Thursday, October 29, 2009

PBS Showtime

Yesterday afternoon, Aidyn, David, and I watched an episode of Between the Lions, a remarkable PBS show that emphasizes the joy of reading. When I first saw it nearly ten years ago, I hoped that it would remain on air when I had children. Sadly, it's not a show that comes on often (if at all), so I rented an episode from the library's meager collection. Aidyn seemed to enjoy it, and I particularly liked the reference to Gawain (since I only just recently began reading Arthurian Legends!). What I loved was that the show blended both the whole word and phonetics approach to reading. I tend to side with the school of thought that emphasizes whole word learning because it instills a love for literature without specific phonetic goals; however, I think the phonetic approach is useful later. This show beautifully intertwines both viewpoints. This is definitely a series I will be purchasing in the future!

After Aidyn saw Between the Lions and ran amuck for awhile, he watched a Sesame Street rendition of Alice in Wonderland featuring Elmo, Abby, Cookie Monster as the Cheshire Cat, Bert and Ernie as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and many other SS characters in a show entitled Abby in Wonderland. While on this Fantasyland unit, I thought this would be a neat way to hear the original story told in a fresh way.

Later in the evening, David and Aidyn played together while I got some much-needed reading done. Aidyn and David even joined me in watching King Lear, and Aidyn, surprisingly, followed along until bathtime.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

And the Wind, Wind, Wind Came Down Down Down

Yesterday was a relaxed, co-parent homeschooling day. When I got home from work, Aidyn and I worked at our round table and made PB & J Surprise Muffins. Aidyn assisted in mixing, stirring, and tasting while I read instructions and measurements aloud.

Because of the high gusts of wind yesterday, we commented that it looked exactly like the windstorm in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day when poor Piglet in nearly carried away by the wind. Aidyn enjoyed talking about the wind and the noises it created and objects that pattered on our roof.

Later, per Aidyn's request, David reread Snow White despite it being a rather wordy book. Snuggled in bed, David read warmly aloud with Aidyn tucked in his arm with his head resting on his chest. I hope that's a memory that remains in Aidyn's mind.

These past two weeks, Aidyn and I have been counting down to Halloween. We began with nine and have since counted down. Every day I tell him how many days are left and we count them together on our hands. He is so excited!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Evening Reads with Daddy

This evening while I read Volpone to myself in my rocking chair, David and Aidyn gathered on the bed and took in two books. Together they read Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, and I heard David's strong, fluid voice carrying the story to Aidyn's attentive ears. Next they read a favorite of mine growing up: Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky, and Aidyn seemed to enjoy the storyline and the silly little ending. I think David brings a different flavor to homelearning that Aidyn enjoys. Most importantly, I believe he is an excellent role model. Without the slightest need for influence, David reads his own books avidly. He zips through novels quicker than I do these days, and Aidyn sees this sort of behavior regularly. I think that what is equally important to reading to a child is allowing that child to see how much we enjoy reading our own books.

After storytime, David and Aidyn played all sorts of imaginative "boy" games while I wrapped up some schoolwork and sonnet memorizations. I appreciate the playing just as much as I do the readings. I owe many of Aidyn's admirable qualities to David.


Our A.A. Milne week ended with more stories and viewings of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and the modern television show My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Next year we will definitely be revisiting Milne and his lovely stories!

With that unit closed, the family took a trip to the local library to stock up on new books. Because we're beginning the Fantasyland unit, I chose several fairy tales. Not limiting ourselves to stories within that land, I selected some like Rumpelstiltskin which have no ties to the park. I also picked up a video on a much-loved PBS series entitled Between the Lions for Aidyn to enjoy.

