Monday, July 30, 2012


Yikes! We officially start our school year NEXT Monday and I am so not ready! I lost the history schedule (which took me hours) and I have to re-do that. I lost the Learning about Animals that we're suppose to start for science. I got most of the organizing for the school supplies, but there is still a mess in front of the school area. Plus, we can't start spelling yet because I don't think Builder Boy is far enough in reading and we can't start Writing With Ease because he still isn't writing his letters well enough.

I am trying to remember to take deep breaths. Builder Boy will be a young 1st grader, and we're planning on schooling year-round, so we have time to start spelling and writing later. I have the Learning about My Body book, so I can do it first if I can't find the other book in time. I haven't gotten anymore bird school with Early Bird because of so many things going on, and that makes me sad. He had a lot of fun with Feather Week. He still recites the poem, and he plays with the color birds, sorting and counting, almost every day. My shell-less egg was a bust. I dissolved the shell off an egg with vinegar just fine, but the membrane was cloudy and you could not see the yoke very well.  And we only did one lesson of Learning to Be a Scientist last week, and we only have this week to finish the last concept.

But here's a cute picture of Early Bird who fell asleep sitting up after insisting he wasn't tired.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 6, Day 4

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist : the sixth concept is "Scientists record information and explain it to others," the fourth activity is "Making a Diagram." (This is actually the seventh week doing this, but as it is the same concept as last week I am labling it as week 6. This is also the fith, not fourth activity, but I still don't have the seeds for the chart, so this is the fourth activity done.)

We started this day's lesson with review of all the things we recorded last week since it had been a while. Every lesson we have started by reviewing all the previous concepts and they are pretty good at remembering most of them. Even Early Bird can chips in with "Scientists make observations!"

This lesson had us making two diagrams: one of an apple and one of our hands. The apple diagram was a worksheet that came with the book, the hands we traced our own onto paper. This made me realized that I had never taught Builder Boy that one of his fingers is called a thumb. Oops.

I had a whole bunch of apple activities planned for when we did this activity.....a few weeks ago. But it's been a tiring week and so all we did was make the diagrams. For the apple diagram I used Apple Fractions. That book is awesome. We read it (not for the first time) after the diagrams were done. Builder Boy loves that book. It's a wonderful introduction to fractions and it teaches a LOT about apples in the process.

And that was it for the day.

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Kinetic Learner, His Blocks, and Sharing

A model of the digestive system he did all on his own.

A song he wrote for God.
Builder Boy is a kinetic learner. He learns best when he can physical move something, put something together to solve a problem or learn something knew. If he hears something he likes he goes straight to his wood blocks on the play table and starts acting out what he just learned with the blocks to cement it in his mind. This is how he processes things, and because he does do it with a lot of things he remembers a lot of things. One time Principal Daddy was watching a documentary about salt; how they mine it, storing things in salt mines, desalination of sea water through reverse-osmosis, the molecular composition of salt, and it's effect on the body and blood pressure. Builder Boy was in the room playing, but we didn't think he was paying any attention. But a week and a half later I noticed him playing with his blocks, talking about salt. He showed salt moving through blood vessels (he also talked about cholesterol, but he called it "oil.") He showed salt moving along a conveyer belt in the mine and processing plant. He showed the desalination process. He even said "let's look in side the salt" and lined up his blocks like the molecules in a square crystal structure. It clearly works for him.

Making letters from blocks.
We are using the Garanimals ABC Number and Animals Blocks (they're cheaper at Walmart.) This is great for Builder Boy because he can play making words. He can physically put them together. Anytime he hears a new word he wants to learn he puts it together with his blocks. Once he's put the word together a few times, he knows it.

And of course he builds really tall towers and interesting architecture with his blocks. A day does not go by where he does not play with his blocks. Even when watching tv he is acting out the story with the blocks. After a reading lesson, after a math lesson, etc. he is working things out with his blocks.

I don't know how he got it that high without a stool!
The problem is that he is not an only child. Early Bird wants to play with what his big brother wants to play with. And they seem incapable of sharing. They fight over the blocks Early Bird is not a kinetic learner. He is an auditory/visual learner. But he loves making words as much as Builder Boy does. For them letters and and words are just as much as toys as trains and stuffed animals. They play with them, have fun with them, never thinking that they're "learning'' or "practicing." But there never seem to be enough when they both want to play with them. I have bought two sets of the Alphabet Blocks! But Builder Boy never wants to share more than just a few, and no vowels (he pulls those out right away to make sure he has them.) I am struggling with an appropriate punishment for them not sharing. With most things if they are not sharing it gets taken away and not played with for a while. But I cannot do that with something that is so necessary to Builder Boy's ability to process things! I have magnetic letter tiles I picked up at the thrifts store, a great Tub Of Letter Tiles I got on, magnetic letters from Walmart, and the Fridge Words Word Builder. It never seems to be enough! What ever they are given, the fight over them! (I've tired giving them each different sets of letters with varying success.) I am at my wit's end. I do not know what to do. How do I punish them for wanting to have enough letters to make the words they want? How do I punish them for playing with words? If someone reading this has the answer, please let me know!

