Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Power of Recycling

I consider myself very "green" conscious. I recycle, I use the right light bulbs, I don't use plastic bags at the supermarket, etc. I try to do my small part to help our beautiful Earth. As a mom, I find that teaching my kids to not be wasteful is very important. As a human being, I think we could always do more. Even if it's a little thing. Because those little things add up and will make a difference if we all do it.

I am constantly thinking of ways to improve our efforts here in our home. It's not always easy or convenient, but we try.

As a homeschool parent, I realized I could turn the idea of recycling and protecting Mother Earth into a lesson or lessons that we could do throughout the year. This video is a great starting point, because it shows how one small change can make a big difference. It helps for kids to see for themselves how much they can help, instead of just hearing a lecture from us "the parents".
Maybe this video can lead to a conversation of what else the kids can do that they think will help. I love it when kids come up with their own thoughts and solutions, because they don't think like adults. So they wind up coming up with such creative ideas.

How do you encourage your kids to help the environment?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stay at Home Moms - a Great Article

Good morning!! I just read a really wonderful article on MSN about the "new" stay at home moms and I just had to share it. It profiles today's moms who choose to stay home with their children. It also gives great advice and tips. Here's the link:

The New Stay-at-Home Mom

As a stay at home mom who homeschools, I am very familiar with the challenges as well as the advantages of staying home.
For me, one of the biggest challenges is the stigma. Believe it or not, there are still people out there who turn a nose at women like me. They have no idea what a hard job I have. I have heard comments like "do you sit around watching Oprah?". It's insulting and ignorant to say the least. I'm glad the article The New Stay-at-Home Mom, shows that today's stay at home mom is not a slave to the stove or laundry machine. We are a growing group of women who think it is important to be close to your children especially when they are young. We are also a group of women who work hard whether it's starting a business, blogging, or homeschooling.

The advantage of course is the privilege to be there for every important moment of my child's life. Taking charge of raising our kids instead of pawning them off to strangers. My children love the fact that I homeschool, attend every game or school event and take an active role in their lives.

What are the challenges you face as a stay at home mom? Please share your thoughts.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Valentine's Day Craft Idea part 1

Kids love to exchange Valentine's at school, so I think it would be the same way at homeschool. It's fun to give and receive these little treats from friends. Your child can give valentines to their homeschool group friends, their friends at gymnastics or dance or whatever activities they are involved in, they can even give them to their cousins or siblings.

I know that many of you think it's much easier to go the store and buy a bulk pack of valentines. You're right, it is so much easier. But it's also boring! It is worth it to take a little time and plan an activity that your homeschooled child will love to do.

Almost all of our activities serve a double purpose. For one, we have fun doing a craft, something creative and handmade. Second, I like to incorporate a little hidden learning. Since we are making little cards to attach to our gift, my daughter uses a ruler to measure a square on the card stock. She uses age appropriate scissors to cut out the square.

Here is a Valentine's Day idea that serves both those purposes with the added bonus that your child can then give these to the people she loves.

First, you need to figure out how many you want to make. That will dictate how much you need to purchase .

We are going to be making chocolate covered pretzel rods. My kids are pros at making these, since we make them for almost every occasion. They are so easy to make and are a great gift!

Chocolate covered Pretzel rods
What you'll need:
- 1 bag of pretzel rods
- 1 bag of chocolate candy (from the craft store). You will need more if you want to make them in different colors. I will make them using milk chocolate.
- Sprinkles (jimmies) in red, pink, white. The craft store has these already prepackaged together.
- 1 pack of small lollipop bags (also found in the candy making section of the craft store)
- ribbon (to tie the bags. I use Christmas type ribbons, you can choose the color) I will use red
- red card stock


Set up your work area in the kitchen. Place foil on a cookie sheet. Melt your chocolate according to the instructions. Dip your pretzel into the melted chocolate about half way, shake off any excess. Place the pretzel on the cookie sheet and have your child put the sprinkles over the chocolate to decorate. Do this one at a time, otherwise the chocolate will dry on the pretzel and the sprinkles won't stick. When your tray is full, place it in the fridge for about 10 minutes to set. Remove from fridge, carefully take the pretzel off the foil and place in a bag. Tie the bag with ribbon, place the card through one of the ribbons, tie it again and curl the ribbon with scissors (parents do this).

To make the card:
Cut the card stock into small squares. Let your child write a short message on one side, then hole punch it to secure it to the ribbon later. Kids can also decorate the cards.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Homeschool and your local library

I guess I never realized the importance of our library until we started to homeschool.

Sure, we would go there once in a while to pick books to bring home. Sometimes, we would even spend time there reading books. But I don't think I really appreciated how much a library has to offer.

Now, my daughter and I go to our local library once a week and we take our time browsing the shelves and choosing just the right books for the coming week.

For my daughter, it is just fun. It is part of school and we try to go on the same day every week (library day). It's something we both look forward to.

In reality, it is a carefully planned outing. I do a lot of research on books I will need to support the lessons I am teaching. I like to have different resources at my disposal to make lessons as interesting as possible.

For instance, I was planning a lesson on healthy habits, so I found books about personal hygiene and health specifically for young children. I also use books to help reinforce math lessons. I always find good material at the library.

We've become quite comfortable with the library and it's massive amounts of books. My daughter is very familiar with the layout of the children's floor of the library and she is clear on what reading level she should be choosing.

