Let’s Pull Together 2008 ~ Part Two

The kiddos and I met a number of other community members down at our neighborhood park for the annual Let’s Pull Together county-wide service project. Before our arrival, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the kids – wasn’t sure they would be too fond of the project.

We spent about 10 minutes becoming familiar with some of the common non-native invasive weeds that are common in our area. The area coordinator was concerned we would have difficulty identifying them because they were not yet in bloom. Fortunately, a gentlemen who works for the Soil and Water Conservation District was there and he helped us get underway.You can see him (center) with the kiddos pictured above. The kids took a liking to him and started following him about as we all worked to pull the weeds. They got really good at identifying the two most common weeds in our community, Cheat Grass and Dalmation Toadflax. When we go on our family walks in the evening, they point it out and frequently insist that they pull it.
After nearly 2 hours of weed pulling, Buddy said, “I’m tired now. I want to go home.” Sweetie would have loved to continue but I needed a break myself. We cleaned up and then joined other weed pullers at the park downtown for a BBQ. It was a great afternoon. The kids and I enjoyed learning more about invasive species – investigating a men’s tennis shoe that had been placed into Lake Mead and was completely covered with Zebra Mussels within 30 days.

We also observed a couple of men from one of the project sponsors giving fly-fishing demonstrations. I was impressed when Sweetie took it upon herself to request an opportunity to give it a go. The young man helped her get the hang of touching the fly onto the water surface and lifting it up quickly to entice the fish. She did very well and must have worked on her rhythm for 20 minutes. She’s been asking about going fishing ever since! 😀

What Schooling Looks Like in Our Home

As I’ve mentioned briefly in the past, we use a unique blend of materials and methods suited to our lifestyle of learning. It is largely literature-based, a little Montessori, a little unschoolish, a little unit-study, a little classics based (Thomas Jefferson/Well-Trained Mind), a little Charlotte Mason… We basically go with the flow.

I encourage the children to ask questions and investigate their natural curiosities. When they express an interest in something, I plan hands-on lessons, activities and excursions to provide avenues for them to explore and learn. We frequently create lapbooks for each of these explorations. Thus far, we’ve created lapbooks for Ancient China, The Iditarod, Song Birds, Ballet, The American Flag, and Maple Sugaring.

Sweetie will frequently ask to do schoolwork and pull down workbooks that we’ve purchased at Barnes & Noble or local teacher supply stores. She generally works through them independently, particularly the math books as this is her strength. When she selects a language arts workbook, she will ask me to sit with her. I’ll read the directions and help her to work through each page. Her phonetic skills are improving and she needs my assistance less and less.

On occasion (and according to the schedule I created to help maintain my sanity), I will ask if they would like to listen to a story. Either from Story of the World, books that relate to our focus in history or science, or an everybody book just for fun. In the evening, after they have brushed their teeth and changed into PJs, I read to them from a chapter book. They are loving Laura Ingalls’ Little House series right now (we’ve read both Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie) – they wanted to read the third, Farmer Boy, but I encouraged them to take a break as I wanted to read My Side of the Mountain.

One of the greatest things about homeschooling is knowing exactly what your children have been exposed to… particularly in books. When things come up as we are out and about, I am able to tie the experience back to a book we have read, helping them to connect the pieces of random information they have collected in their minds. Case in point…. The kids and I were at Safeway the other day and Sweetie picked up a package of tiny flint pieces near the cigarette lighters. “What are these?” she asked.

I replied, “Remember in the book were reading, My Side of the Mountain, Sam uses a piece of flint and steel to start fire. I further explained that these were pieces of flint I assumed to be used to replace the flint worn down inside a lighter. I am not certain, but I postulated that the components within a lighter consist of a tiny piece of flint and a when you move the ball with your thumb, a tiny piece of steel strikes the flint resulting in a spark. This spark in turn ignites the gas and behold, you have flame. When we go camping in a few weeks, I ask my dad to show them how to use flint and steel to start a fire.

I take advantage of every teachable moment that comes along. We lead a weekly nature walk at our local natural history museum. As the kids have become more comfortable with these walks, I have assigned each one a plant that they are responsible for teaching to the visitor. When we come to the Manzanita along the path, we’ll stop and I will turn to Buddy asking him the name of ‘his’ plant. He zealously calls out, “Manzanita!” I’ll then say, “Manzanita is Spanish for….” and I pause as turn back to Buddy. He shouts out again, “Little apples!” The visitors chuckle. His ‘speech’ is short. As he grows and learns more… he’ll be expected to share more.

