A Peak Inside Our Classroom

We are very lucky to get to have a dedicated homeschool space in our house. This has not always been the case and I don’t know that we always will be able to. So I am grateful.

We have spent the last couple years schooling at the dining room table and used a single cabinet to store all of our curriculum and supplies. We still do large projects at the table and also love to take advantage of nice weather and school out side but this year we are doing all of our core school time in the basement.

20161010-img_8631The room is a large “L” shape and we use one side as a family room and the other for our homeschool. As you come down the stairs we have a large bulletin board where I display art projects and papers the kids are proud of.

classroomEden’s LA curriculum for the first quarter was zoo themed so I decorated our space with elephants; my favorite animal. As I write we are already into our next quarter and have changed to a farm theme.

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I use these shelves for rotating activities. Every other week I change out the baskets with different themed toys, experiments, and books. Most of the items are things they don’t get to play with very often so it feels new and exciting. Sometimes I use toys they have access to anytime but add a twist to make the play different. They have been great about playing with one basket and then putting it back before getting another one out.

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Another new addition to our classroom is this fun table from Ikea. I use it as a sensory table and again every other week change its contents. The table has two container areas; each with its own lid. So I usually have two different types of material to explore. I love that when the lids are on it can also be used as another work space or play area.20161027-img_0788

My favorite part of our classroom set up is the positioning of my and Eden’s desks. The way hers is set next to mine allows for her to turn and sit facing me at my desk. Or we can both work independently. From this desk position she has to turn her chair or come stand by the wipe board while I teach. I have found this is great as it varies her sit/stand position and keeps her moving and less bored in one spot the whole time.

Eli too has a table to he uses to do his school work. Most of the time it sits at the edge of my desk, where I can easily help him with his workbook, but because it is small and light weight it gets moved around and used for many different purposes.

20160822-img_8188Behind my desk hangs the kids hangout and a train table I built last year that we use for a variety of toys. The lid of the table can be closed and we sometimes do large art projects or puzzles on it’s top. The hangout is pretty cool as it is suspended from the ceiling and swings a little. They us it for play and for independent reading and journaling. Each day Eden adds an entry into her daily journal and she loves to hide out in this and then come to show me her work

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Back to Homeschool 2016

Back2School PicturesToday was our first day back school for this school year. I love taking back to school pictures and sharing them with you.

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Eli is my ball of energy. He can be so sweet one minute and then covered in mud or paint the next.

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He is a preschooler this year. He will be learning both at home and at Wise Little Owls two days a week. This is the same preschool that Eden attended a couple years ago that we just love. Eli will get two days to play with other kids and burn more of that energy I talked about earlier and it will also give Eden and I two days to really focus on her school work. Eli Wall 2.1

These are all his answers. I love that Eden is his best friend. One of big goals for homeschooling.

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They truly are best friends.

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Eden is patient, sensitive, and kind. I can’t believe she is growing up so fast.

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When I asked her what her favorite part of her first day was she said, and I honestly believe her, that her favorite part of the days was spending it with me. I too love getting to enjoy her and watch her grow into a beautiful young lady.

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Eden is a second grader this year and is excited about all the new things she is going to learn.

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Last year we took pictures with apples and now they think we need to do apple pictures each year. So here you go.

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Eli was over pictures by the time we got to the apples and thought it was time for a snack which made the apples much more difficult to stack but that didn’t keep him from trying.

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Watch for a post soon on all the fun from our first week back in the classroom. Happy new school year.

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Ancient China

Ahh, school is out for the summer. Maybe I will have a little more time to work on some blog posts. This is one of the favorite units from this past semester and the kids would say the same.

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For most of our studies I piece together items from different things around our house but while looking up activities for learning about ancient China I came across this calligraphy set and knew the kids would love it.

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I printed and lamented these Chinese character cards from activityvillage. This was great reading practice, as they would first read the word in English and then would recreate it.

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The kit included an ink stone (small black bowl) that the girls loved using to make the ink with. After they placed a few drops of water in the bowl they took turns rubbing the ink stick around. They then picked a brush and went to work. They had so much fun and think we should switch to using brushes and ink for writing instead of a pencil. While they “painted” their words I read the days lesson. We went through lots of paper and came back to this many times. kids-chop
story-chopsticksI found all kinds of fun books to read while we were learning about ancient China. While the kids practiced using chopsticks we read The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine. While not historical, this is a cute story that imagines the circumstances surrounding the invention of chopsticks. There are several other books that are a part of this series that we enjoyed but they weren’t really part of ancient history.

