Friday, June 29, 2012

Early Bird Preschool: The Plan

I was reading a thread on the Well Trained Mind forum and it made me realize something: I should probably do pre-school for Early Bird. I didn't think about it earlier because he is already reading at a 1st grade level. He has a good attention span and I was planning on having him do All About Spelling with Builder Boy (they are around the same reading level, with Early Bird a bit ahead in decoding skills.) With history (Story of the World) and science I was going to let him tag along and make copies of the coloring sheets for him so he could do what he wanted to do, but not require anything from him. But I should probably do something a bit younger and age appropriate, just to make sure all the bases are covered.

I was playing with Early Bird with a stuffed bird when I got the idea to do a bird theme preschool.  I had previously printed out the preschool guidelines from World Book Typical Course of Study so I got those out. Most of it would be review for him, but it could still be fun! So I've decided to do four weeks, each with a different thing to learn about birds, and bird theme activities that also covered the basic concepts.

The Course of Study includes:

  • Understands big and little.
  • Understands long and short.
  • Matches shapes or objects based on size.
Colors and Shapes
  • Recognizes and names primary colors.
  • Recognizes circles.
  • Recognizes rectangles.
  • Matches shapes or objects based on shape.
  • Copies shapes.
  • Counts orally through 10.
  • Counts objects in one-to-one correspondence.
  • Understands empty and full.
  • Understands more and less.
Position and Direction
  • Understands up and down.
  • Understands in and out.
  • Understands front and back.
  • Understands over (on) and under.
  • Understands top, bottom, middle.
  • Understands beside and next to.
  • Understands hot and cold.
  • Understands fast and slow.
  • Understands day and night.
  • Knows age and birthday.

The other concept categories are:
  • Reading Readiness
  • Listening and Sequencing
  • Motor Skills
  • and Social-Emotional Development 

I will be focusing on the first five concepts groups. So that my blog does not get cluttered I will be posting about the week's bird activities all together on the weekend. I am starting the projects July 2nd and will post about the week's activities on July 7th.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 4, Day 3

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist: the fourth concept is "Scientists make measurements," the third activity is "Which Is Stronger?"

(Early Bird insisted on being shirtless)
 This lesson was a bust. The idea is to test two bridges made of an index card; one flat and one folded accordion style. You are suppose to put a cup on the bridge and put in pebbles to test which is stronger. The accordion style bridge is suppose to be stronger. That is not what happened. Our flat bridge held 11 pebbles (I used decorative sea glass pebbles) and the folded bridge collapsed at 4. We tried two different sizes of index cards, we tried smaller folds and bigger folds. The folded one was weaker every time. I wonder if it is because I used thinner dollar store index cards? I am going to buy some thicker ones and have Builder Boy re-test this to see if that makes a difference. But it was disappointing to see it not work.


Builder Boy, living up to his name, started building stronger bridges with more blocks. He made one that held 25! So I just let them play making bridges.

Growing Science: Our Bean Plants So Far

Before we started Learning to Be a Scientist we read about plants and seeds in What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know. Then we planted beans in clear McDonald's sundae cups (so we could see the roots) and they have been growing by the kitchen window. The kids have been drawing pictures of the beans growing and measuring the growth.
The been plants have out-grown the cups and window so today we re-planted them. I've never had a bean sprout make it this far before (I have a black thumb) so I really hope I did it right and they live on. The kids are hoping that the beans will grow as high as the wall. George needed to be reminded that the beans will grow into bean plants, not apple trees. Builder Boy told me that the plants were going to grow high and then we would pick the beans and plant them and do it all over again. He also told me that the plants need air, water, and sunlight. I'm so happy the lesson has stuck!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 4, Day 2

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist: the fourth concept is "Scientists make measurements," the second activity is "How Big Is It?"

This activity requires a large rock. I used a rock slab bookend that I have. George and Builder Boy measured the rock with a measuring tape. After they measured the rock and wrote down the measurement I gave them a ruler and asked if they could measure around the rock with that. They pointed out that it was too short and it did not bend around it. Then I had the kids guess how heavy it was. George guessed 100 lbs, I guessed 25 lbs, and Builder Boy guessed 36 lbs. It was only 10 lbs! But it seemed much heavier to me, the one carrying it.

Then we took turns measuring different parts of our body for the mini Measurement Books that came with the activity. George measured Builder Boy's head and Builder Boy measured George's head. But he had to stand on a stool to do it.

Once we had made the books they got on the computer and played a Sid the Science Kid Crystal Rock Measuring Game. Then they watched the full episode available which was about research, but also talked about observations and covered living vs. non-living things and how they got to the moon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Box Day!

Okay, so it's a small box, but I'm still excited! It's not for our "official" school year, but I realized that we needed some pre-learning to make our "official" curriculum choices more meaningful. Thankfully the mail man did not make me wait too long today.