Sweetie claimed the Ponderosa Pine. When we arrive at the Ponderosa, one of the first things she likes to share is that it smells of Vanilla when you put your nose up close in the crevices of the bark. She also points out that it has 3 long needles in a bundle and that it has very thick bark (she holds up a tree cookie) that protects it from forest fire. As she speaks, I remind her to look at her audience and speak loud enough for everyone to hear her. Public Speaking! She is getting pretty good at it but is still rather quiet.

We’ve recently started listening to audio books while we’re driving about town on errands. We are currently listening to The Last Dragon by Silvana de Mari. Sweetie picked it out at the library – she loves fantasy stuff! 😀 At dinner last night, I asked her to narrate what she could recall from the chapters we’d listened to thus far (Charlotte Mason in action!). It is also a great way to share with DH what we’re reading about… what we’re learning.

The past couple of weeks have been pretty laid back, however. I finished up the required elements for an art class I took (Art for Teachers) to renew my teaching license. I’ve thus been preoccupied and honestly, quite stressed. I spent many hours trying to develop a curriculum that would not only meet the course requirements but would also be usable in our homeschool. This turned out to be a waste of time but I did manage to find and review a number of great lesson plans and art activities.

We visited a new dojo and Sweetie is very excited to begin her training in Taekwondo. On Saturday, we saw Kung Fu Panda as a family and of course, she loved it (DH too)! We’ve both been singing the theme song all week! We have even had a few discussions over the week about the secret of the Dragon Master… that everything you need is within you, you only need to believe in yourself.

Let’s Pull Together 2008 ~ Part One

Our Roots & Shoots group will be participating in the state-wide Let’s Pull Together campaign this month. Invasive species have always been a favorite topic of mine. When I was teaching, I wrote several grants to develop an “Alien Invaders” curriculum and get my students involved in the eradication/prevention of invasives.

In anticipation of our upcoming endeavor, I thought I’d share a list of 13 Invasive Species that are changing the Oregon landscape. The graphic below describes how unwanted plants and animals are dispersed. Click on it to enlarge.

I encourage you to become familiar with the invasive animals and plants in your area and to do your part to prevent further distribution.

Sons of Norway

While I was in college, I was a member of the local Sons of Norway lodge. I was not active by any means but I enjoyed reading the Viking publication that would arrive in mailbox and I looked forward to traveling to Norway some day. The primary reason why I wasn’t active is because there were no other young members – though my great aunt and uncle were long-time members, social functions were a little awkward. I also worked 30+ hours a week on top of my 18+ term credit load… I really didn’t have the time.

As a parent, I want the best for my children. As a homeschooling mom, I look for every opportunity to provide educational experience for them. I have known there is an active lodge here in Central Oregon since we first moved here… all things Norwegian tend to grab my attention.

A few weeks ago, I happened to drive by the lodge and I noticed there were a few cars parked outside. On a whim, I stopped and inquired within about the make-up of the members. I hoped there would be other young families so that I could make connections… I didn’t want to feel isolated and I wanted the kids to be welcome… their exhuberance and all.We attended our first Sons of Norway social last night and I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, as one would guess, the majority of the members are elderly… yet there were several young members… and the kids made friends with them immediately. Come to find out, the one family with whom I had connected when I first stopped are long-time homeschoolers themselves (though the girls are all in college). It was a little difficult at times to keep all the kids quiet at times – but all in all, the other members were very welcoming and accepting. I didn’t have a chance to visit with many but those I did talk with were very warm. I look forward to future gatherings. It will be a great opportunity for us all to learn about our cultural heritage and make new friends.

Vi sees (See you later).

Taking the Pledge to Pack – Decorating Canvas Bags

Yesterday afternoon, our Roots & Shoots club gathered to enjoy one another’s company while decorating canvas bags. It was part of a global effort to reduce our use of plastic.  Most of the girls enjoyed the activity and were focused for nearly 45 minutes on their bags… the boys on the other hand, were more interested in burning off excess energy. Amazing how boys and girls differ so much in this regard.

I had stencils & fabric paints readily available and as the children worked on their bags (everyone brought their own), I talked about the purpose of the activity (to reduce our use of disposable paper and plastic bags). Through a little research, we have learned that the production of both paper and plastic bags uses a tremendous amount of natural resources. There are pros and cons to both materials and thereby the “greenish” choice is to use re-usable bags or baskets (canvas, hemp or other natural fibers).

When the children had completed their bags and while we waited for the paint to dry, I had activity stations set up in the kitchen to allow the children an opportunity to explore how a bird’s beak/bill is specially adapted to eating specific foods. I found the activity in Ranger Rick’s Nature Scope Birds, Birds, Birds! activity book. I also found an adaptation available here a a PDF download, Fill the Bill.

It was a great hands-on activity extension to our nature study focus area on birds. Earlier that morning, I also did a read-aloud from our Wildlife Fact File on “How Birds Build Nests”. I’m loving our new home school schedule! 🙂