Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Co-op Science: Types of Rocks

A couple of months ago I hosted another science class for preschool-1st grade age students.  This time we were studying the 3 different types of rocks - Metamorphic, Igneous, and Sedimentary.

We started off by having a rock show and tell.  I asked the kids to bring some rocks to share and I borrowed some fancy rocks from a friend to show off as well.
Igneous rocks are formed from cooling magma and so to demonstrate this, we lit some small tea candles and had the children pour the liquid wax onto wax paper and let it harden.  This of course should be done with adult supervision!

Sedimentary rocks are formed from various layers of loose sediment being compacted and cemented together over time.  We demonstrated this by having the kids create layers of colored sugar in baby jars and pushing down with a spoon to compact them.  I was planning to purchase a sand art kit, but couldn't justify the cost.  The food dye colored sugar worked just as well.

Metamorphic rocks are formed when pressure and heat are applied to any other form of rock.  We demonstrated this by giving the kids different colors of playdough and having them form layers to create a sedimentary rock.  They then pressed them between their hands as hard as they could - which of course applied both pressure, and body heat.  The melded result was their metamorphic rock.

We ate a related snack as well!  I made a Sedimentary cheese sandwich and then applied heat (stove) and pressure (spatula) to create Metamorphic grilled cheese.  Then I gave the kids a small amount of vanilla ice cream with some magic shell poured over it.  The resulting shell after it hardened was their Igneous dessert.

This was so much fun and I could see the lightbulbs going off in their heads.  Good times!  Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Charlotte Mason Preschool

Having a child that is Preschool aged is hard if you have chosen to adopt the Charlotte Mason philosophy.  The whole world tells you that formal education begins at Preschool (3 or 4), while everyone in the CM world is shocked if you begin before the age of 6!  What's a CM mommy of young children to do?

I know that Charlotte Mason doesn't recommend starting "formal" schooling until age 6, but that doesn't mean that 3-4 year olds can't benefit from a gentle introduction to some CM techniques.  In fact, there is a TON of things you can do with your 3-4 year old children to build up the skills they will need when they are older.

*Disclaimer!  I am NOT a CM expert (or purist) by any means!  The following is just ways that I've worked on schooling my 3/4 year old while still trying to remain true to CM teachings.

Nature Walks
It's never too early to build a love of nature in a child!  Basic nature studies build a strong scientific foundation in a young child as they begin to observe how the world works and start making connections and asking questions.  Spend as much time as you can outside - playing, having fun, and learning about the world around them.  This is applicable year round - through whatever the weather may be granted they are dressed appropriately.

Living Books
Reading to your children is so so important!  Build up a love of good, quality, age-appropriate literature.  There are TONS of great book lists out there including my favorites: Mater Amabilis and Ambleside Online.

Habit Training
Charlotte Mason encouraged building up strong habits of obedience, attention to detail, self-discipline, etc.  Creating a foundation of these habits while children are still small will lead to smoother days when they are older.

Once your child has developed the fine motor skills to work on a handicraft, this is a useful employment.  Handicrafts are wonderful for developing persistence, patience, and attention to detail.  The kids are also so very proud of themselves when they are able to accomplish something and see that they created something with their own hands!  Simple sewing/weaving projects, and are all things we plan to work on this year.  For a younger child "busy bag" type activities are wonderful for beginning to develop the fine motor skills necessary for handicrafts.

Fine Arts
While it is too early to start formal Artist or Composer Studies with a 3-4yo child, it is really a great age to begin an appreciation of art, music, and poetry.  Our family has found a great way to incorporate these extras into our day by implementing a daily Tea Time.  It's nothing fancy - simply the kids normal afternoon snack time.  But while they are snacking, I read them poetry, we listen to music, we look at art, or even read history-related picture books (more on history below).

Social Studies
Geography, History, basic "government" can all be taught to young children in a CM friendly way.  Learning to navigate through nature naturally leads to discussions and "lessons" on map reading and cardinal directions.  Reading living books about historical time periods and different areas of the world help children get a sense of history and geography.  As you read each living book, talk about where the authors lived and look it up on a map.  Exploring the historical monuments in your area and discussing the natural landforms and habitats in your area are nice hands on ways to learn.  Another way to get a sense of history is to look at photo albums and discuss your own family's history.

Core Subjects
This is not exactly kosher, but I think even core subjects such as Math, Reading, and Writing can all be begun at an early age.  I'll go more in depth about this in a later post, but for now, these are some great websites to read.  Math can be broached in a hands-on way using manipulatives to introduce basic concepts such as counting, patterning, 1 to 1 correspondence, spatial concepts, comparison, basic geometry, etc.  Writing can be begun by having children trace letters and numbers in sand, forming letters out of playdough, etc.  And reading can be taught in a very basic way as well by pointing out letter sounds and basic words.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On Letting Go

The last several months have been beyond crazy and I feel like I have been thoroughly inducted into the "experienced" homeschool mama club.  I started off this school year at full speed, thinking that we could be in every single co-op in the area and still do a CM education, all while at the same time trying to "keep up with the Joneses" and squeeze in all the traditional public school subjects as well.

Looking back, it's obvious that this wasn't a pace we could keep up with for long.  I have gone through a period of complete burnout - and only halfway through our first semester! not a good sign.

I've been reading a lot more of Charlotte Mason's volumes and as I immerse myself more in her thinking, the more I realize that it is ok to let go and stick with our schedule without trying to add in a million extra things.  I am also trying to simplify our schedule so that we have more time to truly be at home and allow ourselves time to explore and learn without constantly feeling rushed.  I have to remind myself that a public school has different goals in mind and thus must use different methods - methods that I don't need to replicate in my simple two-student setting.  It is an incredibly freeing thought!

What a beautiful thing homeschooling is, that there is room for adaptation and change and the ability to do what is best for each child and family in that moment!

Thanks for reading.  :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

All Saints Day

For some crazy reason I decided to volunteer to run the All Saints Day party at my co-op.  We've never had a chance to celebrate before but I had always wanted to, so it was really fun finding games and activities online.  Pinterest was my best friend in this case of course!  Since I didn't have a lot of volunteers available, I was looking for games that would be able to be played without an adult helper.
So many neat Saint costumes!  Michaela is towards the bottom left of the picture dressed as Mary, and Rafael is next to her dressed as St. George.


Pin the Halo on the Archangel
I printed out a picture of the Archangels from Happy Saints and had the kids tape felt halos while blindfolded.  This particular page doesn't seem to exist anymore, but I know it is available in one of their wonderful e-books.

Crown Mary Ringtoss
One of the wonderful moms already had the Mary cutout, and I simply brought along a door wreath that I had previously made out of some dollar store items.

St. Isadore Pumpkin Bowling
I taped a harvest tablecloth to the ground as the "lane" and a box at the end of the lane.  The kids had to roll the pumpkin into the box.

St. Peter's Fishing Game
I made a fishing rod out of a stick, string and magnet attached to the end.  The fish were paper cutouts w/ paperclips attached.  The kids tossed the fishing rod into the basket and tried to catch a fish.

St. Anthony Lost and Found Game
I put some religious medals, cards, and various items into the wipes box along with some shredded paper.  The kids had to find the items inside.

Saint Cake Walk
I printed out pictures of various saints from Happy Saints, laminated them, and taped them to the ground.  The kids then walked around the circle as the music played, and when it stopped, the person who was on the Saint I called got a cookie.

St. Joseph Wood Craft
The children made a cross with popsicle sticks and yarn.

It was a really fun day!  Thanks for reading!