Friday, February 19, 2010

When Kids Teach Themselves...

I love has fostered a constant environment of learning around our house...nearly everything we do - even the 'fun stuff' (not that education isn't fun...but the non-school know what I mean!). 

But the coolest part about it is seeing my kids choose activities that foster learning themselves.  Like when they are given TV time and they choose to watch "How Stuff Works" on Discovery Channel instead of Hannah Montana.  Or they do their Spelling City games for FUN during free computer time instead of playing their favorite mindless game. 

The other day La La was playing outside for quite some time, all by herself.  Every time I'd glance out I'd see her cavorting amongst the pine trees.  Later she came in with a tupperware filled with nature's goodies and asked us all to gather about so she could tell us of her findings. 

She spread out her wares before us...a sprig of pine needles, a pinecone bud, pincones of varying sizes, some closed, others open, and one that was shriveled and old.  She deducted the steps of the life of a pinecone from her findings and was largely correct. 

Later she 'hid' her tupperware of findings outside on the deck to keep it away from her younger sister.  When she brought the bucket back in, she was amazed that the previously open pinecone was now closed.  She wondered aloud why that may be.  Enter Google (because I didn't know the answer!) and we discovered that pinecones open as they dry out and close when they encounter moisture.  Pinecones were ancient barometers! 

Learning that wasn't even part of the lesson plan...I LOVE IT!!! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Make It With Letters: Featuring "G"

Figuring out how to make a 'Giraffe' out of the letter G was using up way too much of my brainpower, so I looked for something simpler and came up with a double 'G' letter activity! 

Sassafrass and I worked together to cut small strips out of green construction paper.  I cut the long strip and she used her safety scissors to cut that long strip into smaller strips.  Pretty soon we had a nice small pile of 'green grass' for our use!

We got out the glue stick and Sassafrass glued her letter G and g to half sheets of green construction paper and then began covering her capital G and lowercase g with Green Grass.

Fun and simple!

More ways to teach letter G to your preschooler:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Science Experiment: Plant Root Systems & Water Distribution

We are currently in the midst of doing water experiments, which the kiddos LOVE.  Pretty much ANY experiment they are big fans of!  We've done osmosis and from there moved on to figuring out how the heck HUGE plants like trees get water to all parts of the plant. 


1-2 stalks of fairly fresh lettuce for each participant
1 drinking glass per participant, preferably clear
Food coloring (drops, NOT gel - blue or red work best)

Thinly slice off the bottom of each celery stalk to reveal fresh plant.  Fill up the glass with water - about 1/2 way.  Then put 5-10 drops of food coloring into the water and stir with a spoon. 

Have student write down what they have done so far, and draw and color a picture of what their celery looks like 'before'.  Have them create a hypothesis of what might happen to the celery after 24-36 hours in the cup. 

Place the stalk(s) of celery into the water, making sure that the leaves are sticking out of the water.

Place on a shelf where they will not be bothered for 24-48 hours. 

Later come back and check out the plants.  They should have obvious coloration extending up the celery stalk - even the portion that was not submerged in the water should be streaked with color.  At best, the leaves will also show coloration. 

Talk about how water is sucked up through channels in the plant, and then delivered to the leaves.  Explore plant root systems and view images of various roots.

Take it further by going on a nature walk and discuss the type of root systems various plants have and how they would distribute water internally like the celery did. 

Finally have students determine if their hypothesis was correct and to draw a new picture of what their celery stalk looks like (with color!) and write a description as well. 

This Carnation-Color-Change experiment is a great idea for how to take the learning further...and something I think we will do once carnations are back in season!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Make It With Letters: Featuring "H"

Sassafrass' favorite thing to write with letter H is my name (Holly) and now she provides me with lots of cards and pictures that say my name instead of 'Mommy'.  Hmm...I'll have to work on breaking that habit!  But for now it is pretty cute!

But for Make It With Letters Day during 'H Week', we made a HOUSE!  (I based my ideas on those I found HERE)


We pasted a cut out 'H' onto a blue piece of construction paper.  I then cut out some other shapes like a triangle and a circle.  Sassafrass identified the shapes and then decided where it would be good to use them in her picture.  She also thought a cloud would be a good idea too, so I cut out a fluffy white cloud and she glued it on.  (After-the-fact idea:  it would be fun to use cotton balls for clouds...then they'd really be fluffy!)
We then talked about what is included on a house, like windows and a door.  I served as Sassafrass' illustrator.  She told me where windows should go - even describing that the one in the middle should be a circle window and the one on the door should look like 'a pie, except half of it is gone'  :)

Her bedroom was in the upstairs and of course there was a 'Welcome' mat outside!  She added the flowers herself!

Here are some other ideas to use when teaching your preschooler the letter 'H':

Valentine's Day Cards for Kids - Handmade, 'Green' & Sugar-Free!

CLICK HERE to read the post & tutorial about the V-Day cards my kiddos made for their co-op featured on Gonna Want This-Handmade...a handmade review/giveaway/tutorial blog!

PS - I was a contributing writer on The Homeschool Classroom yesterday...check it out HERE!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gettin' that brain THINKING!

Inspired by the THINK Challenge, but not having it timed right in my week or academic plan to participate in the actual challenge that week, I came up with my own. 

My goals were to provide a project that:

**Got my kiddos to think outside the box
**Had them do problem solving on their own (no help from Mom!)
**Use trial & error to become successful!


Here's what I did.  I got a couple of sandwich size baggies and then went through my HUGE craft box to select some random items and put them in the baggie.  For example, one baggie included a bunch of bread twist ties and plastic beads, amongst other stuff.  The other bag had popsicle sticks and foam shapes. 

I set out some 'free for all' items on the table like construction paper and glue.  Then I gave each of my older two their 'baggie-o-goodies'.  Finally I had them pick a slip of paper out of a cup.  On the slips of paper in the cup I had written various themes.  John selected "Summer" and Laura picked "Animals". 


1 - The creation must represent the theme in a way that can be easily explained to the viewer.
2 - Every single item in the baggie must be used in the creation
3 - Any of the 'free for all' items can be used...unlimited.
4 - Mom can't give ideas or suggestions
5 - Have fun and be creative...think outside of the box!

Here were their creations!

John's "Summer" Creation:  An Apple Tree!

Laura's "Animals" Creation: A Giraffe!