This past weekend (in all it's busyness!), I researched and customized a new approach to our home learning. "Official" school doesn't begin for yet another year, but I have crafted a new, enjoyable curriculum to prepare Aidyn for the fast-approaching school schedule. When the end of the year draws closer, I will share our new custom-fit plans for the 2010 year. I'm still hammering out the details but look forward to it being completed.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Anniversaries

Today, October 24th, officially marks the day that David and I were married seven years ago. We have also now been together for eight years and the speed with which those years zoomed by surprises me. Yet, in the same breath, it feels like we have been together, happily, for much longer. Interestingly, when we announced our intention of marriage, not a soul mentioned, hinted at, pointed at, or accused us of being "too young" though we were only approximately 19 years old. It was wonderful to have that sort of unflinching support behind us, and now remarking on the quality of our relationship, I know why no one paused to say anything negative. When we did decide to get married, age was not a factor in my thinking. I just knew that David would be the person I would happily and wholly share my life with. I am no perfect person (far from it!) but I fit with David; he is also no perfect person, but he fits well with me.

In this day and age, marriage is fleeting, relationships spoil, and ties are so quickly broken. I have heard from others that, in this time, a strong marriage of seven years is something to be proud of. It seems silly to say that that accomplishment was effortless though, honestly, it sometimes feels that way. But what others call "work" in a marriage, we see as a normal process of building and reinvesting on our relationship. There are some keys points that I have thought of that indeed helps us to maintain a good relationship. These are not things we must consciously think about and aim toward, but they exist at the core of our actions.

  • have a solid foundation of friendship with each other
  • play together
  • laugh
  • work together toward similar goals
  • meet and discuss events/topics thoroughly and openly
  • flirt with each other
  • two apologies (from each person) is always better than one.
  • solve any dispute before laying your head down each night.
  • be silly, goofy, crazy, hilarious, wild together
  • hear each other, really listen
  • make the relationship a priority
  • love fearlessly
  • hold yourself accountable for personal error and ask the same of your partner
  • touch a lot
  • be open to new things
  • play games together
  • talk a lot
  • be gentle
  • be yourselves

Additionally, this also marks the anniversary of Aidyn's first trip to Disneyland three years ago when he was a bubble-blowing, excited 10-month-old. I'd give anything to relive the magic of that particular trip. We worried that he wouldn't get much from the flurry of action and details of the Disneyland Resort, but he did! Oh, how he did! I will always remember the brightness in his little eyes and the eagerness each morning in the hotel room to get back in there and experience the magic. Since then, we have watched him progress: risking his bravery on larger rides (PotC, HM), and verbally choosing rides to go on ("go Hook ship:" translation: "I want to go on Peter Pan's Flight--the one where I sail on a pirate ship and see the twinkling streets of London below me before I soar to Never Land."). Now he talks about it regularly and has absolutely brilliant ideas ("Mama, let's just go to Dinneyland now," he'll say while I'm driving us the store).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Closing One Door to Open Another

When I got home from work today, I read Aidyn a few books while he was a captive listener. We read Davy, Help! It's a Ghost! by Brigitte Weninger and Eve Tharlett, and Aidyn delighted in the antics of the Rabbit Family creating ways to survive a night home alone. Afterward, we read Harriet's Halloween Candy by Nancy Carlson and talked about the importance of sharing and not overdoing it on sweets! We also read Tough Boris by Mem Foy and learned that even tough, sruffy, greedy pirates cry. To cap off, Aidyn requested his third hearing of The Ghost-Eye Tree by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. Those books and conversations sealed off our last unit of New Orleans Square, pirates, and ghosts.

In the early afternoon, Aidyn and I made an impromptu trip to the library to stock up on A.A. Milne stories for our next short unit. Settled at home, Aidyn and David were both listeners to The Pooh Story Book. I read two lengthy sections of the story, and the boys laughed at the subtle hilarity of the author's narrative wit. To read classic Winnie-the-Pooh tales was simply touching, and we all enjoyed hearing them very much. For fun, Aidyn and I decided to watch The Book of Pooh which was a relatively modern live-action series about the stuffed bear and his Hundred Acre friends where they attempt to bring to life the joy of reading. Honestly, it had me falling asleep, and as it turned out, it had the same effect on Aidyn. I yanked the tape out and replaced it with another "classic:" Winnie the Pooh and the Day for Eeyore (1983). Much better!

