Saturday, 31 January 2015

Our Week: Lots of outside time

This week is the last week of January.  We got some decent snow and were outside a lot.

TJ's daffodils were all in bloom and gave us some inspiration to paint.  He was very excited to use the new acrylics and canvas that he received this Christmas.  We talked about what different shades we saw and the colours he would need.  TJ experimented with using different brushes for each flower to see how they would turn out.

MJ enjoyed mixing all the colours together.  He took a painting of his own creation then asked me to add a tractor.  He then cut out around his tractor and even used textured scissors for the wheels for the treads.  Next MJ painted a tractor in a corn field with the sun.

While we were at our accountant's the boys played quietly in the waiting area.  TJ wrote out each letter of the alphabet on separate papers.  When we got home he finished filling in any letters he missed.  We talked about what we could do with them and decided to put them on a large paper to make a word wall.

We've been enjoying reading our library books on ancient Egypt and tractors. I have found that the books we read and the shows they watch always inspire some creation from the boys.  This week they added attachments to their cardboard tractors and MJ taped more clock parts together into something.

Early in the week we joined our friends to check out a property they own but have not built on yet. Our children had the most wonderful time exploring the creek and treed area.  Our goal was not to hover but to let them do their own thing (safely of course).  We had a range of ages and everyone got along well and had fun.   We are starting a nature based play group of mixed ages next week.  Here are some articles on the idea here  and here.  

Several homeschool families in our area got together for some outdoor skating.  The skating aids did wonders for the boys confidence.  TJ was going so fast all over the rink.  Both boys had a wonderful time.  Even I got onto the ice for a bit.

We also got together with a few friends to go for a hike.  It was the perfect weather and didn't snow until we left.  Everyone was thrilled to have the birds enjoy some seeds that were brought.  MJ had some land on his head.  We discovered that my red mittens attracted the birds the best.

Later that day, after the boys were done at the YMCA, TJ was invited to play at his friend's house.  They went tobogganing, played store, and Lego.  MJ and I went to pick him up just before dinner and ended up staying over an hour.  I am so blessed to have such wonderful friends this year.

As a special surprise I took the boys the The Museum in Kitchener.  They happened to have a feature exhibit on Ancient Egypt!!  The first two floors were family interactive areas.  The boys enjoyed the giant foam blocks, huge piano on the floor, mazes, and more.  We also made an Egypt scarab craft.

We dressed as Egyptians, made canals in the water table and even went to a planetarium show.  MJ built some Egypt inspired creations out of wooden blocks and foam blocks.

The display of Egyptian artifacts was impressive.  It was interesting for TJ to see the actual size of the objects that he had been reading about.  We saw a real mummy and learned how MRI and X-rays helped to learn more about the body inside.  King Tut's artifacts were some of our favourites.

As you can see we were out and about a lot this week.  So this weekend we are cleaning and trying to get rid of our colds.  Next week is the history fair so we are going to be finishing up TJ's project display.

I'd love to heard about your adventures...

Monday, 26 January 2015

Guest Post on Journaling

Today I am featured as a guest blogger over at Unschooling Momma and Poppy.  I wrote a post about journaling and documentation.  It is relevant for all families no matter what method or educational philosophy you follow.  

I also started a Facebook page incase you'd like to follow us that way.

The best way to learn!  Looks like daddy has a little apprentice clock fixer.

Learning Naturally

When our boys were younger we took their lead when they were learning new things.  The took to crawling all on their own, even if it was a rather unique way of doing so.  MJ always had one leg sticking out funny that would propel him along.  But we let the figure it all out.

They learned to talk each at their own pace and encouraged their efforts.  Somehow as soon as they hit a certain age I felt the pressure to begin 'teaching' more and letting them discover less.  We are still on a journey, balancing where I should step in or not.

I was reminded of their natural abilities to learn new things in their own way this past week.  I wrote a little about that here.  A friend generously gave us a pair of skates that happened to fit MJ.  TJ was very persistent in asking for skates too.  So we got some used ones.

