Saturday, June 13, 2009

Field Trip Update

Post on a recent field trip on my other blog. Go here to read all about it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Getty Villa

This was the BEST place to take the kids after studying ancient Greece, the Etruscans, and Rome (although our Roman studies aren't complete yet.) The Villa is based on an actual Roman Villa, which was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and later excavated. The architecture is stunning and we kept looking up to see intricate ceilings, gorgeous columns, and frescoes everywhere.
The Getty Villa has a large collection of antiquities from ancient Greece, Etruria, and Rome. There were lots and lots of vases with paintings depicting the gods and goddesses, the tales of the Odyssey, and other familiar myths. There were statues, mosaics, frescoes, and even a couple of intricately carved marble sarcophaguses. Kimball and Henry lingered at each artifact, anxious to read about it, study it, and recount how it related to what they already knew. I couldn't have been more thrilled with their reaction to the galleries.

Bronwen and Ian were less impressed. Thankfully, my mom was with us, and she took them exploring the gardens. We all spent quite a while in the "Family Forum", where there were hands-on activities including drawing on dozens of vases with dry-erase markers, posing in front of a screen to make our shadows resemble the art on the vases, and coloring our own.

We spent much longer there than we'd planned and had to travel home in LA's rush hour traffic, but it was well worth it. I highly reccommend this museum to any family studying ancient cultures.

Open House

So it has been nearly 2 months since my last Open House report. Can you tell that writing these reports is something that I procrastinate? The problem is that when I wait so long, there is too much to tell (and too much to forget) in one post. But I'll do my best.

I decided that what we were doing with grammar was inadequate and rarely happening, plus I wanted a more structured spelling curriculum. I finally went in to a local homeschool store and was thrilled with all the resources I found there. So, in February Kimball started Spelling Workout E, Henry started Explode the Code 2 (which seems to be a little low for him, but I like that it is teaching phonics and he's moving through it quickly,) and Ian started Get Ready for the Code. We are trying to spend 10 or 15 minutes a day in these books and the boys seem to enjoy it and are moving along.

Reading is going well. Henry is much more comfortable in independent reading these days and chooses more challenging (and more interesting) books to read. He reads aloud to me most days, reads aloud to Bronwen and Ian, and reads aloud to himself. He has always loved books, but it makes me happy to see him feeling confident enough about his reading to curl up with a book and actually READ rather than just look at the pictures. Kimball has been enjoying several books lately, including Where the Red Fern Grows, Peter Pan, Famous Men of Ancient Rome, Gladiator, Julius Caesar--Great Dictator of Rome, See You Later, Gladiator, Roman Roads and Aquaducts, and Viking it and Liking It. As you can see, he really loves learning about ancient Rome. Ian and I are getting burned out on Letter of the Week--we are stuck on P and I just need to find the motivation for us to go on and finish the alphabet.

We have also listened to several books on CD lately: Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, A Wrinkle in Time, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Spiderwick Chronicles . . . that's all I can remember, although I'm sure that there have been more.

In history, we've been all about the Romans. The boys are fascinated by the people, especially Caesar and Hannibal. We've written narratives about Caesar being kidnapped by pirates, attempted to build a Roman aquaduct (which was a fabulous failure), done bean mosaics, measured ourselves to see if our Celtic blood has made us big like the Celts, and taken one of our favorite field trips of the year. I must dedicate an entire post to our visit to the Getty Villa in Malibu-- we went a couple of weeks ago while visiting my mom and the boys were captivated by all of the art, mosaics, architecture, and artifacts. Here are some photos of our work and activities in the area of history:

In math we have been plugging away. I got a book for Kimball to help him with his multiplication tables because he just hasn't wanted to commit them to memory. It seems to be helping, as he is much more drawn to books and the written word than to numbers, and this books incorporates both. It's also available on DVD or CD-ROM, but I always choose books over screen-time for my kids. If you are interested, go here. Henry only has about 25 lessons to go before he starts Saxon 2, which is exciting. Ian and I haven't done math in weeks. I have got to start making his learning more of a priority. I know that he is still preschool aged, but he is capable of learning more than I am teaching him right now.