When I had a moment, I researched A.A. Milne and his Winnie the Pooh legacy and learned some very interesting facts. During the short duration of our time with this chummy bear, I would like to sample the stories "through the ages." For instance, I would like us to continue reading the original tales by Milne, and watch several adaptations of the story starting from the 60's to the present My Friends Tigger and Pooh. This is sure to be a Tiggerific unit study!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tentative End-of-2009 Schedule

Below is our tentative schedule leading up to our December 7th-11th Christmastime in Disneyland vacation. Because of our lack of time, we will be learning "in chunks" rather than in the original segmented units. Before this, we never attempted to turn a Disneyland vacation into a unit study as Aidyn is quite familiar with most of the subjects, but this curriculum was originally constructed for someone else as a collaborative, fun activity to enjoy together. Despite the other party's choice to drop out of the activity, I wanted to continue it, if anything for sheer fun and to teach Aidyn to turn potentially negative things into positives and to follow through. It has, at times, been dispiriting to do certain things/go certain places minus our other party whom we adore, but it has also been an opportunity to create more joy within our family.

October 22nd- Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne author unit
October 25th- Fantasyland
November 1st- Tomorrowland
November 8th- Sunshine Plaza/California
November 15th- Hollywood Backlot
November 22nd- A bug's land
November 29th- Paradise Pier
December 7th- Disneyland!

The remainder of the year will be spent doing Christmas and winter related units, and I intend to introduce a Christmas novella, perhaps A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

A Pirate's Life for Us

Yesterday afternoon, Aidyn and I sang, clapped, and danced to a slew of pirate-themed songs including the well-known "Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me" as well as several random buccaneer ballads. During our session, we talked about pirates, walking down the plank, and the ride at Disneyland. Aidyn remembered all the quirks from the ride. He commented, "Mama, 'member that dog that has the keys?" I nodded and replied, "Yeah, and the prisoners are stuck in that jail cell. What do they shake at the dog to try to get him to bring the keys?" Aidyn's face lit up, "A bone! But he didn't want that bone." I laughed, "You're right; that dog was too smart for them!"

Afterward, we even went so far as to pretend the bed was a boat and below was the threat of the cold ocean and a hungry alligator. Aidyn promptly corrected me and said, "No, it was a crocodile!" We had fun pretending and Aidyn got a kick "teaching" me some things!

I found a way to intertwine my own studies with Aidyn in a way that he seemed to enjoy. I had pages of Shakespearean sonnet sequences to read, so I found a comfy spot in the living room and proceeded to read them aloud. At times, Aidyn listened to the rhythms of my voice and fluidity of the poetry. Other times I assumed he was not listening but, surprisingly, he would remark on a funny or strange word that I said. I've never been shy to read "grown-up" material to Aidyn (the first book he heard was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a newborn), but I haven't been doing it as much as I would like. I think he has the attention span to hear some chapter books now, so I would like to select one that he'd enjoy. I would also like to continue reading aloud poems/stories that may not particularly be on his radar (like Mr. Shakespeare) just yet.

In the evening, David and Aidyn snuggled up on the couch and read The Ghost-Eye Tree which is becoming a favorite in this household. Recently, I learned that someone made a short film based rather closely on the story. I need to make a note to myself to look into that.

