Growing Every Day

Archive for March, 2017

Music Time

I always knew music would become a component of our learning journey.  My husband and I were in band all through middle school, high school, and college, continuing after.  Music is simply a part of who and what we are as individuals and a family.  The same has shown in Builder and Princess.  They go around singing to themselves, to each other, and to us.  Truly, there are days that I feel I live in a musical…and I LOVE IT!

With that, I wasn’t exactly sure when and where to start.  Well, just recently I stumbled upon an amazing resource that I want to share with you.  It is another web resource that has a portion free, and another portion that is available by purchasing a paid premium account.  However, there is enough of the free material to get us well on our way.  It will also give us that period to see if this is truly the best fit for us.  At the moment, we are in love with it.  Granted we honestly have only completed one lesson, but that is all it has taken for all of us to be excited.

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The resource is Hoffman Academy, online piano lessons.  The website is very nice, neat, and easy to maneuver.  I have been impressed with the resources sent my way upon creating our free account.  The lessons are in video style and Mr. Hoffman (the teacher) seems to be a wonderful instructor.  The introductory material on the website refer to him as the Mr. Rogers of piano lessons.  From what I saw in the first video, I can see that.  After the first lesson video, Builder and Princess, were playing their first song – Hot Cross Buns.  In a 13-minute video, not only did he teach them how to play the song, but he introduced where the song originated from, as well as the beginnings of the do-re-mi scale.  So much rich learning introduced in such a way that my kids got it without a hint of effort, and they never lost focus.

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The Hoffman Academy recommends 2-3 lessons a week with daily practice.  With this schedule in mind, there should be about 24 months of lessons in the nine units available.  As I said, we are not very far into this course, but we are super excited about it.  I didn’t want to wait any longer before sharing this resource with you.  I highly recommend you take a look into it, and give it a try.  If you do, be sure to let me know how it works for you and your family.

Your Turn to Play ~ What role did music play in your life growing up?

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Mystery Science

Science and I are getting along better these days.

Growing up, and far into adulthood, I never enjoyed science.  It was too…unpredictable.  And it never failed that what I expected to happen, did not in fact happen.  This frustrated me to all ends.  Now, I find myself having to teach it.  Lord have mercy, and He has.

My husband has a scientific mind.  The type that are never satisfied with the activity at hand, but has the innate ability to ask the inevitable, “What if we did…”.  This is also how Builder thinks and revels in getting to do science activities with Daddy.  However, doing science each week with Daddy doesn’t exactly work well into our schedule.  So though it works every now and then, we needed a different solution for a more consistent science experience.

So, I have pressed on and pressed into the Lord to help me in this area.  One of my realizations is that science truly sets you up to continue learning.  There is no failure in science, only an opportunity to learn more.  In the past, every time my outcome did not match my expectation I became frustrated at my “inability to do science”.  Now I realize when something doesn’t work out as expected, we get to figure out why.  This leads to a much deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

Now that I wasn’t scared of, or even angry with, science I was better equipped to decide how we wanted to approach it.  We did some individual units found here and there on the web.  However, I really felt like I was shooting in the dark when it came to a forward motion in science.  We were just kind of hit-and-missing.  Recently, I found MysteryScience.

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Builder was the main focus for this choice, however, Princess has jumped right in and joined us in science time.  MysterScience has many units to offer from Plants to Weather to Energy/Motion and beyond.  The material age range listed is from 5-12 years old.  This seems to be about right on the lower end since Princess is 5 and can join right in.  We don’t have experience at the upper level as of yet.

Each unit has a set of mysteries revolving around the theme.  We are currently working our way through Plant Adventures and are on Mystery 3 of 5.  Each Mystery has three parts:

Exploration

Each Mystery has a 20-45 min slideshow/video that is narrated and sets up the mystery at hand.  This section teaches all the information along the way that is needed for the upcoming activity.  The video pauses every now and again with a clarifying or critical thinking question to discuss with your student.

Activity

After each exploration, there is a hands-on activity.  From our experience, these have been very clear and the video leads you step-by-step through the instructions.  This has made it very easy to step into a facilitating role.  The activities we have completed have been anywhere from 25-35 min long.  Both Builder (7) and Princess (5) have loved them.

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The activity from Plant Adventures – Mystery 2: Do Plants Eat Dirt?       (Growing radish seeds)

Optional Extras

Each mystery has optional extras to add to and extend learning.  We have used some of these, but not all.  The total process done in one day pushes our boundaries of focus.  I have tried splitting the whole thing into a two to three day process, but the kids are so excited to do the activity once we get to it that I have not wanted to stop them from doing so.