When we went to the local park to skate outside the boys were so excited.  They described exactly how it felt to move about and the sensations of being on ice.  They didn't mind falling because they cheered each other on for standing for a few seconds.

My husband and I each took hold of one child and helped them out onto the ice.  We didn't expect our younger son to catch on as quickly so we held him up and pulled him along.  When MJ said he wanted to do his own thing we know from experience to let him.  He an be a tad stubborn (determined and persistent).  He got down into a pose that looked exactly like how he used to crawl and get around the ice happily.

TJ wanted to get going like the big kids.  We both attempted to give him instruction.  I positioned his feet, demonstrated how to push off and move his feet.  He began getting frustrated and lost that sparkle for new things.  He was trying hard to understand what we were saying and couldn't quite make his body move how we wanted him to.  He fell and wanted to give up.

I am so thankful that I recognized what was going on.  Was it a big deal if we just let him do his own thing here?  Who is he learning to skate for?  Why not just let him take the lead?

So I gave my son a big hug.  Let him know that he could move about however he felt most comfortable and to have loads of fun.  I stayed around incase he asked for a hand and cheered on his efforts.  Oh the excitement was back again.  Both my boys were so very proud of their first day of skating!!

We've been back on the ice since and still they are so pleased with shuffling around.  I love being a part of this process and watching them learn new things.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Our Week: 3rd week of January

This week has been so much fun.  Lots of building and learning new things.

We started on the weekend by using coloured water in squeeze bottles to play in the snow.  We also made a snow volcano too.

I love when the boys take the lead with what they would like to do.  While watching TV one morning on the weekend they were watching Artzooka and asked me to look up the instructions for these adorable snowmen lanterns.  We got right to work, bought what we needed at the store and enjoyed our crafts.  The boys have been using then at night all week.

We did a lot of crafts this week.  Model magic, play dough, and recycled creations.  TJ was so proud when he solved his puzzle and MJ was very pleased with his cardboard castle.  I am still getting used to how independent they are becoming.

While visiting my younger sister, we worked a little on TJ's history project. He wants to participate in the local homeschool history fair and has chosen to focus on ancient Egypt.  We talked about shapes and created a cardboard pyramid.  We took notes to write facts about the pyramids on each side of what he built.  I also brought the balance scale we haven't used yet.  We weighed different toy cars, made some estimations and more.  All the kids enjoyed testing it out.  MJ brought it out again later in the week.

When we got home MJ asked me to read some of the tractor books he had selected from the library.  Then both boys wanted to build tractors from recycled materials.  We had lots of fun problem solving and making adjustments.  TJ even added bicycle training wheels to his creation!

I had a midwife appointment that MJ joined me for.  So far everything is going smoothly there.  After I picked up TJ from the YMCA we joined a friend at the park.  The boys picked up lots of dried grasses to use as camouflage.  When we got home TJ glued his into a mask o he could keep his hands free.

I got to go to work with my hubby one day this week!  I haven't helped him out for over a year now.  We were very blessed to have to sister that homeschool come over and spend the day with the boys.  I enjoyed a change to my day and I know the boys had a great time.  They begged me to let the girls stay longer when I got home.  That day they played outside, went sledding, baked cookies, watched movies, and played with play dough, dress-up and trucks.  

A friend generously gave us a pair of skates that fit MJ.  TJ was very persistent in asking for a pair too.  I found his some at a used sports store.  So we went out after dropping of the babysitters.  This was the first time my boys had been on ice skates.  MJ needed us to hold him up and often sated his own way (kneeling with one foot sticking out).  I was very impressed with how quickly they caught on once we left them lone.  We had tried to give TJ some instruction but it seemed to frustrate him.  We he did things his own way and it worked.

We went out again the next morning but didn't last too long because of the wind. So we visited some friends and had a great time catching up.