In science, we have been doing studies on birds and birdwatching. We also planted a spring garden in January and have enjoyed eating lettuce and spinach from the garden for the past month. The peas don't seem to be doing anything, but the beans are up and growing and the onions seem to be thriving. The strawberries are blossoming, which has us very excited. We've had a lot of rain with warmish temperatures in the past couple of months, which has helped a lot. We hope to get our tomatoes, herbs, peppers, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and melons planted in the next two weeks. We are really expanding from last year's garden, since we enjoyed it so much.

We also have acquired a pet, a bearded dragon, named Drazil. So we have spent a lot of time online learning about beardies, their diets, needs, temperaments. I really don't mind having a reptile in the house as much as I thought I would--the worst part is keeping live crickets to feed the little guy. I DO NOT LIKE BUGS.

In terms of life skills, the boys have become quite proficient and clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, which I love. Kimball is riding his bike to and from Cub Scouts each week without me (it's 2 blocks away), which makes him feel very responsible. They are also learning how to do some simple things like make peanut butter sandwiches, warm up frozen burritos, pop microwave popcorn . . . things that will be a blessing to me when the new baby comes. Henry loves the responsibility of watering the garden and taking out the compost bowl each morning.

In piano both Kimball and Henry are preparing for a spring recital. I see a lot of improvement in their playing and they never complain about practicing. I am proud of what they are accomplishing.

In Russian, we have been working on the numbers to 20, saying how old we are, and the confusing personal pronouns. Russian is pretty complicated gramatically (although those of you who have already studied Latin would have a leg up--I know that my background in Latin helped Russian grammar click for me.) I want to look into a Russian speaking playgroup or having a native come to our home on a regular basis to get us all conversing more. It would help me, too!

Kimball also earned his Wolf badge last month as well as 3 arrow points. He is excited to get started on his Bear requirements. He and his dad made a teepee cake for the America theme at the Blue and Gold Banquet last month, and Kimball was very particular about painting on the sides some actual Native American word-pictures.

For Valentine's Day, we were invited to a party, which the kids were sooooo excited about. There were crafts, cookies, and other kids--all the perfect ingredients. I was thrilled that someone else was hosting!

We also made cookies to take to friends, but we had to bake them at my sister's house because my oven died; on the way home, they all slid right off their cookie sheet and into the carpet of the van. Yuck! Some of them were salvaged enough for us to eat, but not to share.

For St. Patrick's Day, they made a leprachaun trap and were thrilled to find that a leprachaun had come while we were out. He managed to get out of the trap, but left behind lots of gold chocolate nuggets, which was better than nothing. We also wrote essays on how we would use three wishes if we caught a leprachaun, and I made Irish Soda bread, spinach smoothies, and green shamrock spritz cookies.

We have memorized James 1:5-6 and have been reading sections from The Family: A Proclamation to the World each morning at our morning meeting. We also continue to read from the Book of Mormon each day before Daddy leaves for work and study one Old Testament story per week. I love being able to speak so freely about the gospel in all areas of our learning--it feels natural to discuss and enriches our studies greatly.

Although some days are quite challenging and I have to strive with all my might to stay on track, I am finding this experience to be rewarding for me and my family. I pray that the Lord will continue to guide me and help me to give them the education that they need and deserve.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bird Watching Adventures

I know that I need to do another Open House report, but I thought I'd take the time to do one now on the birdwatching we've been doing for the past few weeks.

We read about the Great Backyard Bird Count on Sonja's blog and decided to participate. We went out and bought some bird feeders, but haven't attracted as many as we wanted--perhaps because our backyard is under construction and resembles a massive mudpit with all the rain we've been having. However, anytime the boys spotted a bird in the yard for the two weeks leading up to the GBBC, they got so excited.

