Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Only the brave hearted will walk in this weather!

I'm so blessed to have the friends I do.

If I didn't then I wouldn't have been crazy enough to brave the weather to walk along the Slangkop Lighthouse boardwalk on a freezing cold day!

I would have missed the wind whipping up the waves.

And this little man wouldn't have found the perfect spot to hide from the wind....

And when they were sufficiently frozen these little ones wouldn't have had fun painting on their rocks they found while out walking......

 pictures of lighthouses.....

and ladybugs.

And I would have been oh so sad to have missed out on those scrumptious pancakes piled on the plate....

Ooooops, they were there just a second ago!  
Well, I guess that's what happens when you take a bunch of crazy Nature Clubbers out on a walk in icy weather......
empty plates, but hearts and homes filled up with love!

(Thank you, my crazy friend-who loves hiking in sleet rain and icy wind-for letting us share in your love of all things beautiful, especially the beauty of an icy windswept day. I just love how we learn from each other!)

What to do on a rainy day?

 As part of our Nature Club two weeks back we discussed the rain cycle and did a few experiments showing how water is in the air around us.  How it cools when it reaches a cold area and how it rises and evaporates when heated.  We also made some very simple rain gauges.  So imagine the excitement when  a few mornings later, while eating breakfast, we experienced a spectacular symphony of rain sounds on our metal roof!

And this is what we opened the door up to...........a carpet of hail stones!

Our front verandah was quickly covered with little stones-the biggest we've ever seen!

And this is what happened to our front lawn.....

They bounced off the trampoline....

and ran down the gutter to form piles of ice!

 Which had to be collected of course!

Ooooooo,  just look mommy!!!!

We lay them out on a baking sheet to look a little closer at these amazing ice stones!  It looked like sago pudding, but not as warm.....brrrrrrrr.  The closest we'll ever get to experiencing snow in our front garden!

And then of course the hunt was on to see who could collect the most.....

so that it could go into the freezer of course!

And then after all that rain we took the opportunity to measure the rainfall which had collected in our rain gauges.

Making maths meaningful ..... counting in fives.  Each line is marked off in 5 mm measurements.  Real life maths....the way I like doing it best!  I must admit that this simple activity has helped me to understand the weather sites I visit.  Now that I've seen and experienced  how much 15 mm of rain is, I'm far more prepared to head outdoors for the day when I see a prediction of 5 or 10 mm.  I now know it may rain, but not for long!  Yes, I did realise that it wouldn't rain much on those days before, but now that I've seen it, it has been put into perspective so much better!  I really must be a visual-kinesthetic learner :-)

Recording skills-learning about measuring in mm, number recognition and writing practice.   

Recording the weather for the day....drawing all those hailstones took forever!!!

And then we did a creative activity.....bead threading to decorate our winter trees.  We started this little project three years ago when I was missing the beautiful green leaves on the tree which grows just outside our "dining room" window.  Every year we add a different string of beads.

A little bit of sorting..... and counting and sharing.  
(I just love it when Maths happens naturally!)

Discovering shapes within a pile of beads.....that's my little designer with her creative eye always on the look out for all things beautiful.

More maths....creating repetitive patterns with the beads.  

And a little fine motor skill practice.  Amazing to see how he has progressed in a year-he never threads beads on his own initiative.  Proof that maturity plays a big role in readiness, and not repeated practice of a similar exercise.  Last year this skill was way beyond his concentration and physical ability.  This year I left him alone completely and he threaded his very own string of beads for the first time!  

A little bit of outdoor time between the rainfall.  Climbing up our bare winter tree to add her string of beads to our growing collection.

The best picture I could get to show you of the three different strings we've done.  Blue beads, drift wood and shells we collected from our Durban holiday and our newly threaded red string.  Next year I think we'll try adding some mirrors for some sparkle.  Perhaps I'm turning into a glitzy girl after all :-)

To end off the rainy day indoors we pasted together our fire station lap books.  I know, I know! That outing was ages ago...... putting it together had been on my to do list for a while-I was just waiting for a rainy day!

Our first lap book: after putting it off for a while (are you noticing a trend here?) I finally took the leap and chose a very simple one I could work on with both of my kids.  Sometimes finding activities which appeal to both of them can be a do you moms of three or more do it?!

A very busy rainy day filled with lots of incidental learning.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The books in my basket.....

I thought I'd show you what books I keep in my little basket of tricks....