Playing tricks was still big with the boys this week, although towards the end of the week they brought out the Lego.  TJ made some very interesting creations with his motors.  He'd like to get a new motor with lights and other attachments.  We found out how much it costs, then he counted his savings and started doing extra jobs around the house to earn more money.  MJ tried very hard to make a tractor with gears, but was easily frustrated.  We did lots of problem solving together to solve his issues.

I can't say enough great things about Snap Circuits!  My boys worked with daddy while I was out visiting one of my sisters.  They made some really cool sirens.  TJ can look at the pictures and assemble on his own.  Often I'll read the description so he knows a bit more about what he made.  MJ picks a cool looking picture and helps me to put it together.

Today while reading one of the boys AWANAS handbooks the little boy in the story pretended to go camping in his room.  TJ asked if he could too.  This prompted us to fold all the laundry piled in the TV room and tidy it.  The boys have discovered they are getting too big for the play tent, so we built a chair and sheet tent.  TJ is trying to settle in as I type.  MJ didn't last long in the play tent and is trying to settle into his own bed now.

I can't wait to see what we'll be up to next week!  Please share and let me know what you are up to.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Our Week: Lots of imgination

This has been an adventurous week full of imagination.  I've begun journaling more about what we've been doing too and started taking more pictures again.  I do this for several reasons: we have such amazing fun I want to remember it all, it helps me to look back and see all that we do on those days when I panic, and I can also see where I can support my boys in their interests more.

As you might remember that last week the boys were very much into sculptures.  I found out it is because they watched a show called Pirates Adventures in Art while at my parent's house.  The episode was all about sculptures.  So we tried using our wood carving tools to chisel away at some wood slices daddy cut for the boys.  We discovered that our wood was very hard.  We will be making some slot cars for the boys' mid week church program soon and using some softer wood for that project.

I was also inspired by some blogs (here and here) I follow and laid out an invitation to discover pattern blocks and mirrors.  MJ was quite interested as he really likes the pattern blocks.  I love his concentration in this picture.  He was trying to use each of the other shapes to cover the hexagon.  I'm going to pull those out again soon but find a better solution for our mirrors that fell down.

We had a great start to the week by heading over to Lego Land Discovery Centre in Toronto!!!!  A big thank you to our friend for organizing the trip.  We had about 40 homeschool children and their parents.  The boys were able to join a workshop on towers, use the earthquake tables, build and test race cars and go on lots of rides.  The rides were amazingly fun and so was the 4D movie theatre.  I can't believe we were there more than 5 hours.  It isn't a huge place but there is lots to do and since it wasn't too busy we got to go on everything many times without a wait.

Since Lego Land was a bit of a drive for us, we talked a lot in the car about structures, skyscrapers, and what they learned from their day out.  We also talked a bit about the differences between city life and country living since we drove through different types of towns along the way.

The boys each bought a small Lego kit from out outing.  I was very impressed with how much they have both come along in following the instructions.  TJ assembled his whole plane kit along and MJ started off well and then got rather creative.  He asked for a bit of help and they played with their lego for a long while.

This week we got together with my mom, sister and all the kids.  We had lots of fun baking and coloring with my nephew.  The boys were very excited to play with my niece who was home from school that day.  She did their nails and they all played so well.  My sister also helped MJ practice writing out his full name.  Here he also did TJ's name on a card he made.

For Christmas the boys were given a Cosmic Jet Racer kit.  We were excited to find out there were two cars in the kit to make.  The best part is that they worked well (doesn't always happen with science kits and things).  The boys decided to use the glue gun for certain parts as the tape provided was rather fiddly.  TJ played with his jet racer for over an hour and a half.  He made different courses for the car and tried blowing up the balloon to different sizes.  MJ needed help blowing up the ballon.  He played with it for about 5 min then disassembled the whole thing and decided it was going to be an airplane.  These two are so different in their personalities and everything.

The boys have been watching Planes Fire and Rescue every day this week.  MJ decided his Jet Racer was Dusty and then gathered all his toys to be each of the characters from the movie.  TJ also set up his own rescue team complete with signs to show you around his hangers.  The boys played for several hours that day and have continued on an off the rest of the week with the same game.  I wrote more about that here.