Mystery Science has a free trial and also pricing for homeschoolers, as well as other school pricing.  We are still in our free trial until June 2017 and we will be purchasing the full version once our trial is over.  It has been so much fun and the work put into it by the creators is spot on.  If you have been searching for a good solid science curriculum, I encourage you to check out www.mysteryscience.com.  For me, it was well worth the exploration.

Your Turn to Play ~ What has been the most difficult subject for you to step into as teacher?

Bottoms, Bellies, and Bins

Yeah, kind of a strange title.  Let me explain…

In the past 2-3 weeks, I have seen a huge improvement of Builder and Princess settling down to do their morning work.  Morning is when we largely focus on our math and word work.  I believe three things have contributed to this increase in productivity, and decrease in whining/complaining about getting started with schoolwork.

#1 – a table

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This sounds simple and obvious, but in our house we did not have a place we could all gather and work on things at the same time.  At least, we didn’t have a place relatively workable for all of us.  We could sit at the kitchen table, but that was really too high for the kids to work comfortably.  So, we purchased what is called an activity table.  One day, I pictured us all sitting around a table at their sitting height.  I loved this idea and did some research.  I knew this was an investment I was willing to make in our homeschool and found a basic 2′ x 4′ school table.  The table’s height is adjustable up to a normal desk height which allows it to grow with us through the years.  Builder and Princess just know that when it is school time, we gather together at the “oak table”,  as Builder likes to call it, and get to work.  Having a work space at their own height, I believe, is key.

#2 – a snack

This little key was found quite by accident, which I notice is how many things come to be.  We had breakfast early one day, so as we were sitting down at our new school table I asked if the kids wanted a snack.  Of course, they did.  Lo and behold, they sat eating their snack and then were ready to move on to work since they were already sitting and poised, ready for action.  This is what we have done for the last couple of weeks.  When it is time to transition to school, we move to the table, have a snack, and get to work.  Sometimes they finish their snack before getting started.  Sometimes they start working while eating.  Either way, this mama is happy.

#3 – student bins

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This is something that has helped me and the kids.  We have designated a rainbow drawer for each child.  Any printed material, manipulatives, glue sticks, etc. that may be needed for work that day is placed in the bin and set on the table for the beginning of school time.  This helps me keep accountable as well as helping Builder and Princess see the scope of what needs to be done for the day.  It also helps them know how close they are to finishing, and I think that has helped overall.  If it is not a printed material, a sticky note can be placed in the bin and thrown away once the activity is completed.  When their work is finished, they place it on my desk.  When their bin is empty they can put it back in the rainbow drawer stacker.

So there you have it…a place for bottoms, something in their bellies, bins for the days work.  Three very small things that have made a big difference in our school day.

Your Turn to Play ~ What is one of your most valuable routines or tools?

Antarctica – a frozen field trip

Princess has been studying the continents and oceans.  The continent of study last week was Antarctica.  I have been using a well put together unit entitled It’s a Small World by Molly Lynch.  Mostly, I try to use free resources I find around the web, but this unit I would purchase again in a heartbeat.  Builder went through this unit a couple of years ago, and is having fun going through it again with Princess.

small-world

Back to Antarctica…

We went over the information in the unit regarding Antarctica.  Since there is not a population to speak of, we concentrated on mostly the animals and the ice!  We took a look at all the different kind of animals that live there.  We watched The Magic School Bus episode In the Arctic.  (I know it’s not the Antarctic, but the info translates!)  This gave a lot of information as to the adaptations of animals to live in such a cold harsh environment.  The unit mentioned above has a fun experiment using shortening in between two zipper sealed sandwich bags to make “blubber gloves” which allows you to keep your hand in ice water for quite a long while.  We didn’t have enough shortening on hand so we did a few different activities.

We used Google Earth to zoom in and take a look at Antarctica.  The free part of Google Earth is all we use and is enough for us.  It really helps Princess bring into perspective where the continents are and get a “real life” look at the different environments.  She has had a blast investigating the earth.  Now, when she colors the continent on her worksheet she wants to see it on Google Earth so that she can color it correctly!

After exploring with Google Earth, Princess and Builder did some ice excavation!  I had prepared two containers with objects placed in water and frozen it for a few hours.  So the kids used pipettes and syringes with warm water to melt their ice blocks.  Builder decided they needed forks (a.k.a. pick axes) to explore and excavate as well.  I placed the ice blocks in a larger tray so that as it melted the water was contained.  This gave us a chance to talk about what would happen if all of Antarctica melted.

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They had a blast with this activity and went on to create two more of their own ice blocks.  So much fun!

Your Turn ~ What activities/units have you enjoyed doing more than once?

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