(All the projects pictured he did on his own, on his own initiative. This is his creative outlet. This is how he best expresses himself. The few times I have taken the wood blocks away as a punishment I feel like I'm taking away his voice, his ability to understand things. Thankfully he also has plastic duplo blocks to play with, but he doesn't have as many, and it's not really the same thing.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour: Day 7

Today is the last day of the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! Check out the guest posts at Teaching My Baby to Read and the contribution at Dancing with Dragons about "Teaching the Visual Spatial Learner: When Your Child Thinks in Pictures".

I've had a wonderful time learning from all the blogs!

(My contribution from day 2 is here.)

Early Bird Preschool: Off this week, too

We had Vacation Bible School this week so we did not continue our bird themed preschool. My egg in vinegar dissolved the shell all right, but the membrane was cloudy, so you couldn't really see the yoke. That was not how I remember it going turning out (in 6th grade.) Builder Boy had a fever and some sick stomach yesterday, so we'll see if the boys are even up to school next week.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour: Day 6

Today is the sixth day of the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! Check out the contributions at  Making Music With Kids about "Finding a Good Fit for a Preschooler You Suspect is Gifted" and at Barely Educational about "Worrying Too Much and Overanalyzing Parenting."

(My contribution from day two is here.)

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 6, Day 3

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist: the sixth concept is "Scientists record information and explain it to others," the third activity is "Making a Chart." (This is the fourth activity in the book, but I forgot to get the seeds for the third activity, so we'll do that next week.)

We started the lesson talking about why we record information. George figured it quickly, which was cool. We reviewed the information that we recorded on the list, and then we got out the ant models and we reviewed the information that they were suppose to convey with them. 

Then I got out the chart for today's lesson and had George and Builder Boy look at it. Builder Boy did a great job interpreting the pictures showing the life cycle of a bird. Then we talked about plant cycles and they each put together the worksheet pictures into the proper sequence. Early Bird joined us for that part; and while he did not do the sequencing very well, he did read the information with the pictures well.

This week's concept has five activities so I will be spreading it out over two weeks. Next week the kids will be making charts of their growing bean plants to share with other people.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour: Day 5

Today is the fifth day of the  Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! Check out the contributions at A Tree House Education about "2E Issues" and Homeschool in Florida about "Get Out of Your Own Way: How to Listen to the Needs of Your Gifted Child".

(My contribution from day two is here.)

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 6, Day 2

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist : the sixth concept is "Scientists record information and explain it to others," the second activity is "Making a Model."

Today George and Builder Boy made models of ants out of dollar store play-dough (I figured it would dry hard and be cheaper than buying clay just for this.) They looked at pictures in Kingfisher First Encyclopedia of Animals as well as a toy ant to get an idea of what to make.

Builder Boy's Ant
George's Ant
My Ant
They learned that an ant had a body made out of three parts and that they have six legs. When they were done they got to play with the dough with Early Bird and George's Little Sister.

All through this section they will be sharing the information they learned with a parent to practice the "explain it to others" part of the concept as well as practicing making oral reports.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Purple School Bus Mini-Van

(The white square is a sign on the outside of the other side of the van.)

Builder Boy really wants to ride in a school bus. He has sat in one at the kids' expo, and he's ridden a county bus, but it's not quite enough. When we had to replace our car, he begged for a school bus. We got a used mini-van, which is pretty close. So that he could feel like it was a school bus I sat down with him and we made a Home School Bus sign. I let him decorate it with shapes and stickers, whatever he wanted. Then I laminated it with clear contact paper and we taped it in the window (I actually moved the sign to the back driver side window.) The contact paper has bubbled a bit in the heat, and it's only up when we (usually Principal Daddy has it) have the car, but it's a lot of fun. The kids call our van the Purple School Bus Mini-Van (it's a very light purple-gray.)

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour: Day 4

Today is the fourth day of the  Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! Check out the contributions at Homeschooling: Or Who's Ever Even Home about "A Broader Definition of Success for Gifted Children".

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 6, Day 1

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist : the sixth concept is "Scientists record information and explain it to others," the first activity is "Making a List."