After the spooky tale, Aidyn elected to watch WALL-E, and his dad and I sat with him for an interactive viewing. To others he would seem like one of those annoying movie patrons that ack a zillion questions while the film is playing, but I see it as an opportunity to have conversations with him. During one scene after WALL-E was caught in the flurry of action aboard the Axiom and had make-up put on him, Aidyn asked, "Where did his make-up go?" realizing that he had never actually taken it off, yet his face appeared normal again. "I don't know..." I said, in wonder. "Nobody took it off..." Aidyn remarked, "and now it's gone." I had never actually noticed that, but Aidyn caught on to the continuity error.
Still, I'm not sure if there was a scene showing the removal of make-up; however, I'm pleased that Aidyn can recognize what appears to be continuity errors and shows curiousity if events are unexplained.

Also during this week, we have been playing jazz music daily. Our living room often feels like the French Market in New Orleans Sqaure (audibly, anyways) and makes me wish we were strolling alongside the beautiful trinket shops.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Games & Sunday Baking

This weekend David and I have been taking advantage of learning opportunities as we are still pretty consumed with post-surgery stuff. Yesterday while David and I were up in the wee hours of the morning, sipping coffee and playing a game of "Star Wars Duels," Aidyn climbed up on his chair, showing interest to join our game. So the next round, we added him in. He elected to be Darth Vader, and I explained game rules as we played. He learned (and reviewed) how to roll the die, move his piece the selected amount of squares, hold cards, draw cards, and engage in cooperate game play. In the end, he was able to defeat Count Dooku (Daddy's character), but did not quite have the skills to defeat Obi Wan Kenobi (Mama's character). So he practiced a victory and a loss which I feel is important for him to learn. David is not quite the world's most modest winner or even-tempered loser, so we try to teach Aidyn the qualities of good sportsmanship.

Later, David and Aidyn stole away to read Olivia's Pirate Party and talked about shapes, colors, and the content of the reading.

This morning, Aidyn played Associate Baker as we baked homemade Ghiradelli chocolate-cranberry wild oatmeal cookies. He helped pour ingredients, combine ingredients with the electric mixer, taste the chocolate chip (ya know, just to be sure they were good), and made himself an audience to the baking cookies in the warm stove.

Later we plan on "doing school" by working on his tracing book and possibly making some theme-related crafts.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Arts, Crafts, and Spooks

Learning this week has been scattered and opportunistic. Due to David's very recent shoulder surgery, life has been a bit full, leaving little room for purposeful activities. However, Aidyn has been filling in pages of his Halloween coloring books with splashes of color. Yesterday Aidyn and I did a painting craft. I traced and cut out Halloween shapes such as a jack o' lantern, crescent moon, pumpkins, and a ghost. Then I taped them in place on a piece of construction paper. Aidyn then painted the shapes, taking great strides to color outside the lines. When he finished, I peeled the pictures off, and we were left with the outlines to a wonderful Halloween scene!

Today while I was away at work, David and Aidyn worked on more pages in his tracing book. He's progressed to fun zigzag patterns, sideway arches that resemble C's and 3's, and entertainingly complex trails for characters to wind down. When I got home, they showed off Aidyn's penmanship skills. Later Aidyn and I rushed to the library to restock for our new unit: New Orleans Square. We brought back a load of books concerning ghosts, pirates, and assorted Halloween themes. Aidyn then spent a good deal of time playing on the playground with a group of boys and girls. To help Daddy feel less cooped up, Aidyn and I encouraged him to go on an evening walk with us. We walked down to the park, stopped several times to listen to birds and smell the pine trees, and swung Aidyn on the swings.

After we got home and cozy, Aidyn and I took in some quirky Halloween poems from the book In the Witch's Kitchen. Then we read a spooky story entitled The Ghost-Eye Tree which sublimely captivated Aidyn. We were able to talk about spooky trees, the way things can seem scary, bravery, sibling relationships, and nighttime.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween Fun Day/ Indoor Campout