First, I got the Evan-Moor ScienceWorks for Kids Simple Machines for grades 1-3. I got this because Builder Boy has been very interested in simple machines for a long time now. There is a LOT more in this book than the Learning to Be a Scientist book, which is for grades K-1. I haven't yet ordered the ScienceWorks for Kids workbooks for our "official" year, so this gave me a good idea of what the grade 1-3 books I was thinking about getting will require.

Second, I got the Evan-Moor Beginning Geography workbook. We will be using Story of the World for history along with the activity guide. I realized that there is map work for every chapter, but that isn't going to mean much if Builder Boy isn't familiar with maps. So I thought this workbook would give him a good introduction to maps. Flipping through I can see that it will do that and more!

The third book I got was the second Magic Tree House book. I am using these to introduce Builder Boy to chapter books and books in a series.


This is a song (parody) that I made up a while back just for waiting for a package.

To the tune of "Here We Come A-Caroling."

Finally the day has come
for your delivery.
And here comes the mail man
So fair to be seen!
Books and toys come to you
and a happy Box Day, too.
And God bless you and send you
your package real soon!
Oh, God bless you and send your package soon.

Links to what I ordered (I don't get paid for reviews):


Monday, June 25, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 4, Day 1

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist: the fourth concept is "Scientists make measurements," the first activity is "Hotter or Colder?"

This activity requires a non-digital thermometer that can be put in water and that shows the temperature to go up to very hot and down to very cold. I had a very difficult time finding one like that. Maybe I was looking in all the wrong stores. I was hesitant to buy one online (I only looked on I looked in thrift stores thinking it's an older type thermometer so maybe they would have one. Again, they did not have one. I randomly looked into a used Learning Resources science kit in the toy section of a small thrift store and it had one! It was backed on thin plastic so I wasn't sure how it would fare in the hot water, but it was what I had to work with.

We (George, Builder Boy, and I) started out talking about measurements. We measured our heights in inches and our weight in pounds. Then we measured our body temperatures. The kids, being born in the digital age had never seen a thermometer like the one I showed them. Builder Boy knew about the forehead thermometer that we have. We then measured the temperature of water in three cups: one at room temperature, one with ice in it, and one that I heated up in the microwave. The kids enjoyed seeing the red go up and down. The thermometer thin plastic backing warped some in the hot water (the thermometer maxed out at 120*F) but it seems fine. They recorded the temperatures on the worksheet. 

Then I got out the other worksheet with pictures of people using different kinds of thermometers. We talked about why it is important to measure our body temperatures to see if we are sick with a fever. We talked about why it is important to know what the outside weather is. I used our forehead thermometer to measure their temperatures. Then we took the thermometer outside to test the outside thermometer. I printed out a weather chart I found a link for from this blog. We will be measuring and recording the temperature every day this week. (The Week 6 concept covers recording information, so when we get to that concept they will already have a personal example of it.) I also took them upstairs and showed them the thermostat and talked about inside temperatures. Then we sat down and I read the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library book Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today? It had a lot of great information about why we measure the weather as well as also teaching them about the anemometer to measure the wind speed.  

The kids got popsicles as a treat and that gave them the idea of measuring the temperature inside the freezer. Then they took the thermometer around the house trying the temperature of different things. They also had a lot of fun making the red (alcohol?) go up by putting their fingers over the bulb at the bottom. Builder Boy came across a toy timer and he pointed out that timers and clocks measure time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Builder Boy's Zoo Mural

Aka: What to do with Kumon coloring workbook pages.

Builder Boy is not a fan when it comes to coloring. He likes drawing well enough, though his drawings, like many kids' his age, require explanation. But he hates coloring, especially staying in the lines and covering the entire area. I've tried various dollar store coloring books, and even a nice color-by-number book. He had to be bribed to do even one page, and he wanted me to do half of the colors. I know a lot of people will wonder "what's the big deal? Why push it?" But this is something that is important to Principal Daddy, something he worries about. So I'm trying to encourage Builder Boy to try. I ordered a few Kumon workbooks to try them out. The first coloring workbook they had seemed too babyish and easy for him but the My Book of Coloring: At the Zoo looked like fun. They have beautiful pictures of animals with, in the beginning, a circle area that needs to be fully colored in with just one color. Builder Boy was not very impressed. I got him to do two pages, and that was it. I cut the pictures out, but I don't remember what I did with them. So I put it away and we didn't try coloring for a while.

I re-discovered the workbook and tried again. This time he was less resistant. I praised his pictures and he asked if we could put them up on the wall (I have their drawings all over the house.) I said "sure!" and asked him where he wanted to put it. He thought about it, walked around the house, and decided he wanted them up in his room. A wonderful idea was born. He had colored in four pictures and we put them together on the wall. He noticed it looked like a zoo and became very excited about the idea of adding more animals and expanding his zoo. He wanted to show Principal Daddy immediate when he got home.