It is my aim to read from these books sometime during the day.....sometimes we fit them into our school plan as a way to break up activities.....or sometimes we just snuggle together to read them.  And if I'm perfectly honest....sometimes we don't get to them at all.

These are our Bible Time books.  We have a whole lot of different children's Bibles which we usually read from cover to cover-when one is finished we begin the next one.  We used to only read from a children's Bible but this year I've wanted to introduce Bible study-so I chose these as we already had them on our book shelf.  The Prayers and Devotions book co-ordinate together to follow stories in the Bible and they have discussions, stories, songs, rhymes etc. which relate to the story or lesson being taught-very simple stuff, but it's been a nice gentle introduction for us to doing Bible study together.  We read the Bible story first and then on the following days we read from the Prayers book followed by the Devotions book the following day.

When it comes to choosing literature I want to expose our children to, my basket includes: A poetry book or fables/short story book for Jenna and a Nursery Rhyme book for Michael.  I believe in letting them listen to a variety of styles of literature.  Poems expose them to wonderful descriptive words and interesting vocabulary which often challenges their understanding and in turn extends their vocabulary.  Nursery rhymes are wonderful for teaching rhyming words incidentally and building auditory memory skills.  {I'm not 100% sure, but I think the repetitive reading of our nursery rhyme collections is what gave Jenna the confidence to attempt reading on her own.  I used to find her "reading" these books on her bed in the morning before I discovered she could read.}
Fables and short stories usually have good moral lessons to teach.  As they are short, I've used them as an introduction to narrating skills for Jenna.  It's so sweet to hear her repeat what I have read in the exact same expressive tones I've used.... or it can be a great tool for working on her concentration skills-sometimes she can be a little distracted by the world around her!

For second language learning, I believe in the total immersion theory: learn a language by interacting with someone who speaks it fluently in natural day to day activities.  But as we don't have a Xhosa or Afrikaans speaking friend to play with at the moment we're using literature as the next best resource.  Because they've shown an interest in Afrikaans I chose it as our second language to begin with.  I would love for my children to learn to speak Xhosa too but the few times they've been exposed to it they've shown no interest, so I'll wait a while for that one.  We use either a picture dictionary to discuss the vocabulary in the picture (it's all about hearing the language at this stage), a rhyme book or a short picture book with repetitive vocabulary.

As a gentle exposure to letters and the sounds they make we use picture dictionaries, alphabet books or a Letterland book we're borrowing from a friend.  Michael loves the Letterland characters.  I never used them for Jenna, but he's a different learner to her!  

For Maths I like to read books which teach maths concepts through stories. Unfortunately I haven't found many at our library so at the moment I'm using books which I have on our bookshelf-they're not teaching concepts through a story but they've managed to keep the children's attention for now.  We also take out a lot of counting books or early maths concepts books from our library.

At the beginning of the year I decided that I would like Jenna to read aloud to me on a more consistent basis.  Before, I would just hear her read if she incidentally read something to me.  Not really knowing what she was capable of reading I decided to start her off with a series which I knew used sight words rather than phonics (because she is a sight word reader).  I wanted her to feel confident and capable of reading what I gave her so I started with the introduction books and we've moved on from there.  When she was in the habit of reading to us at story time I started introducing books from a Phonics reading scheme too.  Other readers we've used are from the Dorling Kindersley Reader range-they are usually information books covering a topic which interests her.  All of these books we have sourced at our library.  Below are some examples of some of the books we've used. 

Just a side note on these Readers: Read at Home is a sight word reader series-Jenna loved reading this series and Michael loved listening to her read them!  Spilt Milk is from the Reading Corner Series-not my favourite, definitely wouldn't have been Charlotte Mason's choice, but it served it's purpose: giving her a broad reading experience rather than pushing on in levels too quickly.  I feel it's important for her to feel confident to read and to have a reading experience which she enjoys.  I didn't take a photo of the Phonics readers we used-but if you're ever looking for one they have a monkey on the spine ;-) Of course there are many other readers at the library which we could use, these are just a few we've used so far.

When it comes to factual learning (history, geography and science) I've chosen to follow our children's interests at the moment.  So as Jenna expressed a desire for becoming an astronaut one day ;-) we've been reading all sorts about Space.  Although I agree with Charlotte Mason's use of Living Books to explore a topic, I have found that sourcing Living Books which read as a story is not very easy in this age group.  So we have begged and borrowed books (but not stolen) from friends who have books on space.  I find home schoolers generally have a love of books and choose great books to expose their children to new information. I also have a few books on our book shelf which I'm learning to look through before heading off to the library!

