Saturday, January 23, 2010

Need a Free Field Trip -Try the Pet Store

If you need a quick field trip idea, visit a pet store. Many pet stores will work with a large group and provide a field trip, but a small family can also benefit from a self-guided field trip to a pet store. We have two pet stores in our town. One is a family run store and one is a chain store. Both of these stores provide ample opportunities to learn about animals.

Avlyn and I recently read a book about coral reefs. Today we visited the chain pet store while wasting time until it was time to pick up her brother from a birthday party. This pet store has one large saltwater tank full of coral and sea anemones. It also has a rock fish, clown fish, hermit crabs, and snails that live in the coral tank. In smaller displays they sell saltwater fish, shrimp, and sharks. They even had one stingray they were holding for someone.

Even though we don't live near the ocean, Avlyn was able to see all the things she read about in the book first hand. Well, we didn't see a sea cucumber or a lobster. But we catch crawdads in the summer, so she's well aware of the general makings of a lobster.

While fish and sea animals are one thing you can see at a pet store, you can also visit when learning about snakes, mice, birds, and other small animals. We spent 30 minutes exploring the store and talking about the animals. She didn't even realize she was learning when she was asking me a bunch of questions. Do you have any ideas for a fun, free field trip? Let me know. Happy homeschooling!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Transition Time

Avlyn turned 5 in December and I've noticed a transition already in her eagerness to learn. My once eager learner has turned into a hesitant, I-don't-want-to-be-bothered-with-school attitude. It could be the December break we took, or the fact that she just got over an illness that took a lot out of her, butI'm finding myself struggling to work with her.

Today she wanted to do our cooking projects, but not her reading or math. And I'm not a sit-down-and-do-your-workbook-or-else type of homeschool mom. Since we've had a long break with the holidays and then her illness, all I had planned for today was a review. Any ideas for dealing with a hesitant preschooler, or at least one unwilling to go back to 'school'?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Learning About Food with an Ice Cream Maker

I got an ice cream maker for Christmas. I love, love, love, love, it! Not only is the ice cream delicious, but we can custom-make our own flavors and not have to worry about anything getting discontinued and bumming us out. We made a batch of cookies-n-cream ice cream yesterday. This morning we made one of my favorites - strawberry.

Avlyn loves to help make the ice cream, and I used the opportunity to teach her a little about food additives. I want my kids to understand that not all foods are good for us, no matter how the company markets the food as being high in vitamins or fiber. While I know she doesn't grasp the terms 'preservatives' or 'high fructose corn syrup,' I tried explaining why the ice cream we make at home is healthier than the ice cream we can buy at the store.

Strawberry was the perfect flavor to start a discussion since it doesn't come out bright pink like the stuff sold in stores. I told her that most companies use red dye to make the pink color, and that it's not that good for our bodies. I also explained how some ice creams have gum paste and other items to give it a hard appearance and make it easier to package and sell. We went over each ingredient we put into our ice cream maker and how each of those ingredients didn't have any added 'bad stuff.' We also reduced the amount of cream in the strawberry recipe, resulting in a softer ice cream than yesterday's.

We're slowly phasing out packaged foods and taking baby steps to improve our eating habits. I think homeschoolers have an advantage since they don't need to rely on the schools to provide lunch or worry about their kids filling up on junk during a class party. Below is a picture of Avlyn stirring the milk and strawberry juices, along with the fresh-out-of-the-ice-cream-making-machine finished product. It's very soft right out of the maker, but hardens up once put in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Here is our recipe for strawberry ice cream:(use original recipe instructions if you want a richer, slightly thicker ice cream)

2 cups of whole milk (original recipe called for 1 cup of milk, 2 cups of heavy cream)
1 cup of heavy cream
1 bowl of chopped strawberries
1 cup of sugar
dash of vanilla
dash of O.J.

Add a Tbsp. or two of O.J. to the strawberries and 1/2C. sugar. Stir gently and chill for a couple hours or overnight. Mix together milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, and juices created by the berries. We then pour this into our ice cream maker and add the fresh berries the last 5 minutes of mixing time, so just follow the instructions on your ice cream maker. That's it! Happy Homeschooling and happy ice cream making.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! We are back in the groove starting Monday. My daughter has decided that she wants to try kindergarten at the local kindergarten center next year. I have my reservations, but pretty much all of her friends are going there and that's what solidified her decision. Our educational decisions are based off of our children's needs and wants. Homeschooling remains an open option for us at all times, but we've decided that we won't tell our kids they have to be homeschooled unless the public school system becomes unsafe or horribly underserves their needs.

My son decided to try school in first grade, and he's doing fine. My daughter, who has always been more social and active than my son, has decided she wants to be where her friends are. This does affect our homeschooling since I will no longer plan my preschool lessons based on where I want to be by the time kindergarten starts. In all honesty, I'm actually going to be doing less. I've already researched the general outline of the public school's kindergarten benchmarks, and we're already at many of those benchmarks. My biggest fear is that she'll start kindergarten and be bored like my son has been the last two years. This is the first year he finally feels challenged because he's learning new stuff.

So for the next few months I'm going to make sure she has her letter sounds down pat, a handful of sight words, and we're gonna work very hard on her speech problem. She struggles with the hard /k/ and /c/ sounds and pronounces them as /t/, /g/, or /d/ depending on what she's saying. Her math skills are already at kindergarten level. So for the blog I'll mostly be posting fun crafts and projects that we do.