Now he has fun finishing pictures (though he still need coaxing to start sometimes.) We're building a zoo mural in the boy's room and he's progressed in the book to smaller and more precise areas. We do two to four animals at a time depending on how many he wants to do. He chooses where to place them, and I help with the too high spots. I can hardly wait until the whole thing is done. We're only half way through. It's going to be huge!

And to top it off, today when we put up new animals Builder Boy said "lets make observations like scientists!" So we made observations and comparisons about the animals on the wall.
(I don't get paid for reviews.) Click here to see how it looked finished!

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 3, Day 3 (skipped)

Learning to Be a Scientist: the third concept is "Scientists make observations," the third activity is "Which Is Easier?"

This activity requires a wagon, which I do not have and I could not find someone to borrow one from. I don't even have something with a platform and wheels to test it out. The activity is to try pushing a heavy object in a box and then again in a wagon and compare and decide which was easier. It's a neat example of the wheel as a simple machine. We will be doing the Evan-Moor Simple Machines book next, so I'm not going to stress about them missing this lesson.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 3, Day 2

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist: the third concept is "Scientists make comparisons," the second activity is "Will It Bend?"

We went back to the book for science class today. Partly. As part of the activity I collected one for each kid a drinking straw, a craft stick, a pipe cleaner, a pencil, a paper clip, and a file card. I also added plastic combs and a plastic spoon and fork. The kids named the objects and then tested each one to see if it bends or not. An object breaking does not count, as George found out (I added the plastic spoon so they could learn that.) Then they drew pictures on the worksheet of what bended and what did not. That was the extent of the book's lesson for the day.

So I expanded on the "Will It Bend?" idea. We went outside (it finally wasn't 100*F today!) and we tested different parts of our bodies to see if they bend. They insisted on wearing their lab coats outside because they were "being scientists!" We twisted around, tweaked our noses and ears, wiggled, waved, and moved around. We squeezed our skin on our cheeks. Then I had them try to bend the long bones in their arms and legs.

I got out the The Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia and showed them a picture of a skeleton. Builder Boy already knew that where two bones meet are called joints. I got a kid friendly picture of a skeleton off the internet and had them circle where on their body they could bend and X out areas where they could not.

Then we went inside and cut out a different picture of a skeleton that had to be assembled. If I'd had brads (I can't find then in a store!) I would have used those at the joints. But I don't. So the kids just glued their skeletons on paper. I cut one out (Early Bird was not interested in this part) and reinforced the joints with tape. Then I used string and a needle from a household repair kit with a big enough eye and connected the bones with the string. The kids definitely know the three concepts now!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Learning to Be a Scientist: Week 3, Review

Continuing Learning to Be a Scientist: Review

Yesterday Builder Boy practiced comparing and sorting stuffed animals and different blocks into categories as part of his play (all on his own.) Today when George got here they picked up all the stuffed animals they could find around the house (yea for them cleaning all on their own!) and started comparing and sorting. Builder Boy wouldn't let George pick up the stuffed Thomas the Tank Engine or the stuffed Rocket (from Little Einsteins) because they weren't animals. He also wouldn't let her include the fuzzy bunny-bank because it wasn't a stuffed toy. The book's activity that we were going to do today is simple and a bit boring. I don't have a wagon, or even something with wheels, so we can't do the third activity for the comparisons concept. George is coming over again tomorrow, so I decided to do a review of the concepts we have learned and apply them to real life things like Builder Boy has been doing on his own.

LOTS of toys to sort.

Yea! for applied science!

First I showed George and Builder Boy a plastic toy train track and had them make observations. (Early Bird was playing with George's Little Sister.) Then I showed them a plastic toy slotted spoon and had them make observations about that. Then I showed them both toys and had them make comparisons between the two toys. Then I talked about the different categories our toys are in. I've had specific drawers for specific toys for a long time. We talked about why we sort toys instead of just having them all mixed together, and how it makes finding a specific toy easier. I had them name the categories of all the drawers (they've known them a long time, but it doesn't hurt to refresh their memory.) The recognized that by looking and thinking about the toy (making observations,) realizing that the toy is different from other toys (making comparisons) and sorting them into the right drawer that they were being scientists even in an every day action. Then I had them pick up all the toys on the floor and put them on the play table. I'd had four kids in the house for several hours by then, so there were plenty of toys to pick up. After they had a sufficient amount to toys to work with they sorted them into their proper drawer. I think it was an excellent applied science activity.