Today's weather was perfect for today's activity. We went outside and used our ears to make observations and record on paper (tools) all the sounds we heard. The weather was sub-100*F (finally!) with enough of a breeze that the lab coats weren't too hot. Also because there was a good breeze we heard a lot of noises.

Finding the Source of the Sound (Wind Chimes)
Stomping on Rocks

Clanking Chains
Listening Ears

(Is this really a back-hoe?)
We heard wind chimes, rustling leaves, barking dogs, a leaf blower, cars, and a construction vehicle that Builder Boy identified as a back-hoe. We heard people talking, an air conditioner fan humming, and a truck beeping as it backed up. The kids also made noises by stamping their feet, walking on different surfaces like gravel and bark, and moved things that they found.

Then we went inside and sorted the sounds into "We Made," "Nature," and "Man-made" sounds.

After that I read to them about Jane Goodall in What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know as an example as a scientists who recorded information and shared it with others.

Later today I will have George explain to her mother the information we recorded and I will have Builder Boy explain to Principal Daddy.

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour: Day 3

Today is the third day of the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! Check out the contributions at Teaching My Baby to Read about “When School Isn't Enough; Fanning the Flames of Learning Afterschool”.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Don't Panic! Musings about realizing that your child's learning is ahead of schedule.

Before Early Bird I would have told you that I was flexible; that I could adapt to whatever happened. I love making lists and schedules, but I don't always stick to them, and I can throw them out and start again if I need to. I really love knowing what to expect. I love those milestone lists and charts for kids. I bought a book with some in them before I was even married! (It was on sale and I put it in my hope chest.) When I had Builder Boy I studied those lists and charts and knew what was developmentally appropriate and worked on those things. He never disappointed me and kept to the schedule.
Then Early Bird came along and six weeks before his 3rd birthday he started reading. On his own. In one week he went from reading "bed" and "red" to over 40 consonant-vowel-consonant words. Two and a half weeks later he could read any CVC word presented to him, was working on consonant blends, and had several "sight" words memorized as well.

I started panicking. I wasn't ready yet to teach him. I knew what I was going to do with Builder Boy; I had a plan. But I didn't have a plan for Early Bird; I wasn't emotionally prepared to have an early learner. I found myself thinking over and over, "What am I going to do with him?" I could not think of anything else. I could make no plan; my confidence was gone. I started "borrowing guilt," as my father-in-law put it. I was worried about ruining this, of teaching him wrong, of pushing too much, of holding him back, of killing his joy in learning. I worried that he would become frustrated with a lack of knowledge and stop wanting to learn. I worried that he would just memorize words and be a fast sight reader but a terrible speller (like I am.) I didn't know if I should work with him to make sure he learned his phonics, but risk taking the joy out of learning for him, or if I should leave him to his own devices and risk him learning things wrong or getting frustrated and give up. He asked over and over to "do words," begging to start and pleading not to stop way past the time I felt used up. I was afraid to stop before he was ready, afraid of saying "no more!'' and possibly discouraging him.

I reached out to people in my life, looking for help. I asked for prayers for God's guidance and for peace of mind. But the people I asked could not understand why I was freaking out about something that they saw as being so good. I process things better when I can talk to someone; bounce off ideas and get advice that I would never think of. But no one in my life could help me. So I gathered my courage and started a thread on the Accelerated Learners board where I had been lurking, asking for help. And I got it. I got to hear from people who had dealt with the same emotions that I had. I learned that, yes, it is possible Early Bird would become a sight reader and a horrible speller and that other parents had dealt with it and I could, too. I learned that there was a possibility that he might give up and stop for a while but that that didn't mean he'll never learn again. And most of all I recognized my dependence on needing a plan, needing to know what to expect and what was going to happen. I learned that I needed to accept that I was not going to be able to control this and that I needed to let go of some things. It helped a lot and as I "talked" with people on the board my panic receded. I still have moments of "what do I do now?" But I am taking everything in stride now. I'm not making plans, I'm just doing what he wants to do (which is still a lot.)

A lot of the advice I received had a lot in common, so I have condensed what I learned from others into:

5 Steps for When You're Panicking:

Step 1) Breathe. This may or may not work for you. If you are holding your breath or forgetting to breathe then this is a very good idea. If you are like me breathing more means hyperventilating. But whether you need to breathe more or less, the main point is to take a moment (or lots of moments) to calm down, if you can.

Step 2) Pray. If you don't believe in God or personal prayer skip to step 3. For those of you who do pray remember that God gives us only what we can handle with His strength. Remember that God answers our prayers on His time, not ours. Remember that God doesn't always give us the answer we want, but the answer that is the best for us. Find someone else to pray for you. I would suggest keeping this to one or two people, and to someone who will understand why you're stressed.