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Eli was a little comical while trying out the chopsticks. He gave it a good try with two and then switched to stabbing them and finally gave up and decided his hands were much more practical.

TeatimeWe finished our snack time with some Chinese tea and lots of practice pouring.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 1.29.39 PMOur favorite read aloud was The Warlord’s Beads by Virginia Pilegard. We learned that Abacus is derived from the Greek word ‘abax’, meaning ‘calculating board’. The first Chinese Abacus was invented around 500 B.C.

While I read the kids worked on stringing beads to create their own Abacus. Surprisingly Eli loved this activity the most. The girls were ready to be done about half way through but Eli happily put each and every bead on his. Even months later he likes playing with his.

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We had a membership to the MO Botanical Gardens this last year and took advantage of their beautiful Chinese Garden. This was a great place for examples of many different types of Chinese flora and fauna and to see a few different traditional architectural elements.

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IMG_8112 A dear friend had a beautiful shawl that she let us borrow. It was hand made and after learning about weaving in past lessons everyone had a great appreciation for the amount of time and talent that was put into this fabric.

We also learned about the invention of silk. I don’t have a picture but when we ate out at a nice Chinese restaurant one night and Eden was supper excited when we had silk napkins to use.

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We watched this youtube video on current rice production and talked about how it might have been similar and different in ancient China.

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We ended our unit study with an introduction to the Great Wall of China.

20160317-IMG_4717Work began on the Great Wall during the Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty (221 B.C – 206 B.C.), at the end of what is considered the ancient period.

We learned that the great wall was made of stone, brick, packed earth, wood, and other materials.

We used rice crispy treats that I cut into brick size pieces and chocolate icing as mortar.

I considered having everyone work together to make one large wall and talking about how many people it took to make the wall all working together for 20 years. Instead we just talked about it and I let each kid make their own smaller model.

The base was made from a heavy cardboard cut into a long rectangle. Then I made each kid a template from the cereal box to follow. They traced around the template so that they would know where to build.

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The temptation to eat the bricks was real. They decided after each row they could stop for a “lunch” break and sample any broken bricks. After 5 rows of bricks a layer of chocolate mortar icing was put down and then the cereal box template was put on top.

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Another row, stairs, and a small tower finished the wall. They were all so proud of their work. This was a fun project. I think we will have to do more building with cereal bricks in the future.

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He is Risen Collaborative Art Project

Yesterday our church hosted an Eggstravaganza with an egg hunt for our community. We had crafts, free food, a cupcake walk, and a collaborative art project. The art project turned out really cool and I have had lots of questions as to how I did it.

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I started with 6 poster boards taped to the wall. 20160326-IMG_4905Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 7.34.17 PMWith adult supervision the kids used Do-A-Dot Markers to cover the posters with dots. I purposely only set out sunset colors of orange, tan, yellow, pink and red.

This was a great project for all ages and one that many kept going back to and working on.

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In one hour they were able to cover a good deal of the posters. A few of the kids didn’t follow the directions of dotting and drew pictures so before I started the next phase I rearrange the posters knowing that I be able to paint over a few of the more distracting areas.

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20160326-IMG_8728After penciling in my design I picked out a cool palette of colors to work with and went to work painting.

If I wasn’t trying to get the project done before Easter morning (the next day) I would have had our Sunday School class work to finish filling in the white areas with more dots. So, I also filled in the rest of the area with more dots.

I also used a few of the other dot colors to add some darker areas to the sky.

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I finished of the project with adding a simple scripture with a black marker.

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The kids loved coming in this morning and seeing their project finished. I heard one of our kids tell another adult, “Look, I helped make that.” It was also a great back drop for our church breakfast after the sunrise service.

Field Trip to the Police Station

This week we enjoyed a fun field trip to the Cuba Police Department. Before we headed out we got our pretend police set out. We talked about what police officers do and how we can trust them.

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The handcuffs were a big hit by both. Cuffs20160315-IMG_4589Eli loved the hat so much that he ended up wearing the hat on the field trip. He was pretty cute so I didn’t fight it.

Our field trip was organized and sponsored by our homeschool co-op. We started in the lobby where we got to meet the Lieutenant who was great with the kids and led a very nice tour.20160315-IMG_4495

We got to walk through the station and saw several rooms including: offices, the kitchen, the courtroom, and the training room.

