Month: March 2012

Elementary Science through Stories and Activities

Children's Books ReviewedHomeschool Ideas

By far the most exciting find of this year has been the Seaside and Wayside Nature Readers I-IV. (Also available free at Gutenberg Project.) These have been great read aloud books for our kids, who are so interested in knowing the animals and insects around them. The illustrations are detailed, so the children can really see what is being described,making these books not only entertaining, but educative. When my children ask me “why?” about an insect or animal, I am much better prepared to answer now!

At the end of each unit chapter, you will find discussion questions and activity suggestions. I would recommend this book as early as Kindergarten as the discussion questions can be asked orally and the child can respond orally. The activities could be added as the child gets older, depending on the necessary skills. You do need all four books to cover the range of animal kingdoms. 

As an aside, these books were inspired by the scientist Jean Henri Fabre, who also wrote a Book of Insects, The Story Book of Science, and The Wonder Book of Chemistry. All of these books are told as a narrative, making them wonderful reads as well as informative.  You can find them free online at Gutenberg Project or you can buy reprints.

5-year-old advances in art and story-telling

Homeschool Ideas
Watercolor Painting by #1, Age 5

#1 is making great progress in art and story-telling, much to my surprise. I would estimate that the kids spend at least one hour per day (some days 2+) at the kitchen table or at the outside, garden table drawing pictures and narrating.

It is so much fun to watch #1 and #2 tell one another stories and paint or draw their stories as they talk. Each one has a very different story to tell, and they are eager to share ideas and even drawing tips.

A Birthday Party by #1, Age 5

To formalize the spontaneous exercise, it has been a good reinforcement to have them retell their accounts to Mama and Papa.

Interesting to note is that their characters are developing new depth as their artistic skills improve. The question would be which came first, character depth or drawing ability? It would seem that the two skills have improved simultaneously as they have been working so diligently on both.

Keeping a Nature Journal and a Nature Backpack

Homeschool Ideas

With the beautiful weather before us, we are planning to spend most hours of the day outdoors. This does not mean we give up school time…no, no, no. This means we enjoy natural science! Our children love to be outside, and they love to draw, so keeping a nature journal come naturally. If you are new to this idea or just want some helpful tips with beautiful illustrations, you may enjoy this book: Keeping a Nature Journal. (Just take the references to man’s evolutionary need for nature with a grain of salt.)

For additional ideas for what to have in your child’s nature backpack for those long nature walks, you might consider looking at Home Science Tools.

They have pre-assembled nature backpacks for purchase, or you can put one together yourself with items you have around the house. We used some backpacks we had lying around the house, and I bought some sketch journals for the kids to get started on right away. I would recommend buying the flower press, however. Since we take great care not to ruin our books at home, we have found this to be a good purchase at a reasonable price.

Seedlings started and put in cold frame

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm

Today, after our homeschool co-op, we enjoyed the weather by starting some herbs and flower seeds. We used our trays from last year and filled those with seed-starting mix. #1 cut open the bags of mix, the boys lined up the trays and pots, they all had their watering cans.

The kids took turns putting in seeds, watering them, and watching Mama label the craft sticks with a pen, so we do not forget what we planted.

What herbs and flowers did we start?

  • Lovage
  • Parsley
  • Borage
  • French Terragon
  • Dill
  • Coriander
  • Rosemary
  • Giant marigolds
  • French marigolds
  • Dianthus
  • Coreopsis
  • Daisies

5-year-old’s tasks: watering, planting, using scissors to cup open bags, helped spell plant names for labels.

3.5-year-old’s tasks: watering, planting, and fetching supplies when needed; I played up his strong arms and how important it is to help Mama with heavy pots, etc.

2-year-old’s tasks: watering, planting large seeds, and fetching supplies when needed

8-month-old’s task: Stay happy!

Craft: New Testament Cards for Preschooler

Homeschool Ideas

On this Feast of St. Joseph, we took time off from school to enjoy the outdoors, spending all morning in the garden. #1 was allowed to pick a large tulip for the dinner table vase, and we took the time to transplant a few things before the weather becomes hot. After lunch, I read the story of Saint Joseph aloud and then helped the children with a small craft for Lent.

Materials Needed:

  • glue sticks
  • construction paper
  • prints from a broken children’s Bible

Why and How?

During Advent we made Old Testament Cards from the same broken Children’s Bible, and my preschoolers loved these so much that we decided to use Lent to make the New Testament Cards. This has been great for talking about Jesus’ adult life and the story of his Love for us as we approach Good Friday and Easter.

Laetare Sunday Planting: Cool Season Crop is in the ground!

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm

After all of our preparations and hard work during the week, we took time in the morning to enjoy the garden by planting some seeds before a rain…well, almost before the rain. The kids and I put on our rain jackets and planted seeds during a light rain shower. Each child had a job. #1 held the packets of very small seeds, #2 held the beet seeds, and #3 held the bag of onions. All the children took turns putting seeds in the dirt per my instructions, and we ended the time by planting the onions. This lasted all of 20 minutes!

What did we plant? Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, Lettuce: red and green leafy, Beets, Garlic, Onions

Nature Walk in Virginia: Shenandoah River State Park

Homeschool Ideas

We took a family field trip to the Shenandoah River State Park this week to enjoy a hike along the river. It needed to be a hike that was mostly flat, since our four children are all 5 years old or under, and we like for them to walk themselves.

As is fitting, #1 asked about all the flowers. I did not know the name for a couple, so I think it is time to buy a Wild Flower Guide. #2 noticed that the Boy Scouts of America had built some bird houses along the trail, and #3 was pleased to point out every rock on his path. #4 fell asleep for a short time in his stroller before awaking to the silence of the forest. The quiet was nice.

A nice reward for a good hike!

At the water’s edge, the children and I were able to talk about water flow and the current. #1 noticed the speed of the water, and recollected the song “Oh, my darlin'” and how Clementine was washed away. She said she could see how that happened and then warned her brother not to get too close! This was certainly not a connection I expected her to make, but children rarely make the connections we expect, it seems.

Spring is here! Time for Garden Preparation!

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm
The crocuses in our front yard tell us it is early spring!

Spring is here and our gardening has begun! #1 spies every kind of wild flower emerging from sleep and begs to know its name! #2 is exclaiming over every insect he finds, and #3 is covered from head to toe with dirt! #4 revels in the sunshine and the rustle of the breeze through the new leaves.

Garden Prep: We started raking the leaves off the garden and flower beds this week. We bought any seeds we did not already have stored away, and the cold frame is open and getting fresh air before its annual cleaning. We also have a few raised beds to mend before the May planting.

The children are anxious to start seeds in the cold frame this weekend, and we have quite the assortment of herbs, cool season plants, and flowers to start. First, we must wash last year’s seed trays and pots, though. March and April will be busy!

3-year-old Art Accomplishments: Figure Drawing

Homeschool Ideas

Admittedly, #2 always surprises me, and I cannot decide if it is because he has an older sister to learn from or if it is his very own genius. Unlike his sister, who is interested in landscape and floral arrangements, he is deeply interested in drawing men.  Here is a picture from one month ago:

Men with hats in a truck.

Since the above picture, my son has asked us time and time again to draw knights and pirates. Was he being lazy? Did he not want to draw his own? No… He was watching our every movement and learning how to draw! Here is a picture he drew early this week:

Men with swords and boots.

Here is a picture he drew at the end of the week:

One week after the above painting!
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