Today, the family had a total play day. Upon returning home from work, Aidyn and I dug through his super-huge Halloween bucket o' fun. We donned impressively hideous fake teeth and showed Grandma and Daddy. Then we blew up a whoopie cushion (and hilariously expended it!) numerous times and nearly died laughing. Also we made these cute little masks, one of which was a wolfman and the other was a witch. He also put on a pair of Groucho Marx glasses complete with bulbous nose and bushy mustache and eyebrows. He stomped around and declared, "I'm a man now!" I am so glad that Aidyn now immerses himself in Halloween-excitement. This is the second year that he has independently requested his costume (this year, despite it not being anywhere in stores, he has chosen to be the evil Emperor Zurg!). Last year, he was able to say, "Trick or Treat," but shyness often got the better of him. This year, according to Aidyn, he's ready to not only say, "Trick or Treat," but also, "thank you," to every single treat-giver.

Later in the afternoon when I was deep into Shakespearean poetry, David and Aidyn made a fort out of sheets, pillows, chairs (for added height and dimension), and our two couches. They camped out in the living room and were up to all sorts of shenanigans for the remainder of the day.

Due to our rapidly progressing schedules, we will be combining several of our preplanned units into land-units. For instance, instead of studying pirates for a week and ghosts for another, we will be studying New Orleans Square as a whole. Today I had the jazz music playing through the house. I plan on cooking some Lousiana-style cuisine, reading books about pirates and ghosts, playing dress-up, creating spooky crafts, and playing pirate games.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Open Road Roam: Big Basin State Park

As a closing to our redwood trees/train unit, we ventured off to Big Basin Redwood State Park near Boulder Creek. We used the long, windy drive to catch up as a family, but as soon as we hit the forest, it was all ooh's and aah's. Immediately exiting our vehicle and stepping out into the wilderness, we were pleasantly greeted by the sweet woodsy aroma and fresh, clean air. We walked up towards the information center like tiny ants amid these gigantic trees. Outside the center, we waited for our guided Redwood Loop Trail Hike to begin. Our wonderful, knowledgeable, avuncular guide took us through a half mile trail, stopping at intervals to explain the majesty of the forest.

When we came to a giant felled tree, Aidyn anxiously volunteered to climb it, per the guide's suggestion. Aidyn and his daddy scaled the tree and ran (seriously!) up the trunk. They must have been about fifteen feet above the ground! Also during our hike, Aidyn explored a "chimney tree" which was basically a hollowed out redwood. When inside, if one looks straight up, a large hole makes the sky beautifully visible. We greeted two important trees in this state park: the Father of the Forest and the Mother of the Forest, appropriately named, I may add.

After our hike came to a close, we browsed the gift shop, store, and connected nature museum. Aidyn adopted a cute, stuffed bear that he named Whitey. We toured the nature museum and learned all kinds of neat trivia about the Redwood Forest. This quintessential-to-homeschooling- type journey reinforced our learning goals and made us desperate to spend a whole week camping out there.

We also attempted a Mystery Spot trip, but alas, we arrived too late. Now we have more reason to go next time!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sweet Stories and "Monstrous" Talks

Today Aidyn and I read a sweet story called Niccolini's Song which was about a night watchman in a train yard that soothes trains (and others) to sleep with his melodic singing voice. By the end, Aidyn and I both were near slumber not because it was boring, but because it was so calming and lulling.

He then did an additional five pages from his Kumon Tracing book. He's really enjoying the idea of tracing paths and trails. This section of the book actually had him practice zigzags and arches (over and under). How fun! We also worked on holding the pen (or, in this case, marker) the "traditional" way, and Aidyn got the hang of it pretty quickly. He then hung his favorite on the wall.

Later when I was doing work at home (editing a paper for a student), Aidyn quizzically watched what I was doing. He inquired about what I was doing, and I realized that I don't always tell him what his Mama does during the day, and often at home, to make money. So in that little moment, I had the opportunity to say that Mama "helps students put their letters and words together" and "teaches them how to do that just like I teach [Aidyn] how to do it." He was generally pleased and interested in that answer.