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Eli got to try to lift the “big” weights as he calls it and after a few failed attempts the Lieutenant gave him a two pound weight which was much more manageable. Eli felt pretty special.

20160315-IMG_4560The highlight of the day was getting to see and sit in the police car.

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When we got home I had a small craft for the kids to create. I found it here if you want to make one yourself.

20160315-IMG_4635The weather is once again beautiful so we were able to spend most of the day outside for this lesson and the rest of our homeschool time.

20160317-IMG_4713They turned out pretty cute. Next week we are off to the fire department.

 

Ancient Egypt

9.5-MadisonI can’t believe the beautiful weather we are having. It’s early December and I am sitting outside working on a blog while the kids play.

This fall we had so much fun learning about ancient Egypt.

As always the girls enjoyed dressing up and acting the part. We started off the unit with the girls dressed as servants (simple white dresses – made from pillow cases) and talked about the different social classes. They loved running around bare foot: carrying water, washing the dishes, and tending to the fire. They weren’t so sure about not being able to learn to read and write because they were girls or about having to do dirt work like emptying chamber pots.

At the end of the unit I let the girls become Egyptian princesses and they thought this class would be a lot easier but maybe not as much fun.

9.5-Madison-17I love that we get to do so much of our school time outside. I am surprised at how focused the kids are; they would happily spend hours talking and learning. It is common for the girls to swing while I read to them or for all of us to lay out on a blanket and look at pictures together. It is also great teaching outside as Eli easily entertains himself and joins in every now and then.

NileAs we began our unit on ancient Egypt we once again found that this early civilization was centered around water. We learned all about Nile as we created a living model. Down the center we used foil to create the river way and filled the bottom with rocks to keep it from floating. On both sides of the river was the fertile ground where we planted seeds the girls harvested from our last unit. We added some palm trees and talked about the animals that would be found near the Nile. We finished up by flooding the “Nile” and saturating the soil. The plan was to watch these models grow and flood them as needed but while the weather has been nice, it hasn’t been nice enough to grow anything.

9.5-Madison-4Technology today is so helpful and makes learning even more fun. We used google maps and was able to see from space the Nile river and how lush green the ground around the river was compared to the rest of Egypt.

While look at the map we also found the Great Pyramid of Giza. How cool.

We were only halfway through our unit and both girls agreed we should plan a field trip to Egypt. They thought seeing it in person would be pretty cool. Someday girls.

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Using Lego’s the girls created another model complete with burial chamber and secret passages.

noddles2As we learned about pharaohs and what life would have been like for royalty the kids created their own gold jewelry with “precious” stones. I wish I would have gotten a picture of these finished and on them as they felt like a queen. Maybe I can get them to dress back up for me but I have waited too long to post this blog hoping to do so; I can’t wait any longer.

Mummy

We learned a little about mummification and enjoyed another great day outside wrapping everyone up. Scarlett (Rylynn’s little sister) even got to join in on the fun. We finished off the day and our unit with a fun mummy snack.

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We also enjoyed learning about Moses and the 10 Plagues but that will be another post.

Mesopotamia

Our early humans have been busy learning and developing new skills. After many years of moving around to find food, people started to gather and settle in what is named Mesopotamia. The land was good, and there was easy access to water and fishing. Life was somewhat easier.

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Farming meant new foods including wheat. Using a recipe from our book on Mesopotamia we made wheat and honey biscuits. While we didn’t make goat butter, we enjoyed the fact that our early friends had made this discovery and ate our bread with butter.

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We all agreed that this was a step up from our lizard stew and could be happy eating these food for a long time. We also enjoyed some of the new fruits that would have been found in Mesopotamia including apples, grapes, and pomegranates.
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As I read to the girls about the transition from nomad to farmer, they used legos to create an example of the first villages. They created small huts clustered together surrounded by a fence made of brush and spiked branches. The river ran nearby which the girls liked to pretend to take their newly domesticated animals to (the lego one eyed creatures).

WeavingWith the domestication of sheep and goats our early people began making cloth out of wool and goat hair. Working in their homes the women would weave the wool first into belts and then later into large garments.

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Mesopotamia is often credited with inventing the wheel, but we learned that it wasn’t a wheel for a cart but rather the potter’s wheel. These first wheels are termed slow wheels as they were turned by hand or foot as the potter made coil pots which allowed the potter to not get up and walk around the pot.

