Saturday, January 28, 2012

Scientific Method

Nugget has decided that she wants to enter the science fair that one of our homeschool co-ops is putting on next month. You have to format your entry around the scientific method, so we studied that today.

I put 2 cups in front of Nugget, one blue and one purple. I said that I was going to put water in both, and that the question we were going to try to answer was which cup had hot water and which had cold water.

Nugget formed a hypothesis (that the blue cup had the cold water). We talked over the method we'd use -- I asked Nugget how she might test it, and what senses she could use. She came up with:

1. Feel the cups.
2. Feel the water in the cups.
3. Look at the water in the cups.

We then did the experiment. We felt the cups, felt the water, and looked at the water (and saw ice in one).

We recorded our observations, then came up with a conclusion. Her hypothesis turned out to be wrong -- the purple cup had cold water!

Nugget got a huge kick out of this, and asked to do more. So we did an experiment using the scientific method to see what happened when you mixed the hot and cold water.

And then she spent the rest of the day laying out experiments.

As I was in the bathroom, I hear, "I wonder what will happen if I leave this red block outside the door..... my hypothesis is that Mommy will step right over it! (....) My hypothesis was wrong! Mommy picked the block up!"

As I'm cleaning the dining room -- "My question is, what will happen if I lay in the middle of the floor when Mommy is cleaning? .... My hypothesis was right! Mommy stepped right over me!"

I made sure to emphasize to Nugget that scientists are ok with it if their hypothesis is wrong. I wanted her to know that it's not a sign of anything bad to come to a different conclusion; in fact, that's an important part of science!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Not-so-home schooling

It's fall in Florida! We've left the smotheringly hot, tourist-filled days of summer behind. Finally it's cool enough to be out all day, the theme parks aren't bursting at the seams with crowds, and there are festivals every weekend.

And with this change, we've also significantly slowed our at-home homeschooling. Sure, every once in a while we're home long enough for Nugget to ask to do school. But most days we're out and about and learning through experience.

Our homeschool co-op is meeting every week again, and Nugget is actually enjoying it this year. Most of it is just a weekly park day, a chance for homeschoolers to play and interact, but there are also neat little additions like some activities based around a theme.

It's the time of year for Epcot's Food and Wine Festival, with booths from all around the world. Nugget has been exploring those with us, trying something at each one and collecting stamps in the provided "passport" to track the countries whose cuisine she's tried.

SeaWorld is lovely right now, with no waits for anything and plenty of seats at the shows. One of Nugget's aspirations for when she's grown up is to do "aquatic animal rescue" or veterinary work, so SeaWorld is a real treat for her. I think we need to start digging a bit deeper in animal knowledge, though, because she's mastered a lot about the animals there.

Oh, and the festivals! This weekend we went to a local Renaissance Faire where Nugget was immersed in a time period she's quite interested in right now. She learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, watched a joust, learned about medieval occupations, helped solve a murder mystery, and generally had a great time. Next weekend is the Owl Fest at a local avian rescue center; we've gone to this every year since we moved here, and we look forward to it all year.

We're buried in books about Native Americans and various periods of early American life. The story of Sacagawea is retold frequently, Thanksgiving books about the Pilgrims get pulled out every day, and we're still working through Little House books. (I'm so sad that the yearly Pow-Wow was the same weekend as the Renaissance Faire!)

We've just been busy busy busy. It's a bit overwhelming sometimes, and there are times I wish we had a quieter, more rhythmic life like I see in some of the blogs I follow. But I can't bring myself to give up any of these great experiences! Plus, as my husband reminds me, soon enough this time of year will be over and we'll be forced into that quieter life. For now, we're just embracing it and letting ourselves be carried along.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Little House

It seems like nearly every girl around the age of 4, 5, or 6 goes through a "Little House" stage, and we are firmly into one ourselves! I think I was one of the exceptions growing up; at least, I don't remember anything about the books. So this has been a neat discovery for me, too!

We raided the local library system for every Little House picture book that they had and blew through all of them in one sitting. That kick-started Nugget's interest, and since then we've been working through "Little House in the Big Woods" as our bathtime chapter book.

I'm working on putting together a casual Little House unit to go along with our reading. Do you Pinterest? If so, check out my Little House idea board.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Merit badges

I got a great idea from a homeschooling friend. She was looking for a way for her son to see evidence of the progress he'd made and what he'd learned, but she didn't want to use grades. The solution came to her from an email list -- merit badges! I loved this idea, and immediately made it our own.

I've worked up a number of badges, some of which Nugget has already earned and some of which she's in progress on.

Some are based on curriculum we're using, like levels of Hooked on Phonics, Handwriting Without Tears, RightStart, and Ready2Read. The SeaWorld camp one is for her camp experience this past summer.