We also went to my sister's house for a visit and went to the YMCA this week.  My mom and I went shopping with the boys and out to lunch.  The boys were treated to a new toy each.  TJ has some new foam planes that he can launch all over, while MJ was thrilled with his own truck stickers.  He's made everyone pictures.

We love story time.  I have been reading a lot of fairy tale to the boys as following along with the Waldorf curriculums we have.  I'd like to get back in to more story telling, but some of the library books did have beautiful pictures.  Once we took the books back to the library we explored our own shelves at home.  The boys asked me to read Scaredey Squirrel goes to the Beach.  This inspired the boys to make their own inside beaches.  TJ's beach had a sheet with our bean bin spread all over for sand, lots of shells and a bucket of water for the ocean.  Oh and of course the heater was on to make the room hotter.  He even got into his swimsuit to play in the ocean.  MJ's beach had playsilks, and sheets for the beach and ocean.  He too added a bucket of water for the planes to float in.  Unfortunately we had to go out that day and then they lost interest in the beaches when we got home.

Our week ended with playing in the snow.  I saw this idea on my FB news feed and couldn't wait to try it with the boys. We made a snow volcano, we also added food colouring to squirt bottles to draw on the snow.  TJ discovered that he could make interesting impressions in the snow with rackets and other toys.  We also went sledding and played hockey together.  No pictures of all of that because we were too busy having fun outside.

Now it's your turn.  What have you been up to this week?  Also what other topics or things would you like me to write about?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Play is great therapy!

Note: I am not a licensed therapist.  My children have never been to an actual play therapy session.  But from what I have observed through their interactions, I strongly believe that play therapy is a wonderful tool.  Do look into it and professional help if you feel it would benefit your child for any reason.

MJ's fire and rescue team in their hanger
It is no secret that my boys don't always get along.  The older one picks on the younger and teases.  The younger cries often and try's to get big brother in to trouble.  I have heard this is quite common for many families.  But the other day a miracle happened!  My boys actually played nicely together without me intervening for fights and what not.  They played for almost three hours!! This was perfect because I happened to have a wicked headache that day and needed to lay down for a bit in the afternoon.

So what happened?  Well I believe a number of factors were involved.  My boys are getting older and are able to play in a similar manner.  When they were younger. MJ was too young to keep his attention or play as imaginatively.  My boys are also home together a lot.  Being homeschooled we spend a lot of time together so we are beginning to understand each other better.  They also had a common interest.  The boys have watched Plane Fire and Rescue everyday for a week.

TJ's rescue team with signs added around the base

Their game started when MJ gathered a group of cars, trucks and planes to be the different characters from the movie.  I helped him to set up a lodge, waterfall and pretend fires.  After a little while of playing with MJ I moved on and TJ joined in.  They put out fires and fixed crashed planes for a long while.  I listened in and noticed their game had moved on from enacting the movie scenes.  Now the toys were visiting each others homes.  Some of the toys got mad at others, or were being rude.  Then apologies were made and the toys were friends again.

I saw that through play my boys were able to express feeling and emotions that they struggled with in person.  They made good compromises and were kind to one another.  Now this isn't saying that the rest of the day went perfectly... But they were able to express themselves much better through play.  I also can see that the boys can get along and play together.  Although I wasn't involved much in their game, we all were much more patient afterwards.  I think we are all realizing that we have big emotions and want to be respected.

It's funny I remember now that TJ used to respond so well to puppets when he was younger too. I wrote about that on our old blog here.

So now it's your turn.  What have you observed from your children at play??

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Our Week: Lots of sewing

Wow I didn't realized how few pictures I took this week.  It's good in a way because I'm just to busy living life and enjoying time with my boys.  I'm hoping to add in some extra posts with more than just weekly updates.  But here are some highlights from our week...

Our week started off with sewing.  TJ and I made a wonderfully warm pair of mittens.  He added leg warmers to the cuffs to keep the snow out.

