Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to Make Eggshell Planters

It's that time of year again, when the weather gets better and everyone wants to head outdoors. Today we worked on making eggshell planters. I've seen this idea around on TV and such, but never tried it. The ideas I've seen usually use grass seeds to make the hair, but we used chive seeds.

This is a great hands-on lesson when learning about recycling and gardening. You can teach how eggshells decompose, so you can break up the bottom and plant it directly into the ground.

Here's how we made our decomposable eggshell planters:

First crack the top of the egg with a sharp knife. I just quickly tapped around the top of the egg, pulled it off, and drained out the yolk. Then I rinsed out the shell and put it back into the carton to dry.

This is how much egg we have left:

Next, we drew faces on the egg shells with markers.

Then we went outside and carefully filled the eggshells with potting mix and chive seeds. Then we covered the seeds with a bit more soil.

Lastly, we watered them.

They are now sitting in our windowsill. The pack says 15 days until germination, so I'll post an update of our egg people when they start to sprout. She had a really great time making these, and the egg shells will provide calcium to our garden when we transplant. Happy Homeschooling!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Signs of Dyslexia in Preschoolers

Preschool homeschoolers have a lot on their plate. Besides teaching, they have to look for and understand the signs of certain learning disabilities. The early years are when the symptoms come to light and you may notice some things unsettling about your child's learning behaviors. My advice is to never ignore any warning signs because you don't want to believe there is a problem. Many times what seems like a problem is a temporary setback and nothing to worry about. Other times it's a sign that your child will need a little extra help.

What got me thinking about this was the way Avlyn wrote her numbers in a game of hopscotch yesterday. She drew all the squares and wrote all of the numbers except 1, 4, and 8 backwards. Not only did she draw all of these backward, she didn't follow the typical pattern of starting with 1 and working her way up to 10. She wrote the 10first (01)and then worked her way down.

I've also noticed on occasion that when she reads she will read from right to left. She never opens the book from right to left or reads the right page first, but just starts at the end of the sentence and works her way to the beginning. Of course she isn't actually reading, but making up a story that corresponds with the picture and pretending that's what the words say. She also still struggles with some minor speech problems such as the hard /c/ sound and the /g/ sound. And it got me thinking that maybe we have a problem.

But rather than get extensive testing and start freaking out, I did a little research. I think with a little extra work and repetition we won't have a problem. She did not meet 90% of the signs, and the signs she does meet I know are also common things preschoolers do as they learn. It just seems to be a setback rather than a problem. But I found the following website useful in determining signs of dyslexia in preschoolers. If any of you are experiencing the same sort of learning issues we are, try this site if dyslexia is your main concern.

Bright Solutions for Dyslexia

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Teaching Music and Theater Appreciation Involves More Than Baby Einstein

When I was pregnant with Avlyn I had a friend give me a whole set of those Baby Einstein Dvd's. I think we opened two before I resold it on eBay. While I appreciate the effort the company made at marketing a product to parents under the guise that listening and watching these makes their baby smarter, it just wasn't for us.

But that doesn't mean I'm against teaching music from a young age. It just means I want a more hands-on approach to a subject that should be fully experienced with all the senses. That's why I'm a big believer in live theater shows for young children.

I have some friends who tell me, "Oh, well I took baby to see Sesame Street Live-Nick Jr. Live, Dora Live etc.. They loved it." That's great. It's a start in the right direction. But is it true music and theater appreciation for preschoolers? I know, I know, you may be thinking that your child is not going to sit through a 2-hour show without misbehaving unless Blue is on an adventure to find clues. But have you tried?

The same parents who thought it imperative to play a Baby Mozart CD to their stomach during pregnancy are now assuming their child is too little to sit through the Nutcracker or a high school rendition of Oklahoma. Where did we lose them on the quest for increasing their child's brain power? Hopefully not for the reason that attending a live show is just too much trouble and a CD or DVD is easier.

With our son we did the usual Sesame Street shows - and ultimately he really doesn't have an appreciation for music or the theater. With my daughter though, I decided to try something different. I decided to forgo the kiddie shows and start with a more adult show. Last year we went and saw the musical Mamma Mia! It was almost 3 hours long. She had recently turned 4, and she sat through every second of it without complaint. Later that year we saw a local production of The Wizard of Oz.

This year we saw Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which includes some of the best music in a Disney show, in my opinion. The play was not aimed at kids (the fact that I could see the broomstick Babette's butt any time she bent over was testament to that.)but was a traditional off-broadway show. Again, she sat through it all without complaint. She clapped, she cheered, she got scared when the lights dimmed and the wolves appeared, and she laughed at Lafue's antics. She truly appreciated the show and the music. And to me that is more educational than any cleverly marketed DVD program or CD.

To make it more enjoyable, I download the music from the musicals and we listen to it on our way to the theater. If the show isn't a musical, then I see if there is a movie of the play and we watch that before seeing the live show. I've yet to attempt a show that neither of us has any background information on.