It was also reported to me today that Aidyn expressed some neat ideas of which my mom had no idea he knew. They were talking about particular rides at Disneyland and Aidyn asked her if she was scared of the Matterhorn and why.

She responded that she wasn't really "scared" of the ride, but it made her dizzy because it was so fast.

Aidyn retorted back, "Yes, it is scary, Grandma. There's a monster in there." Grandma, interested, replied, "Really? What does he do?"

Aidyn made "monster hands," scrunched up his face, and said, "He jumps out and says, 'Arrrrrr!' He's a Yeti, Grandma."

Surprised at hearing him use that word, she said, "He is?" To which Aidyn, picking up on the surprise and curiousity in her voice, said, "Yes, Grandma, that means he's an abominable snowman."

Grandma reports that she was blown away by that "lesson" from Aidyn. : )

I remember telling him that many months ago and am surprised that he retained that; it's not like I reference abominable snowman every day! That is why I've always chosen to communicate with Aidyn without dumbing down my language. Some people used to lovingly joke with me when I would have long, drawn-out conversations with a six-month-old Aidyn. Even now, I try to explain everything the best that I can for him, ask questions to lead him to express himself, and listen to his thoughts and theories.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Field Trip Brainstorm

Over the past couple weeks, I have been brainstorming ideas for regular field trip activities that transcend age, ability, and learning method. I wanted to construct a routine activity guide to begin now and continue indefinitely as an addendum to our ever-changing homeschool curriculum. We do many of these things regularly now, but this will serve as a reminder to continue. I'm a huge advocate of travel and mobile exploration and am not barred in or limited to certain attractions; if it's fun, we're going! If we learn something, bonus!

Homeschool Hikes
Regular hikes along paths/trails in varying types of nature and seasons as a means of reconnecting with nature, learning from what the world has to offer as that second, and getting back to basics.

Mt. Diablo  in Contra Costa County, CA
Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael, CA
Big Basin State Park Santa Cruz County, CA
California State Parks website for hikes near you

Discovery Destinations
The choice or draw of a particular direction with no preset destination in mind. For example, a family member may either choose a direction at random, or we could roll a four-sided die to choose for us. Once we head in that direction, depending on the amount of time we have, we may continue to roll or randomly choose until we stumble upon something interesting to stop for. This could be as simple as an unusual rock structure on the side of the highway, an antique store, a major state park in a county we rarely travel to, or (time willing) a complete weekend getaway to a place we've never set foot on.

In San Joaquin County

Community Connections
Opportunities to connect with various parts of the community: tours of community service buildings (fire houses, police stations, hospitals, post offices, animal shelters, courthouses, etc.--all by appointment, of course), colleges, volunteer work, community-run museums and activities.

Town of Sonora and Tuolomne County Museum
Museum of Entomology at UC Davis
The Bone Room and The Great Stoneface Park in Berkeley, CA

Museum Meanderings
Regular trips to museums far and wide and not particularly connected with current unit study (though, of course, they could be) as a means of learning new things and contributing to an organization's effort to keep memories, relics, art, ideas, and learning opportunities alive.

Factory Fun Trips
Trips to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste how things of all sorts are made.

Roadside Rarities
Exploration of unusual oddities along the roadside. This is an opportunity to see some of the strange things that are built with incredible passion, such as shoe trees, quirky restaurants in the shape of unordinary things (flotsam art or concrete dinosaurs, anyone?). The purpose is not only to have fun and embrace our own eccentricities, but to remember to not get bogged down in taking ourselves too seriously!

I use Roadside America- California to find all sorts of kooky field trips.

Animal Encounters
Real, hands-on opportunities to interact with animals. This is not your average zoo trip! Rather, it's a way of meeting and greeting these animals up close with a skilled zookeeper or animal handler that is ready to answer tons of questions.

Open Road Roams
Regular trips to some of California's (and other states as well) most beautiful natural resources. These may not always be the most well-known destinations, but will include often missed gems of the state.

