Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to get a kid to read a book...

Let him read it on your new Kindle. Thing 3 was supposed to read two chapters of The Witch of Blackbird Pond for school today. He read six chapters because he didn't want to put down the Kindle. He even opted to read it at bedtime instead of the book he's reading for fun.

While I have a soft spot in my heart for "real" books and will never give them up completely, the Kindle is a wonderful thing to have. One thing I like about using it for school is the ability to highlight text and make notes as you read. I also appreciate the built-in dictionary. The kids, are reading more difficult books this year (out with the twaddle!), and frequently come across a word they don't understand. With the Kindle, they can just move the cursor up to the word and a definition pops up. It's great!

The Kindle is easily in the top 5 on my list of Favorite Things.

Today in Oak Meadow Science

This week in third grade, we are studying plants and our relationship with them. We learned about the plant oxygen and food cycles yesterday, and today we learned that in addition to food and clean air, plants provide us with beauty. The assignment for today was to find ten flowers/plants in our immediate environment and draw them in the Main Lesson Book.

In fifth grade, we are studying the envrironment and our ecosystem. We talked about living and non-living things in our environment. Here, Thing 3 is making a mural of a forest scene and including both living and non-living things in his drawing.

When we have a busy day (like we have today), it's tempting to skip the more artsy aspects of our lessons and get on with Math, Latin and more "school-y" things. I'm trying to resist that temptation and remember that taking time to observe and draw a flower is important, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recorder lessons started tonight!

(...or "Better You Than Me".)

The philosophy behind the Oak Meadow curriculum is to educate the whole child...engaging every part of the child. To that end, the curriculum for the younger grades includes a musical component. More specifically, children are supposed to learn to play the recorder. While I am somewhat musically inclined, I am not nearly as musically talented as the OE Dad, who writes music and plays several different instruments. You can understand why the recorder instruction falls to him, can't you? (Snort!)

Main Lesson Books

Oak Meadow, being a Waldorf-inspired curriculum, makes use of Main Lesson Books in the Third Grade curriculum (as well as in the younger grades). The Main Lesson Book (MLB) is simply an artistic and creative record of lessons we have completed. It might include drawings, copy work, stories, etc. The MLB serves as a beautiful textbook that the child creates herself. It is also a wonderful keepsake.

We are still getting used to the idea of creating these Main Lesson Books, and it gets easier with every lesson. Any Waldorf purists who happen upon this post will surely realize how woefully inadequate our MLBs are, but I'm hoping they get better over time. Don't judge me.

Here, after hearing and re-telling the story of Rapunzel, Thing 4 drew a scene to represent the story. She added the happy witch later. And yes, I realize she misspelled Rapunzel one time, but I'm torn between the Charlotte Mason idea that you never leave a word misspelled and the fact that I love looking back at my older kids' early work that has those kinds of sweet mistakes. I went with sentimental this time. Don't judge me.

Her entry about the Kush civilization:

She told me the other day, "You know, I learn so well this way. I hear a lesson, then I tell it back to you, then I write about it and then I draw a picture about it. That really helps me remember it." Success! Go ahead and judge me on this one.

Today's Science lesson about the plant food cycle:

While Thing 3's lesson plans do not call for the use of MLBs, I like them so much that I'm going to start using them with him next week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Watercolor Painting a la Oak Meadow

I'm learning that Oak Meadow is not a curriculum to be rushed. Everything we do in OM is very "intentional" with a real and well-thought out purpose. In addition, everything is a process. In fact, for Third Grade, I have a Home Teacher's Process Manual that covers everything from Guidelines for Recorder Playing to Crayon Drawing.

Today we worked on Watercolor Painting. There are four pages in the Teacher Process Manual devoted to teaching Watercolor Painting. Who knew painting with watercolors was so complex?

With Oak Meadow, there is no using those nasty watercolors that come in the plastic box...the ones that all turn black after a couple of uses because all the colors get mixed up, but then it doesn't matter anyway because they crack when they dry out and you have to buy new ones. No, we used high quality paints and a good paint brush.

We used just the three primary colors. Sometimes less is more. At first, Thing 4 balked at the lack of choice, but she quickly figured out that mixing colors to create other colors is fun! With this technique, you mix the colors on the paper as you paint, not in a dish.

Oak Meadow encourages a "wet paper" method of watercolor painting. When the paper is wet, the colors blend more easily, and it allows more movement of the paint lines. I thought it was a strange concept until we tried it. If you're going to use the wet paper method, it's important to use high quality watercolor paper. All of my high quality supplies came in the art kit I ordered from OM, but you could find them at a craft store.

Today she really enjoyed just experimenting with the colors and seeing them blend.

It's not exactly a Monet, but she had fun! There's no going back to those nasty watercolors in the plastic box.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bake Like A Phoenician

Thing 4 has been studying ancient Hebrew and Phoenician cultures over the past few weeks. Today, we made flat bread, which was most likely a staple in the diets of people of both cultures.

(How's that for product placement? It was purely accidental. I'm really not getting paid by the Gold Medal people.)

One thing I really appreciate about Oak Meadow is that they give me a lesson to teach and then give me two or three activities to reinforce that lesson. It's working so well for us.

She thought it was kind of magical the way they ballooned in the oven:

And then flattened out as they cooled:

This was her favorite part:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Various and Sundry Things

I discovered over the summer that keeping a blog of our OE activities was a great idea because it's a scrapbook for me of the things we did throughout the year. One night I was feeling pretty inadequate as a homeschooling mom, so I sat down and went through the blog, post by post and realized that our year hadn't been quite as lame as I had originally thought. We did some pretty cool stuff. However, our science experiments last year? Mostly lame.