Then we switched gears for another activity. We had all together talked about food groups before but that was quite some time ago so we talked about them again. We also talked about how different things from different food groups (calcium from milk, protein from meat, vitamins from fruits, and carbohydrates from grains) help our bodies in different ways. I got out a bunch of grocery store adds that I had been saving and George, Builder Boy, and I cut out pictures of different foods. I also used different colored construction paper to mark different categories.
After we had cut out a lot of foods I had them sort the foods into the different food groups and then paste them onto their papers. At this time Early Bird became interested in what we were doing and I let him paste some of the pictures onto his own piece of paper. The collages turned out really well, and we re-learned about foods and practiced what we have learned scientists do.

_________________________________________________________________________________ has a Sid the Science Kid game about the different food groups with an emphasis on creating a balanced meal using foods from all the different food groups. Builder Boy has had a lot of fun playing it in the past, but all the kids needed some mandatory quiet time once school was done.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fun Rabbit Trail: From Playing with Stuffed Animals to Cotton Farming and Yarn Manufacturing

I had an interesting experience with the kids this morning. It started with Early Bird bringing me the stuffed dog that we used in yesterday's science activity to play with the stuffed cat that he had. Early Bird's conversations through animals/people figurines/magnetic "super letters" always start with "How are you?" Followed by "Are you hungry?" and "What do you want to eat?" His always want to eat spaghetti. Builder Boy saw what we were doing so he brought over a stuffed lamb and started to play with us. Builder Boy wanted to know what dogs eat so I told him food for dogs that they make in factories. He had seen that episode of How It's Made (one of his favorite shows) so I knew he knew what I was talking about. He told me that sheep eat grass and said that grass grew in nature. Then he asked me what cats eat. I told him they eat cat food made in factories, but they also like to eat fish. He said "They both eat nature food!" (Making comparisons!) He then asked what the different animals drink and we talked about how all animals need water.

He knows from playing Minecraft that we shear sheep and get wool. So, stroking the soft stuffed lamb, he asked me why we shear sheep and what do we do with the wool. I told him that we make fabric from it and that led to talking about cotton cloth as well. I tried to describe a cotton plant and then decided to search for pictures online. That got Builder Boy very interested in looking at the cotton farms (he watched a video on Netflix Instant All About Old MacDonald's Farm that he loved.) I searched around and read some things off some websites. Builder Boy remembered Q-Tips have cotton on them (he watched that episode, too) so I got some and pulled the cotton off and let them feel it. That reminded me of the How It's Made episode about making cotton thread for making fabric. I searched on yahoo for an episode guide so I could find the right one and it came up with a video on yahoo that was just that part of the episode. So we watched it on the computer with both boys in my lap. That video had a recommendation for another video The Story of Cotton. As soon as he was done watching that video he raced over to the play table and started "farming" cotton, harvesting it, and taking it to the factory with his wood blocks. This is how he processes information and cements it in his mind. He's a very kinetic learner.

After a while of him playing I pointed out to him that when we were talking about the animals and what they ate that we were making comparisons, just like what we did yesterday. That surprised and excited him. A few minutes later he called me over to look at what he had done with his blocks. He had gotten some blocks that were the same shape but were painted different colors and were different sizes. He had compared them and then grouped them by similarities. I pointed out that he was being a scientist: he was making observations about the blocks, he was comparing them to each other, and he was sorting them into different groups. After that he kept comparing them and sorting them into different categories. I love that he is seeing that what we are learning about being a scientist can be applied to his play.


Builder Boy LOVES the "All About _____" videos available on Netflix Instant. Just search "All About." They are dated (you can really tell they were made in the 90's) and if you object to magic the host of most of them is a "genie" (normal looking guy who can teleport them around to see the different things.) But they're really great for learning about different vehicles. The construction video is Builder Boy's favorite. He's watched the shows over and over and still loves them.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Homeschooling as a Home Decorating Choice

I was going through my old threads on the Well Trained Mind Forum (awesome homeschooling forum) and I came across the pictures of the wall stickers I put up last year (they're still there.)

I put the letters going up the stairs in alphabetical order. This happened around the same time Early Bird was learning his letters and sounds (he knew them all by 26 months) and Builder Boy and he had a lot of fun going up and down the stairs singing the alphabet song. They are the RoomMates Alphabet Peel and Stick Wall Decals. They are re-stickable, can be cleaned and then put back on, relatively durable, and don't take the paint off.

All on his own, for fun, when we got the stickers Builder Boy got out his magnetic letters and matched them up to the letters on the wall. Our rail is magnetic so it worked really well.

At the same time I also got the RoomMates Outer Space Peel & Stick Wall Decals as an incentive to get Builder Boy to go up the ladder on his (then) new bunk bed. He was really into rocket ships and this one came with a lot of them. It also had enough asteroids to make an asteroid belt. Not all of the other brands did (that I saw.) The planets are a really good sized. The sun is bigger than my hand! And the boys had a lot of fun learning the names of the planets and matching the name to the planet sticker.


(I don't get paid for reviews.)
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