During our first visit, I showed her where level appropriate books were and I helped her choose. I gave her guidelines and since then, she has become a pro at choosing her own books. It is important for her development to learn to make choices. She also likes to be in control of the books she chooses.

If you homeschool, use your local library. It is a very valuable resource and it's free.

1st Grade Art Project - Edward Hopper

As I posted last week, our lesson on Georgia O'Keeffe was a success. So now, it's on to our next project. I also mentioned that we would be doing paper snowflakes, which I think is perfect to decorate our "school" (actually my office turned homeschool). But that will have to wait.

The beauty of homeschool is the flexibility it allows me as the teacher and my daughter as the student. For instance, the two of us were at our local library last week and as we browsed the titles, my daughter recognized a book and pulled it from the shelf.

It happened to be a biography on Edward Hopper. The interesting thing about that is we had just seen his work at the Whitney Museum in New York a few days earlier. We were both intrigued by his style and when she picked his biography, I thought it was a perfect segue to our next art project.

A note about Edward Hopper: He was an American artist known for portraying everyday American life and the average American. His work is realistic and colorful, and well balanced.

I haven't fully planned out our lesson, but we will start by reading his biography. Then, we will discuss Hopper's paintings that are shown in the book. We will continue to explore his work online. And I'm sure we will do some activity, not sure what yet.

UPDATE: Our discussion of Hopper's work included talking about the shadows he uses in most of his paintings to show depth, time of day, distance, height, etc. Once we talked about it, my daughter was able to look at other Hopper works and see those things for herself. She really liked the colors he used and the realism of his work.

So on a sunny, but cold day, we took our paper and pencils and took a walk in our neighborhood. We found a place to sit and my daughter made a drawing of what she saw. The drawing portrayed life in our small town by showing the street lamp and building under construction.

Overall, it was a very good learning experience!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Art Projects and Homeschool

Art is definitely not my forte, but it is part of a well balanced curriculum in any school. So it should also be part of a homeschool curriculum. I've been doing a lot of research on the topic. How do I teach art to a 6 year old? How do I make it part of homeschool? What is the best way to integrate art with other things we are doing? These were a few of the questions I had. I came across some good ideas, but nothing really made sense to me. It seemed that some of the ideas were either too childish or too advanced. I don't want my daughter to just sit in front of a white sheet of paper and draw randomly. That's ok for afterschool but for an art class I was looking for something more structured. I wanted structure for me, as the teacher. Some guidelines that I could follow to make teaching art fun, productive, and educational.

I still haven't really found anything I can use. It's a shame because there is so much information out there for homeschool parents in general, but for this particular topic, there's not much. So, as with almost everything I do, I decided to come up with my own plan.

I am homeschooling a 1st grader who is naturally interested in art. That is a huge plus. I picked a couple of artists and/or artistic styles. I made a list. I am going down the list and trying different things.

My first artist was Georgia O'Keeffe. I picked this one on a recommendation. Looking back I would not have started with O'Keeffe in first grade. I think her style is too complex for first graders. I've also never been a big fan. But since homeschooling is not about me, I decided to give it a go.

First, I talked to my daughter about the artist in very general terms. Then we went to the library and got a biography about Georgia O'Keeffe (a children's biography). We looked through the book at first, then I began to read my daughter the story. Even this children's book was way too long and complex for a 6 year old. I read the story sometimes changing the words, making it simpler to understand. We did not read the whole book in one sitting.

On a different day, we read some more. At that point, we just talked about O'Keeffe and her art. I asked questions and my daughter answered in her own words. I encouraged her to talk about the art and how it made her feel. This part of the lesson was great.

Then, we went on the internet and looked at some more of Georgia O'Keeffe's art. I told my daughter to pick one that she really liked. When she found a purple flower, she was set. I then gave my daughter some paper and pencils and told her to make her own O'Keeffe flower.

I am very pleased with the outcome of this set of art lessons. I believe that in 1st grade, children do not need to know art in detail or know the names of artistic styles, etc. I believe at this age, children need to be introduced to a variety of styles in a supportive, creative environment, so they can explore their own tastes and abilities.

Next we are going to make paper snowflakes!! I can't wait.

If you read this blog and would like to contribute ideas, please do so! I welcome them. That is the purpose of this blog. I want to exchange information with other parents that are out there homeschooling and having their own experiences.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back to Homeschool!

Is it me or is it just so hard to start up again after the holidays? I mean, I remember with my older child that it was difficult to go back to school. It's so cold outside, you've been home for at least a week, you just don't feel like going back. But when the day comes, you get on that bus and that's it. You're back in the routine.

But I feel that with homeschooling it's even harder. Because you make your schedule, I guess you can decide when you go back to school. That's nice. The flip side is that you're used to waking up late, and not having a routine at all. All of a sudden, you have to get back into that routine, but you don't have a bus schedule or a school schedule to push you back into the routine. It takes a lot of discipline for you, as the parent/teacher, and for the child.

So I wanted to start on the 3rd since that is when my other child started up again in public school. We got up at a reasonable time and got started right away. I had planned a regular day but not overly ambitious since I didn't know what to expect. To my surprise, my daughter got right back into her school work too. One less battle to fight!

One of the things I think helped is that I planned a fun music/science activity to get us going.

I got the idea in a magazine and had been planning it for a while. We got 8 emplty bottles of soda or water and filled each according to the directions and when you blow into them, you make music. We started just by doing do re mi da so la ti do for practice. The instructions in the magazine also taught us to do "Row your boat".

How do you handle the back to school ho hum?? Share your tips, please!!