Homeschool Hike

Early this afternoon, once I returned home from work, Aidyn, Grandma, and I set out for a leisurely hike. We searched for a trail I had discovered on, but found that it did not, in fact, exist! Luckily, we had a backup plan, but on the way we happened on another sort of trail. On a whim, we decided to hike that one instead. It was a cute, roughly mile-long path in Ripon that actually crosses over the Stanislaus River. Aidyn sat in his wagon and observed all the flora while Grandma and I talked, handed Aidyn assorted rocks and sticks to check out and alerted him to nearby squirrels and lizards.

My favorite part of the hike had to be when we all played "Pooh sticks." If you're not familiar with classic Winnie the Pooh stories, "Pooh Sticks" is a game where players toss a stick on one side of the bridge, dash over to the other side, and watch it reappear. We did this a number of times with both leaves and sticks. Aidyn even experimented with dropping a stick on the opposite side to see if it'd go backwards; thus, he learned something today about water currents.

Walking along the path, Grandma shared some sweet stories about her childhood that explained her love for trees. She remarked that on Sundays when she was a child, her dad used to gather the kids and take them out in the middle of nowhere under a tree and allow them to play. He'd always bring along a watermelon and slice pieces up for them to enjoy after they were done frolicking. So in learning about trees this week, Aidyn and I both had the opportunity to hear a sweet, nostalgic story and learn something new about Grandma.

Wonderful, explorative, naturesque day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Phlebotomy, Tracing, and Chess!

When I returned from school and work today, my mom had an in-home appointment with a nurse. Luckily, Aidyn was around for most of her exam and was able to observe the procedure, especially the drawing of blood! Thus, he added a new word to his vocabulary: phlebotomist.

After that excited ended, I introduced him to the letter T, the first letter for the word tree. I worked with him on tracing the letter, and though he did an excellent job, we're not ready for that yet. I believe he needs more foundational work to exercise his writing abilities; he has years ahead of him before handwriting is "required." If he's to be ahead in anything, handwriting letters does not have to be it!

So I got him started on a tracing book that I've had tucked away for a couple years. In it are adorable, real-life illustrations of trails and paths. The idea is to link one object to another. For instance, one page had a little crab in the upper corner and another little crab in the bottom corner with a mess of rocks between them. The goal is to create a path for one crab to meet the other without touching the obstacles. Aidyn had a ball doing this and learned to navigate his lines in a fun way.

My goal for him at this stage is to continue to use his creativity and imagination ("Okay, Aidyn, we must draw a path for this kitten to get to his mama without falling in any of the holes. Be careful! Oh, watch out! You did it; great job!") and to exercise his 'writing muscles' with art first.

After he completed a number of pages, I let him display his work as he saw fit. He chose the location and taped it up himself; so what if I have to tilt my head to appreciate it? : )

When he finished "doing school," Aidyn requested some play time with the chess board. He just discovered it in our closet today and was curious to see what that was all about. Not being a chess whiz (I'll leave that to David!), I showed him the very bare basics of the game. He enjoyed plopping the pawns and other figures through the board and looks forward to his dad teaching him how to play.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dancing, Fresh Books, Circus Animals, and Nature Exploration

When I arrived home from work, Aidyn promptly requested a dance session "with oh-dees," as he refers to the stylings of 50's and 60's music, so we danced, sang, and spun around until we were both dizzy.

We then took a trip to our local library where I stocked up on new reads and Aidyn played with puppets. I asked him to choose his own storybook, and he selected Hi, Cat (my inner voice cheered!). Afterward, he played for a while on the playground and "did laps" around the play structure.

Later, we lounged on his bed and read C is for Caboose, a less than entertaining book, but it did bring up some new and old vocabulary words. We then read the more delightful The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper and Tell Me, Tree by Gail Gibbon. Both provided opportunities for discussion and oral dictation.