9.5-Madison-12Baked pottery is also new. The girls thought this would be the job they would pick if they had a choice. We tried our hand at pinch and coiled pots.

WritingWe learned that this clay was also used as clay tablets for a form of writing to record and communicate different types of information. The earliest writing was based on pictograms. Pictograms were used to communicate basic information about crops and taxes. Over time, the need for writing changed and the signs developed into a script we call cuneiform.

We start to also see evidence of religion in ancient Mesopotamia. Ziggurats were huge rectangular stepped tower with temples at the top. It was easy for the girls to grasp the advances in construction and building materials as they worked to create their own Ziggurat.

Tower of Bable

A cuneiform version of the familiar biblical story of the Tower of Babel from Sumer, the first civilization to appear in the ancient Near East, reads:  “The building of this tower (temple) highly offended the gods. In a night they (threw down) what man had built, and impeded their progress. They were scattered abroad, and their speech was strange.”

 

 

Early Humans (Cavemen to First Farmers)

History continues with a fun lesson on early humans. I really enjoyed teaching this lesson and getting to share my travel memories with the family. 1024px-Font-de-Gaume_entree

When I was in high school I traveled with my French class to France for a two week emersion travel tourism experience. My teacher, Madame Welch was the best, she had a close friend who previously worked for a touring company but always lead our group on the side. This meant that we got to get off the beaten path and explore places that most tourist never make it.bisonfdgOne of these such places was Font-de-Gaume, it is the only site in France with polychrome cave paintings that are still open to the public. A limited number of people are aloud in each year to protect the drawings from exposure to lights and changes in air circulation.gaume1

Everyone thought it was so cool that I got to see these in real life and Eden has now asked several times if we can travel there so she too can see them. She has had an interest in France for awhile but it is now at the top of her list.

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Using paper bags and a drawing guide we all took a try at drawing the figures that can be found on the cave walls. While the kids drew I explained that some of the drawings that are found in the cave were created by kids their age. They thought it was great that there are small hand prints and many areas that they think are from children.

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Secretly I had been preparing a special cave area under our stairs where we normally store the Christmas decorations. I surprised the kids by covering the walls and floor with cardboard that they could draw on. We did this lesson three weeks ago and they still enjoy drawing, playing, and using this space for quiet reading. Eden even took it a step farther and added details such as a brown pillow that is a “log”, a leopard print blank as “her animal skin blanket”, and a green bowl she is pretending is a turtle shell for eating.

9.5-Madison-14I also created “animal skin” clothing for each of the kids.

History is so much fun when you get to make it come to life.

One of our main history texts is the Story of the World. story of the worldEach lesson is taught through story and after reading the kids always have so much fun acting out what they have learned.

Besides living in caves we learned that these early nomads would have also had tents that they used when moving from place to place or when the weather was warm.

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We learned that these nomads were hunter gathers and that they think that the children probably helped with this task. Remains have been found were children had gathering bags and remains of food.

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After learning what their typical diet would have been I set up an activity were the kids had to gather all the ingredients for our ancient dinner. Some of the items, like blueberries, I packed in baggies to keep them from getting too dirty.

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Oh boy, was this a hit. All three ran around the yard searching for food. They even found sticks and a rock to use as tools for hunting. The green item Rylynn is holding is a bean bag lizard I made for a different lesson but worked well in this activity because our story taught us that lizards would have been part of their regular diet.

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Most of the food items I hid around the yard but the root vegetables they were able to gather from our garden. At this point we started talking about the discovery of farming and how having a garden and food they could harvest would have been a lot easier than moving from place to place.

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That night we had “lizard stew” (chicken) with berries and a biscuit. While early nomads would have not been able to enjoy bread once they learned to farm grains were more easily harvested and would have become part of their diet. While cooking this meal we had a nice discussion on how much more difficult it would have been to cook a meal like this using only stone tools, a fire pit, and limited cooking vessels.

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Another important discussion was on the importance of fire. When Eli heard me say you could use two sticks rubbed together to create a fire, I guess his manly instincts took over and he was already to give it a go.

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While it wasn’t as much fun as creating a real fire we did have fun creating these painted fire art creations using a fork. Sorry there is no finished picture but you get the idea.

History Lesson 1

I am so excited to have Eden’s best friend Rylynn joining us two days a week this school year. The girls get time to play together and then we sit down and do history together.