The "Dolphin Tale" one she'll earn when we work through the curriculum from Homeschool Movie Club and we see the movie.

The others are my own creations:

  • Recite days of the week in order.
  • Recite months of the year in order.
  • Recite seasons in order.
  • Know today's date, including year.
  • Know what day is tomorrow and what day was yesterday.
  • Know the months of major holidays or celebrations (New Year's, Valentine's, her birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas).
Aesop's Fables:
  • Read and do coloring sheets for all fables.
  • Summarize the story and moral of 5 fables.
  • Know the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees.
  • Identify major tree parts.
  • On a walk, identify 5 neighborhood trees (magnolia, palm, pine, oak, orange).
Nugget is quite taken with this idea, especially after seeing her (Eagle Scout) daddy's badge sash. Unfortunately, I have no way of making woven patches; instead, I'm just printing them on cardstock and hanging them in her homeschool corner in the dining room.

We'll see how this goes!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Homeschool annex

Here's a peek at our homeschool annex. Our Montessori works are in the master bedroom, but we haven't been able to get into there lately because Sprout has taken to screaming when I leave his sight (we're on the last 2 teeth, so I'm hoping this calms down soon!). Instead, we've taken over a corner of the dining room.

This has slowly grown and is working well for right now. The table and chairs are a set from Ikea that's moved around our house as the needs have changed. I love them!

Next to it is a set of plastic drawers. Each drawer holds the materials for one subject (and one drawer for trash). I turn this around when we're not doing work so Sprout can't pull them all out.

On the back wall is our calendar. It reads:

Today is
August 26 2011
The weather is sunny
High temperature 92 degrees
Tomorrow is Saturday

We change this every morning and color in the weather graph (above the calendar). We're going to do a weather graph for each month, so we can see how things change during the year. Next month I might incorporate a line graph for the high temperature.

On the wall facing Nugget is a bulletin board. Across the top (barely visible) are some Aesop's Fables coloring pages. Below that, our Handwriting Without Tears letters. The major focus on the board is the materials from the Moffatt Girls' Ready2Read program. The caterpillar is made up of the sight words we've done, and below that is a garden of word families.

I really love this small, unobtrusive corner. Of course, other materials are spread throughout the house.... globes on the sideboard, books throughout the living room shelves, art supplies in the kitchen.... I'm so excited for a time when Sprout is less destructive and homeschooling can take over the whole house!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Happy Not-Going-to-School Day!!

Today is the first day back to school in our county. Nugget is 4, not old enough for Kindergarten. But in our state, we have Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK). It's offered through preschools and private schools and is free if you want to do it. Every 4 year old we know who will be going into the school system goes to VPK; anyone who's left plans to homeschool for the early years.

So the questions have started -- we went to the (quiet) grocery store this morning and the cashier asked, "Your kids aren't ready for school yet?". I passed it off to Nugget ("Nugget, do you go to school?"), because I've found those questions are best defused by an extremely verbal child expressing her excitement at homeschooling.

Here's how our "first day of VPK" is going to go.

1. Calendar and weather at breakfast (including graphing how many days of each weather per month).

2. Fine motor skills through dressing and undressing stuffed friends.

3. Library storytime for listening to and following directions from someone other than a parent as well as paying attention in a group setting.

4. Baking cupcakes for practical life (measuring, mixing, following directions).

5. Arts and crafts through decorating for our Not-Back-to-School Party.

6. Academics:

a. Writing -- finishing up our preschool handwriting workbook and preparing to move into the Kindergarten one.

b. Reading -- done with Kindergarten level Hooked on Phonics and moving into first grade level phonics, reviewing sight words and word families, reading lots of early reader books.

c. Math -- halfway through Kindergarten level RightStart (level A), working on mental math such as breaking a number into parts (what are all the parts of 4? 5? 8?) and the concept of getting change for a purchase.

I know that homeschooling isn't for everyone. I know that logistics or finances or simple preference mean that we're in a small minority. But I feel very lucky and oh so happy that we've been able to make this work. It really feels like the right choice for our family, and as Nugget gets older and into real school age, I'm more and more sure that I want her home with our family.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I love the ability to "do school" anywhere. We had about a 45 minute drive home from a playdate the other day. Just a few minutes into the drive, Nugget started figuring out and talking about various addition facts (up to 5). So I picked the thread up and we chatted about those for a while. Then we moved on to the 5+x facts that RightStart Math emphasizes. We made a little game out of both. Then we reviewed odds and evens, then Nugget decided to count to 100. THREE TIMES. By the time she'd finished that, we were almost home -- and math was done for the day!
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