We did spot these Pine Siskins in our lavender bush on the morning of the first day of the GBBC (the only day that wasn't raining buckets.) We counted 12 of them in the lavender and in our big tree in the front.
Since we weren't having great luck finding birds in our own backyard, plus it was the only day that week that wasn't rainy, we took a family birdwatching walk to a local park that has wetlands and bike trails throughout scrub oaks and fields. The weather conditions were not ideal--the wind was quite chilly and we wished we'd worn more layers-- and we noticed that not as many birds were out as we usually see there. However, we did spy some species that we were able to identify using our bird field guides, which was exciting:
Great Egrets

Canada Geese
Red Shouldered Hawk (we think)

An entire family of Mallards. You can't see all of them, but we counted 14.

This week, even though the GBBC was over, we studied the wild turkey. We looked in all of our field guides and bird books, then went to the internet to learn more. We have started working on our own field guides thanks to a Dover/Audobon Society coloring book I found this week, so Kimball and Henry took great care to color their turkeys accurately. Then, on Friday, we went to a place that I was sure we'd see wild turkeys-- Temple Hill. Near the Sacramento Temple is a huge oak grove as well as many acres of wild shrubs. I nearly always see turkey and deer when Jared & I go to the temple; we sometimes run across wild turkeys in the neighborhood here, but nothing so consistent that we could go find them when we wanted to.

We were rewarded. As we drove up, we came to a flock of about 15 turkeys who were just on the edge of the temple grounds. We stopped the car and looked at them, took some pictures, and noticed how they varied in color from some that we had seen on the internet and in our books. A few of the toms actually raised their tail feathers for us, which was a treat. Afterwards, we parked the car and wandered around the oak grove, hoping that the turkeys would come back. They did not, but we did observe lots of American Robins. We sat quietly and talked about the temple for a few minutes, sang a few songs, and then took a mostly reverent walk around the actual gated temple grounds. On the way out, we spotted a doe and fawn grazing together.

It was a very special little outing and I was grateful to have done it--the morning hadn't started off well and I was not feeling much like taking them anywhere, but it paid off.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Open House

I haven't posted a weekly report in ages and have been overwhelmed with the thought of catching up. So this post isn't meant to cover EVERYTHING that we've learned since Week 11 (we are currently in week 19, but merely to give a sampling of some of what we've accomplished and discovered in the past couple of months.

In math, Kimball is still working on his multiplication tables. We've learned about perfect squares and square roots. He's currently working on a line graph comparing the daily low temperatures in Albany, NY and Sacramento, CA. Henry has been working on comparing numbers on graphs, figuring out how many more and how many less, and has mastered his doubles plus one facts. Both boys are on track to finish Saxon Math in about 12 weeks. We'll have a little celebration and start the next level. I'm hoping to do some math through the summer so they don't lose their skills, but with a new baby coming in July, we'll see how that turns out.

Ian and I have been doing math regularly, but taking it a bit more slowly. He and I have really been focusing in the past two weeks on numerical order and on recognizing the numbers between 6 and 10. We have also been counting backwards from 10 to blast off, which he enjoys. We spent a week doing the same lesson each day, just so that I was sure he was solid on the principles. I'm just trying to establish fundamentals with him at this point--if he were going to public school, he'd still have almost 2 years until I sent him (as he has a late fall birthday). That is one of the perks that I see with homeschooling him--I can help him learn in the areas where he's ready without holding him back until he's mature enough for public school kindergarten.

In history, we finished up the ancient Greeks before Christmas, as well as learning about Alexander the Great and his empire. We spent the first couple of weeks after the New Year learning about the Etruscans. I was a docent at the BYU MOA the first year it was opened, when it featured an exhibit from the Vatican about the Etruscans. I will admit that my memories are more broad than specific about the people, but my mom had acquired a teacher curriculum that the museum published then, which we had lots of fun with. We made dioramas of an Etruscan home, studied the Etruscan alphabet (Kimball loves and alphabet), and pored over Etruscan art. Last week we made an Etruscan-style family portrait. (Henry's has a knight and princess theme, not quite true to the period, but I allowed the artistic license.)

