekiel insisted on bringing a loader in to drive on his creation.

 We did find the Polar Express at the library we use here, and since Ezekiel loves all things with wheels, I thought he'd really enjoy the book.  Isaiah actually got drawn into it much quicker, but they both ended up enjoying it.  We did our "Christmas camping" (which basically consists of making a little indoor tent, which this year turned into our "train," and sleeping down by the tree) this year.  I printed out Polar Express tickets, we climbed aboard our "train" and we watched the movie with some hot cocoa.  Zeke actually got super excited about his train ticket and even wanted to sleep with it!

Another project we did together that we all got excited about was our tin can snowman.  I saw the idea on Pinterest from here, and we had a bunch of powdered milk cans saved, so I thought we could pull it off!  I didn't actually read any directions on the site, but I painted the cans (and the yogurt container for the hat) myself.  I only had some washable school paint, so it took a few coats!  Then, I had the boys choose the decorations to put on.  We had to choose a time that we had electricity so that I could use my little glue gun!  Isaiah gets very intense on having projects done a certain way and doesn't do very well with the "less precise" approach of his brother, so I let them each decorate a side of the snow man!  Any guesses which one was from which kid?  Ha.

For our homeschool co-op, the kids acted out the Christmas story.  Isaiah played Joseph and Zeke re-used a sheep costume I had made for the kids' presentation at our church service.  (Doesn't he look thrilled?)
Both of the boys really wanted to be sheep for the church Christmas presentation, so I made these costumes for them.  Given that I don't have a sewing machine or access to a lot of stuff here, I can't decide if I was a bit impressed at how they turned out or appalled at my level of insanity for deciding it was a project worth doing!  They told people to come in costumes for the presentation at church.  My kids and one other adult actually did.  And they had costumes available to wear for it.  Made me wish I had not decided to stay up well into the night, especially given that little man ended up barfing through the night and didn't get to go anyway!  Seriously, someday I really will learn to re-calibrate my gauge on what is realistic to accomplish (and still be sane)!  Several times during Advent I was reminded that I don't need to perform and fill it all up with perfect activities or prove anything or make Christmas happen and that who I AM during Advent is a lot more important than what I DO.  See the "Joseph" picture above that consisted of a towel, a headband, and my bathrobe?  Same smile from the kiddo.  I need constant reminders and am hopefully growing in this!  I like projects.  I love doing special things for and with my boys, but I don't want to get wrapped up in the doing and miss just being present in the moments!

Linking up with the Tot School Gathering Place this week!  I've found lots of fun ideas for my tot there.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Water and Oceans

Didn't get a lot of photos from our Water unit and Octopus (Ocean) units, as we wrapped up time with my parents and the holidays approached, so here are just a couple quick shots.
We read The Pout-Pout Fish and the Big-Big Dark.  I actually prefer the first book, but Isaiah wanted to focus on this one instead.  I had him draw a pout-pout fish.  He was in one of his modes that he insisted he could not possibly do it right on his own, so I helped him a bit with the tail.  

I asked him to dictate to me to fill in the prompts "Sometimes I feel scared when..." and "...helps me to feel brave."  It was really interesting that it took him quite a long time to think of something that made him feel scared because we often perceive him as a kid who is quite easily scared, so I guess it was encouraging that he doesn't actually think of having a long list of fears!  It was interesting that he said little brother is what helps him feel brave.

Water beads are always a hit!  We can't get them here (or at least I haven't seen them), but they are so light that I have had my mom send some a few times when she is sending packages.  
We did do a little water writing to practice our letter "W."  I wrote a bunch of letters with chalk on the sidewalk, and they took their foam brushes and painted over all the W's with water to erase them.  This is not my original idea, but I honestly can't remember where I first saw it.

We went kind of light on some of our actual units as we tried to add in some fun Christmas stuff, so that is about all we captured for these units.

D is for Dinosaur

Whew, got pretty behind on the blog!  Our recent dinosaur unit was a favorite around here.  My son had gone through a very big (i.e. obsessive) dinosaur phase, and we brought a lot of those toys and books with us when we moved here to Nepal, so we had some fun things to pull out.  He has since moved on to fixate on superheroes, but he still does really enjoy dinosaurs anytime we talk about them.
There was a lot going on when we were working on this unit.  Our sweet and beloved neighbors were preparing to move away, but the girls had a stretch of time off from their school before leaving, so they joined us for some dino fun.  My parents arrived for their first visit to Nepal near the start of the unit.  So, even though the units are designed for 6 days (and we often do them in 5), it stretched out and was a bit less focused this time!  But, we had lots of fun!
The neighbor girls were eager to take part in fossil cookie making!

Here are their cookies.  We used our toy dinosaurs on some to make footprints or whole body indents for our fossils, and then we also used our dinosaur cookie cutters to make a few.
We measured some dinosaur toys with unit cubes.

Grandma and Grandpa helped us to make some salt dough fossils.  Isaiah (man of vision for big projects!) got in his mind to make fossils to compose an entire skeleton.

I buried our fossils in cloud dough, and they "excavated" them.

Here is my little paleontologist setting out all of his fossils after the excavation.

Yes, he did convince me to try to make a whole skeleton.  It was in no way part of my original plan, but he got so excited about it and wanted to make his own museum display, so I went with it!  I pulled out my little mini glue gun, plugged it in through a converter and went to town trying to make his salt dough bones fit together.  Kind of worked, huh?

Of course, when little one saw big brother's skeleton, he wanted one, too.  His was a little harder to pull off because he had not made fossils with the intent to put them together, but he also is far less picky about details of how things turn out, so he was pleased with the random collection of salt dough blobs I glued together for him!  
The boys each dictated a little sign for their museum displays.   (With my parents here, I actually got a photo of ME doing school with the boys!)
 They were very proud putting it all together!