MJ wanted to make something too so we spent time sewing together a felted sweater playmat.  He asked for a train track on it.

TJ then wanted to work on a very special project.  His baby blanket has gone missing and we saw some fabric in our bucket that we wanted to use to make a new 'bunny'.  So of course we got to sewing and made a new Bunny blanket.

This week the boys started up swimming lessons again and gym time at the YMCA.  both went very well.

We also visited twice with my mom, sister and the boys' cousins.  We always have so much fun together.  I love spending time with my nephews and watching them grow.  I was also excited to get the maternity clothes as I'll be needed them soon (we are already at 11.5 weeks!).

At the end of the week my parents kindly took the boys for a sleep over.  The boys had a wonderful time playing with their train set.  Jon and I went out for dinner.  My favourite part was sleeping in and having a quiet morning.  We mostly cleaned the house and played once the boys came home.

On the weekend the boys got talking about statues.  They told me all they knew about hose they were made.  We watched a few videos on ice sculptures.  That night we froze some water in containers.  Then the next day the boys chiselled away at their blocks of ice.

One project our family took on this winter was to use our fireplace to heat the house.  We wanted to see if it would make a large difference on the electrical bill.  It was also off for the beginning part of the fall due to house renovations.  So far we've had great success.  It has been a wonderful learning opportunity for us all.  The boys have helped to stack wood and keep the fireplace going.  This weekend they gathered more wood from around the property for daddy to chop.  We are hoping to mix our wood in with what we bought to extend it a bit longer.  Next year we may start later into the fall, but it is certainly keeping us nice and warm.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Our Week: A new year!

I hope you all have had a wonderful start to your new year!!  Not as many pictures, just too busy living life and loving it!

We spent much of our time after Christmas enjoying exploring new gifts.  My hubby and I also re-organized, purged and cleaned each room of the house.  It was a much needed exercise to make room for new things and tidy up after a busy month.  It feel so good to get a fresh start to the year!

The boys were given a salt powered robot and Snap Circuits.  Oh we love these Snap Circuits it is fabulous and easy enough for our 6 year old to assemble on his own.  The projects are really cool too.

For Christmas each boy was given some small world farm items.  MJ has been playing farm every day.  He set up his little farm all over and even added more land and things to it.  

It has snowed a little which is good because the boys aren't as interested in going outside without something to do.  This past week they used their new construction trucks to clear the snow.  TJ found a sled on kijiji that he liked (and bought), so we needed to test it out.

My creative boys turned big boxes into monsters/robots. Oh how I just love their creative play.

I also bought a magnetic poetry kit with simple large words to encourage TJ with reading.  We have been making funny sentences and playing with that a lot.  I also made a simple treasure hunt for TJ which he loved!  The clues were things like "look under your cup", "look in your bed"...  We even made a picture clue one for MJ.

While rearranging the playroom/ main room of our home, the bucket of recycling stuff was rediscovered.  One morning the boys decided to make boats from pop bottles.  MJ taped Lego gears to his and headed off to the tub to try it out.  TJ used the motor from our Playmobil boat and taped it on to his juice bottle.  He even fit some small toys inside for a ride.

Just today after testing a sled (not enough snow so we played at the park) and visiting family, TJ asked to make a pair of mittens for himself.  I believe he got cold hands while playing in the snow and really liked my mittens.  So we got to work cutting the material out for that project.  We'll keep working on it tomorrow.  MJ dug into my bin of felted sweaters and pulled some out to be farm mats.  I'm sure we'll actually sew then into a farm mat some day but for now he was happy covering them in stickers.

In between we've been exploring some new games on the tablets and ipad, watching videos and working a little in our workbooks.  I went over the provincial curriculum guidelines and was pleased to discover that we'd already covered most of the science and social studies for the year.  We hope to bring in more music and art back into our weeks.  Our lives are already enriched daily with math, language and everything else we do.  We look forward to this exciting new year ahead!!