This week, we move on to the Romans, whom we will study for several weeks. We hope to take a trip to the Getty Villa this spring to see some of the antiquities there.

In Russian, everyone has been making progress. The boys have learned numbers to ten, colors, and the names of family members (father, mother, baby, grandma, etc.) Their sentences are getting more complex, and I am impressed at how intuitively the kids seem to know what they mean. I am really pleased with the Rosetta Stone program. Kimball got a pocket Russian-English dictionary for Christmas, and Henry got this book, which Jared & I had so much fun looking through before we wrapped it up. (If Usborne offers this book in the language that you are studying, I highly recommend it. Check out Sonja's bookstore to find out.) We also had an unexpected Russian visitor this month. Jared & I recently got on facebook and have discovered many of our Russian friends there. One of them contacted us to say that her 21 year old son was visiting San Francisco and wondered if he could come for a visit. So he caught the train to see us and came for dinner and the evening, then took the train back the next day. So the boys got to try out their language skills on a native!

We've been trying to work in more memorization and have learned some poems and scriptures. We are currently working on Alma 37:35 "Oh, remember my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth. Yeah, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God." We have also tried copywork again--still not the boys' favorite, but I'm aiming for once a week right now, copying the scripture or poem we are working on.

In December, Henry was lamenting that they had done more fun holiday activities in public school last year, so we decided to up it a bit. The boys created their own Christmas ornaments for a small tree in their bedroom, we decorated gingerbread houses (thanks, Grammy & Papa!),

and hosted a cousins' Christmas party where we did an art project and decorated cookies.

We also learned Silent Night in Russian. We also learned about Hannukah and spent one evening eating traditional Hannukah foods, playing with a dreidle, and (not) lighting the menorah--as I forgot to get candles to fit in the one I bought in Jerusalem.

In reading, Henry has been reading the Flat Stanley books. Kimball has read a slew of books, including all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in a matter of hours, which a friend loaned him. Those books have spawned a whole series of knock-offs by Kimball and Henry, as well as lots of conversations about why it's not nice or funny to put people down. Why is it that so many books written for young boys involve put-downs? Every time I buckle and let them read a book that is popular in their age group, I regret it. Kimball is reading and loving The Black Stallion at the moment, which is a much better choice in my mind. They've also read a lot of books about Greece, wildfires, polar animals (again), and all the Christmas books I keep under the tree in December. I have accumulated around 40 0r 50 Christmas children's books that only come out after Thanksgiving. I love watching them lay on their bellies around the tree, rediscovering old favorites.

I also tried to focus on service more in December. We chose a needy family and shopped for Christmas gifts and a tree for them, then delivered it as a family. We made cinnamon rolls for all of our neighbors and some other families.

I was touched to see them empty their spending money banks to buy Christmas gifts for each other, and each one spent a lot of time and thought choosing what they would give each other.

Jared just finished reading The Princess Bride to them at bedtime, and we have been listening to Little House on the Prarie in the car. I am also trying to make sure that the little ones hear me read aloud books a few times a day. Trips to the library keep me from getting tired of reading the same things over and over.

The kids have been helping me in the kitchen more, have acquired a new nightly chore of clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, and we all worked to prepare our garden bed for planting a couple of weeks ago. If the rain will let up for long enough, we are anxious to plant lettuce, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, and peas.

Science really hasn't been happening regularly, but they have had a couple of lessons using Kimball's new microscope. We are planning on participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count next month.

There is more, but I'm out of time now, and this at least gives some record of what we've accomplished. I'll try to post more often, but I'm not making any promises.