While I don't have the energy to write decent blog posts to go with the photos I've taken over the last two weeks, I decided to post them in one entry so I can look back next summer and see what we did.

This photo is a little difficult to see, but this was an impromptu science observation. (Sometimes the unplanned lessons are the best.) We were getting in the car to run a couple of errands, when Thing 4 spotted this awesome spider web that had raindrops all over it. We stood and looked at the intricate weaving and marveled at how tenacious and hard-working spiders must be.

This was the day that Thing 3 was learning how to convert from Imperial measurements to Metric. He had to count how many cups of water this bottle held and then he converted the measurement to liters. There's an app for that, but I didn't let him use it.

During a study of Hebrew culture Thing 4 drew a Star of David in her Social Studies Main Lesson Book. (I love the Main Lesson Books! More on those in another post.) See the beeswax crayons there? She loves much so that I had to order a bigger set so she could have more colors. They are pricey but so worth it. See the dog watching her draw? She often brings a friend to class.

For her Main Lesson Book entry on the folk tale The Wise Thief, she decided to draw a peach seed. She wanted the drawing to be accurate, so we had to stop for a snack. Have I mentioned that I love the Main Lesson Books? I love Oak Meadow, too.

Thing 3 is studying Colonial America right now. One of the assignments he chose was making a Pocahontas puppet. The girls in the family had to teach him how to braid. If this homeschooling thing fails him, he can always get a job on a touristy island.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Do My Science Experiments Hardly Ever Work?

Seriously. I'd like to know. Ok, I've had the occasional experiment/demonstration work out. But more often than my boys would say, "FAIL."

Today, in the interest of learning how ancient civilizations measured the passing of time, we tried to make a Greek/Roman water clock. The directions and illustration that Oak Meadow gave me looked so simple. I thought, "Now here's an experiment I can't screw up." We just needed to punch some holes in some cans (we substituted cups, as suggested in another book we have), set them on a ladder, pour the water in the top cup and start timing.

We were excited. Thing 4 poured the water in the top cup.

Thing 3 was manning the stop watch. We watched. Water started shooting out of the hole in the top cup just like it was supposed to do. At this point, for some reason unknown to me, Thing 4 excitedly shouted, "Look! The baby is peeing!"

Then, as quickly as it started, it stopped. Well, it didn't stop exactly. It just slowed to a sad trickle. Instead of shooting into the cup below, the water just dribbled down the bottom of the top cup and landed on the floor.

Those poor Romans and Greeks. What a lame excuse for a clock.

Thing 3 accurately noted, "That is quite possibly the worst science experiment we've ever done." And let me tell you, given our track record with science experiments, that's saying a lot.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nature Study and Nature Journaling

It was beautiful today and it's supposed to rain for the next two days, so we cut our school day short and took a quick trip to the nature center. We even took our expensive purple plastic binoculars.

We saw this sign in the visitor center. While these are the words of an adult, I think they describe the nature of most children perfectly. How wonderful it is for my children to have the time to wonder why.

We took a little time to do some nature journaling. Nature journaling is such a great way to get kids to pay attention to the details of nature. We don't do this nearly enough, and every time we do it, I think we should do it more often.

Here are photos of just a few things the kiddos noticed today on our walk. Much to the relief of Thing 3, we did not encounter any snakes or bears on the trail. Whew.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Oak Meadow, Grade 5- Review of the First Two Weeks

Tomorrow we finish our second week of Oak Meadow. So far, I am loving it! I am using OM Grade 5 History and Science for Thing 3.

While I have a fabulous language arts curriculum for him, I am finding that I really like, no, I love, the language arts component of 5th grade OM, so I'm using it in addition to our other program. In Oak Meadow, Language Arts (which OM still refers to as "English") and History are integrated, so the spelling and vocabulary words, grammar lessons, as well as the writing assignments (and there are a lot of those!) and art activities are all related to the history readings. Because of this integration, by the end of a week of lessons and activities, the theme is firmly cemented in my kiddo's mind and he can see the broader picture instead of bits and pieces.

The writing was a little overwhelming at first, but it gets better with each assignment. One thing I appreciate about OM is that there are usually several writing options from which to choose. Today's history lesson listed 8 different writing assignments and had the student choose two. We took it a step further and used the other options as discussion questions which we talked about together. In the first two weeks, Thing 3 has completed 5 separate writing assignments.

As a part of the history lesson last week, we spent some time one night lying on the patio trying to locate the North Star because that's how the early explorers navigated. It turned into a family event! We all agreed that using the Garmin is preferable to navigating by the stars. The next day, Thing 3 had to write a poem about the night sky and illustrate it. He really enjoyed that.

This week, as we study Columbus, the OE Dad (what a guy!) is helping Thing 3 build a sailboat which we will try out in the pool this weekend. (Pictures to follow soon!) That's been a fun activity for the two of them.

OM Level 5 Science is fantastic, too. It starts with the basics and will build from there. The first week, we learned about Scientific Inquiry by studying and classifying birds. This week we are learning about the Scientific Method, and we're studying frogs (the barometer of environmental health) and their habitats.

My only small complaint about Oak Meadow is that I feel a little rushed at times with the weekly schedule. I really think we could spend two weeks on some topics. In the future, we may stretch some things out over a couple of weeks so we can dig a little deeper. I know that some families stretch one level of OM over two school years. The other option would be to continue OM over the summer, but, based on my history, we all know that, despite my good intentions, that's probably not going to happen.

I am so happy to have found Oak Meadow. It's perfect for us.


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