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This is our first year using history curriculum (we did simple unit studies last year). I didn’t feel like there were very many great options for history curriculum, but I ended up going with History Odyssey by Panda Press and we love it. My favorite part of this curriculum is the many hands on activities and additional resources they organize and suggest using.

9.5-Madison-3-2We started out with a week studying how we know about what happened before there was written documentation.

Archeologist Dig for CluesThere are lots of great books out there but our favorite was “Archeologist Dig for Clues” by  Kate Duke.

Our activity for the first day was to became Archeologist for the day. After reading about archeologist, the girls gathered their gear (they were very clever, they came up with most of the tools needed) and dressed for the occasion from the examples in their book. Dressing up makes everything more fun.

While the girls were getting ready I set up the dig site with two trays filled with a sand/flour/oil mixture and a variety of artifacts for them to find. They helped me to grid off the work site and used their microscopes to look for clues as we start digging.

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Working square by square the girls carefully sifted, dug, and brushed away the “dirt” as they found their artifacts.

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I loved hearing their squeals of delight as they found each item. We weren’t even halfway done and the girls were already asking if I would hide everything again for them to find. Little did they know I had another kind of excavation planned for the next day.

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They loved using the small bags to collect and organize their artifacts. They quickly picked up the method for labeling the bags and made it a game as they compared what each found in say A3 or B1.

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While our entire lesson isn’t quite as exciting as our excavation activities, I try to keep it fun as we learn through reading fun books. Often I like to have the girls work on coloring part of a project while I read. 9.5-Madison-18

I love that all of the parts of this are small and interactive. When folded up they all fit neatly in the little pocket. Eden loves pulling out her pocket and looking at each of the elements she made. It makes for great review as we reread and talk about each item several times.

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Most of the items we made for this pocket were part of the above book but I made a few extra items that were both a big hit.

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The first was a little memory matching game and the second was a tool kit with all the tools we had learned about during our study.
9.5-Madison-6As I shared earlier, I had one more big activity I knew the kids would love.

As we studied archeology and excavation, we learned that sometimes artifacts are frozen in ice and that these too must carefully be excavated.

I created these frozen dig sites by freezing about an inch of water mixed with the sand/flour mix from the other activity in aluminum trays. I then added in dinosaurs and cavemen figurines and filled it up with water.

If you try this activity and need to freeze multiply trays, I suggest putting the tray in the freezer and then filling it with water as it is very hard to carry this full of a container across the room without spilling.

On the day of the excavation the ice block easily slid out and I then filled them with water to use for the activity. I started by putting the sand side up so that they couldn’t see what was frozen inside just yet.

9.5-Madison-7The kids then went to work using water and a variety of tools to melt the ice and find their “treasure” as Eli called it. I love that he gets to participate in most of the activities we do. This one was right up his alley; water, water squirting tools, dirt, mess, dinosaurs, and open ended.

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Everyone enjoyed using the spray bottle but it was the older two that first figured out another use for it. Thankfully Eli was too busy to see how else the sprayer could be used.

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After about 30 minutes (I was a little surprised how long they were willing to spray and drip water) parts of the dinosaurs start sticking out and it was all they could do not to just pull and try to break the ice.

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They then figured out that if they used more water by pouring from the cup things went a lot faster. They wanted to use the hose and while clever I said no and they happily continued.

Not sure why I didn’t get a final picture of everything freed from the ice but don’t worry there wasn’t a speck of ice left after this activity.

Next week look for a fun post on early humans as we start learning about ancient history.

 

Back to School 2015

We are back in school. Really we have been for two whole weeks now but blogging has had to take a back seat to the school day. 1st gradeWe again this year have chosen to homeschool. Eden is 6 years old and in the first grade. Eden with words

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We are both really excited about this school year. Last year we focused on reading and math but this year have added an extensive history class and a life science lab class. Both are very hands on and have lots of fun activities that I hope to find time to share with all of you.

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Eli is two and we are going to say he is in preschool. I am shocked at the amount of information he absorbs just being and playing around us while Eden is doing her work.
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9.5-Madison-3  9.5-Madison-5As you can probably guess Eli keeps me on my toes. I have had to get a little creative to keep this little man busy and happy during our morning school routine.

I really wish I would have gotten a picture of the two of them together to close out this post. Hmm, I guess we are going to have to have another photo shoot.