As the time neared for Mama to do her own school work, David took Aidyn to the bank among other places. To give me time to read and to fulfill the rest of Aidyn's homeschool day, David and Aidyn stopped by the camped out circus on the other side of town. David reported that they were able to see camels, zebras, elephants, llamas, and dwarf ponies. Well, that's something you don't see everyday!

Later, the boys went to the park where David emphasized interaction with nature. Thus, they ran up and down the grassy hills, inspected leaves, and, as David proudly bragged, Aidyn climbed his first tree (with only a little help). According to David, Aidyn's butt was soon attacked by a "swarm of ants" and they swifted ducked out of there. They then played on the swings until tiredness got the better of Aidyn.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Unit Kick Off!

Today we officially kicked off our new unit. Actually I combined two units (as our destination apex nears faster everyday!): trains and the Redwood Forest. Although they seem like polar subjects, I smooshed them together because we've always wanted to take Aidyn on the steam engine ride through the Redwood Forest, so we thought this would be an excellent way to merge those ideas.

So, this morning, Aidyn and I colored number and letter trains. Each train car had a certain number or letter ready to trace. I was impressed by how well he was able to mimic the writings though I haven't pushed formal handwriting just yet. Rather, I think I will start him on a tracing book with real world applications (i.e., things he can readily imagine) and save the letters and numbers for later. Later, Aidyn and I glanced through our big train encyclopedia for children and just browsed through the impressive pictures. He also took in the Disney short The Brave Engineer.

After we "did school," Grandma, Aidyn, and I headed to Jamestown to ride a real steam locomotive. What a neat experience! We chatted with the conductors and train car hosts, toured the grounds (which included a blacksmith's shop, a caboose from the film Back to the Future III, a carpenter's shop, and a roundhouse). Interestingly enough, the peek into the blacksmith's shop brought to life a book we read not even a day ago: Winter Shoes for Shadow Horse in which the father was a blacksmith who made horseshoes with his young son.

What an excellent start to a new unit! Throughout the next week, we have many exciting activities to do and many marvelous books to read.

Pony Ride and Autumnal Fun

Yesterday officially closed out our unit study about horses. We began the morning with a cooperative baking of an apple-cinnamon cake. Aidyn helped me measure, stir, and sample along the way. When it was done baking, we shared it with everyone. Later, Aidyn and I read two marvelous books entitled Winter Shoes for Shadow Horse and Wild Ponies. The artwork, especially striking, along with the beautiful language and story, brought these tales to life for us. In reading them, we had the opportunity to talk about horseshoes, hard work, mares and their foals, and the concept of freedom. Afterward, Aidyn watched an animated movie called Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron which was about a young, wild stallion who travels to the Old West. While watching it, Aidyn decided to pretend he was a horse and gallop all over the house!

In the afternoon, the family browsed through our local pumpkin festival and brought back homemade pumpkin bread. Later, we made a trip to Del Osso Farms specifically for Aidyn to ride a pony once more. Watching him saddled on the pony and trotting along, I thought he looked so at ease and so natural that I imagined he may like horse riding lessons some time in the future. It's definitely something to bring up with him later.

Aidyn also toured the farm grounds and played along the way. It was the perfect ending to a small introductory unit study on horses. I especially liked that he not only read books, watched movies, and pretended he was a horse, but he actually enjoyed the real world experience of riding a horse twice. : )

Friday, October 2, 2009

Homeschooling with Daddy

David and Aidyn spent the day playing and learning together. According to his report, the two played hide 'n' seek, tag, and other physical games. Afterward, they read Horses in Dreamland "numerous times" because Aidyn kept requesting a re-read. David suspects that he was interested most in the wolves. I need to file that thought for later as a possible unit study! When Aidyn selected a new book, he picked Caterpillar Sring, Butterfly Summer, which is one of his favorite books. Sounds like the two boys had a very warm, interactive, and enjoyable homeschool day!