Books from friends and our book shelf-Jenna loved the Magic School Bus series (also probably not a classic Charlotte Mason choice, but I figure if it grabs their interest, use it!)  

These two books are from our library. I found them after borrowing The Planets in Our Solar System from a friend using Love to Learn.  They are probably the closest to a living book one can find on this topic in our library.  They also have experiment ideas in them which help make the information become more understandable for kinesthetic and visual learners.

And lastly we end the day at bed time with read-a-louds.  (These are also books we beg, borrow, but don't steal or have bought second hand)  This year I started reading chapter books at bed time for Jenna.  Just a chapter or two every night.  Pictured above are a few of the books we've read.  Others are: My Father's Dragon, The Box Car Children and Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Jenna has loved these.  It has been interesting to see how Michael reacts to the stories too as it takes a lot for a wiggly little four year old to lie still to listen to and understand some of the stories we've read.  He amazes me sometimes with the details he remembers!
Of course this doesn't mean we have forgotten about picture books...... I think those will be in our library basket and our on book shelves for a long time still.  But that is something they share with Daddy after supper, as he needs some cuddle time too!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Winter Solstice Walk.

 On Tuesday evening we joined a few friends to celebrate the Winter Solstice.  I needed to look that up on the internet (Geography was not my favourite subject at school!) One site says it is the start of Winter!  Are they serious?!  Is it only just the start?!  I think I prefer the other explanation I found: the longest night and shortest day.  Which means the days are getting longer......and to me that sounds like we're heading towards summer :-)  Ok, it's a bit of a long shot, but a girl can dream right?!

Anyway, back to our celebration....

We made lanterns............. by making colourful pages covered in crayon patterns,

and then we rubbed artist's turpentine all over the crayon, which made it smudge like this....

after which we coated the back of our page with sunflower oil, which makes it look translucent when a candle is placed inside the lantern.

 And after a bit of cutting and gluing, wire bending and sand filling we had these beautiful lanterns.  (Sorry I whizzed through that process without any was a very hands-on experience for us moms!)

Our creative hostess then told the children a story and taught them a song, which they all sang as they walked out the door to find their lanterns waiting for them, lit, inside the spiral.

After they each received their lantern it was time to go on our walk, welcoming the Winter season in....or  the start to the days becoming longer, if you prefer to look at it that way ;-)

Appropriately walking into the sun.....

but, by the end of our walk, when the sun had set, we had a beautiful sight for all the neighbours to see as we walked by.

And to end it off: warm winter soup, hot chocolate and stories to listen to.  A wonderful way to make winter a more exciting event for those of us who don't enjoy this cold season we're apparently just beginning! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Finding time to get outdoors in winter.

It's winter now.  Getting out for time in nature is a bit more sporadic so when it's a sunny day we take advantage of it and head out doors.  Last Friday was a beautiful sunny day, just perfect for duck spotting....

Welcome to Glencairn Conservation Area.

As part of our Nature Club this year we've decided to focus on four different areas: sea, forest/trees, fynbos (indigenous plants) and wetlands/rivers.  The moms take it in turns to lead the nature walk, rotating the venue each week.  At times it means organising a back up plan at our homes which focuses on anything to do with nature using experiments, crafts, researching skills etc.  My focus area is the Glencairn Wetlands/Rivers.  Nature Club hasn't been there for a while, last Wednesday we were rained out, so I decided it would be a good place for the kids and I to visit on our own.  I'm so glad we did, because look what we found:

Four little fluffy Egyptian Goslings swimming behind their mommy.

I think this is an African Black Duck.

A Common Moorhen.  
I expected this little one to have webbed feet as it was such a fast swimmer, but it doesn't!  It's legs are almost luminous green in colour! 

This looks like an African Darter.  We often see them sunning themselves in the middle of the vlei.

My little animal whisperer having a conversation with the African Black Duck.

We love these stepping stones.  They were placed here by local residents who work together to maintain the vlei area.  During winter the water floods over the vlei and widens the Else River which flows into the sea at Glencairn Beach.  It's very exciting to cross over when the water is flowing!
On this day it became a lesson about putting others's wonderful to be in front and be the leader, but so difficult to be last!  

Quiet time to contemplate.....

Jenna was so desperate to feed the birds, she bit up her apple and threw pieces into the water....what a squabble ensued!

We can't wait to go back with our Nature Club friends, we'll have to remember to pack in some old bread though !