Not only is she learning to appreciate theater and music, she's learning how to behave at an adult event. This is a life lesson that will prove good for her as she grows and experiences new things. She's learning what it means to get dressed up and act like a lady. Now my goal is to cast a line and reel my son back in. I'm convinced I can convince him to try a show next year. I would love to watch both of my children appreciate live theater and music together.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Miracle of Birth

We are done having children. At least that's what we tell each other. The Lord could always have a different plan, but in our minds we are finished. Because of this, Avlyn will never experience a baby until she has her own. Her brother loved helping feed her and learning all about how to care for a baby. She is stuck pretending with dolls and plastic bottles. Or so I thought.

One day we picked up Avlyn's guinea pig, Adelis, and discovered that her belly was rather large. At first I just thought she was eating too much because her brother had gotten a little chubby, too. But she kept growing and wanting more food and tons of water. There wasn't a moment that went by when she wouldn't hear the scruffy sound of my slippers and start squealing for food.

In January, I realized she was expecting. We were very excited and nervous, not knowing what to expect. She had gotten pregnant before we got her, so I'm not sure who the 'baby daddy' is. We were careful not to squeeze her belly and mostly just left her alone. A few days before Valentine's day I held her and could feel the babies moving in her belly. I let Avlyn feel and we talked about how babies grow in bellies.

The night before Valentine's day, we held her again and felt the babies moving around. I assumed we still had a couple weeks before D-day. So I was quite surprised to check on her on Valentine's day and see a little white head looking back at me. (Adelis is all brown and her brother is black) The babies weren't there around 11 a.m., but when I checked at 2:00, there they were. Here is a pic of the piggies just a few hours after birth:

She had an albino, a black one, and a multi-colored one. Guinea pigs can be handled immediately after birth, so the kids were excited to see brand new, hours old guinea pigs. They still had their umbilical cords attached and were adamantly nursing. This experience has been a great lesson in the miracle of birth for us, and it's helped show Avlyn exactly what a mommy does for her babies.

She now has first-hand experience with the birthing and nursing process, along with how different babies develop at different rates. She thought it was neat when the babies ate real food after only 3 days. Sadly, we cannot keep five guinea pigs and the babies are off to new homes. They grow quite rapidly, and are ready to leave their mama after only a month. Aren't we glad our little ones depend on us much longer?

Above is a pic of the piggies from just two days ago. You can see how much they've plumped up and grown in less than 4 weeks. They've all since gone on to new families, which is another lesson all in itself. Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cheap Homemade Bubble Blowers

Spring is right around the corner. For those of you who have dealt with a harsh winter, there's nothing like being able to open the windows and let a bit of somewhat warm air circulate in the house.

If you're like us and are dying to get outside for some playtime, use these last few colder weeks to make some bubble blowers. Both of my kids love them and they do induce a lot of giggles.

I saw the idea in Family Fun magazine a few months ago. They are super easy to make and can be used outside or in the bathtub. I'm going to have our playgroup make them when we do an Earth Day activity at our house. That's another idea - you could file this away and bring it back out for a recycling lesson on Earth Day.

Project: Bubble blower
Time: Between 5-10 minutes
Cost: Less than $3 if using items on hand.

Items needed:

1 plastic water bottle
1 wash cloth
1 or 2 rubber bands
1 bowl of soapy bubbles


Cut the bottom off the water bottle. Attach a wash cloth to the opening using a rubber band. We had to double up because the wash cloth got so heavy after it was wet. If you use a lighter material, you probably just need 1 rubberband. If needed, trim the edges of the cloth to make it lighter. Just make sure there is no opening between the cloth and the sides of the bottle or the bubbles won't really work.

Dip the cloth into a bowl of soapy bubble water and blow through the top. This won't blow big round bubbles, but make more of a bubble 'snake.' Increase the fun by adding colors to the water or having the kids race to see whose snake grows the fastest. Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss - Free Dr. Seuss Preschool Activities

It's time to light some oversized candles on a wacky cake and wish happy birthday to one of the world's most innovative children's authors - Dr. Seuss. If it weren't for Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat probably wouldn't even exist. And no one would have the pleasure of actually trying to make green eggs and ham. And when people unexpectedly talk in rhyme when trying to make a point we could never retort, "Who are you? Dr. Seuss?" Without Dr. Seuss's bright books and wacky stories, many beginning readers would have had to suffer through beginning reading instruction with a Dick and Jane book.

To celebrate this author, we are going to crack open a handful of his books today. My kids got two sets of Seuss books for Christmas one year, so there are very few that we're still missing. We're also gonna spend some time over at
Seussville, playing online games and printing out fun activities. I've already got my printer set to spit out Dr. Seuss's activity book.

And to quote Dr. Seuss, make sure you remind your little one that: "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose." Happy Homeschooling!