Step 3) Find people who have gone through what you're going through. This helped me tremendously. I didn't get to the point where I felt like I could do this until I got feedback from parents who had been there, done that with early learners. I learned that, yes, my worries about things going wrong could happen but others have dealt with those issues, too. I learned that really good things could happen, too, and I had to make sure I wasn't blocking those things from happening. And I learned that I am not alone.

Step 4) Learn to let go of control and expectations. This step takes time; sometimes a lot of time. I think it took me at least a month, maybe more. It means changing a habit of thinking, a way of looking at things. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't have goals; it does means that you don't stress about the time-frame. This is done best with help from someone who knows you very well.

Step 5) Remember to play and have fun. When I received this advice I thought "well, duh! You don't need to tell me that." He was having a blast playing with letters and words and I wasn't forcing it on him. I remembered to play with other things, too. But in looking at what he was doing and where he was going I overlooked gaps. Sure, he's ready for some 1st grade material, but what about the pre-school skills like coloring, drawing, scissor skills? What about music, which he loves, but we don't do enough of? It took me 4 months to realize that there were gaps, but now that I know I am I have created a "pre-school" just for him so we can work on those things together and I can learn about other gaps that I hadn't anticipated.

I hope someday, when I have more experience, I will be able to help others the way that the wonderful parents over at the Well Trained Mind forum helped (and continue to help) me.

Thanks, you guys.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Early Bird Preschool: Off for the week

I was babysitting George and her little sister for most of the day for 4/5 days this week, and Early Bird was very tired in the evenings so no preschool got done this week. I am currently dissolving the shell off an egg with vinegar to demonstrate what an egg looks inside the shell but it is taking longer than I thought it would.

Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour: Day 1

Today is the first day of the Parenting the Gifted Blog Tour! Check out the contributions at Childhood Inspired about "Loneliness as a Gifted Parent," and at Our Roxaboxen Adventures about "Identifying Gifted Minority Students."

This blog tour will be going on all week so check it out!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 5, Day 3

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist : the fifth concept is "Scientists use tools and equipment;" the third activity is "Reflections."

The kids had a lot of fun with this one. Builder Boy, George, and George's little sister participated. I originally planed to do this lesson in the boys' bedroom, but it has an east facing window and by the time we did the lesson in the afternoon there was no direct sunlight. Downstairs wasn't going to work, but the light and shadows were just right for doing it in the back patio. We started with using mirrors to reflect sunlight to different places. The kids had a lot of fun with that and the played for about 10 minutes before they were ready to move on. We made the reflected lights dance around; we tried to get our lights to touch and we "tagged" each other with our reflections. Builder Boy got out the old baby mirror and "bent" the light by bending the flexible mirror. It looked really cool!

Then we bounced balls against the wall to demonstration the light bouncing off the mirror.

Then we reflected the light through a light "Diffraction Grating" that came with the science kit that I got at the thrift store with the thermometer.

I made sure that they understood that the mirror was not the source of the light, it was merely reflecting it. Then we went into the under-stairs bathroom and we played with reflecting light from a flashlight. After that the kids drew the light reflecting off the mirror on the worksheet page. The kids identified the mirrors, flashlights, and balls as "tools" for learning about light.

When they were done I let them play the Sid the Science Kid I Want to Be a Scientists Game which teaches kids about the different kinds of scientists and the different tools they use.

This is a baby mirror that is similar to the one we used.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 5, Day 2

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist : the fifth concept is "Scientists use tools and equipment,"the second activity is "Take a Closer Look."

I didn't stage that!

We reviewed all of our concepts and what magnifying glasses do. Then the kids looked at leaves and feathers with just their eyes and drew pictures of them. After that they looked at the leaves and feathers through magnifying glasses and drew more detailed pictures. Then expanding on the activity I had them make observations and comparisons of the leaf and feather. We sorted them into a "natural" category, and then in a "from a plant" and "from an animal" categories. George and Builder Boy colored in the pictures of magnifying tools and they remembered from Day 1 what a telescope and microscope look at.

Smelling the feathers
Listening to the feathers
After they finished coloring I expanded the lesson further and told them about how we can use our five senses as tools to make observations. We reviewed the five senses and used them (except taste) to make more observations about the feather and leaf. We listened to, smelt, and felt the leaves and feathers. Then I gave them pieces of watermelon and we used all five senses on them, using taste last.

_______________________________________________________________________________ has a Sid the Science Game that uses magnifying glasses to look at decaying food.
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