Monday, April 28, 2014

Five Favorite TV Shows For the Sensitive Child

My son and I are both wimps when it comes to movies...and tv...and books. My husband is kind of sensitive too so we rarely watch anything that isn't a comedy. To be honest I think a lot of people, especially children, are more sensitive than we think we are. It doesn't even have to be a violent movie that leaves you shaky for hours. TV shows with a lot of noise, quickly changing scenes, or hyper characters can leave my children behaving the same way. Children also tend to be sensitive to themes of shows, which is why I try to avoid shows that have siblings that don't get along, or main characters that have a negative attitude towards school. It may seem a bit hyperbolic to do that (although studies have been shown that TV does lead directly to negative attitudes towards those things) but I really feel like I'm helping my children develop a set of ideas that their life will later reinforce.

So here are our favorite TV shows:


The Hive

Little Bear

The Magic School Bus

Martha Speaks

and even though it brings me up to 6, I have to include this one too!

Let me know any of your favorites! All of these shows are available on Netflix or PBS. And thanks to MoxieWife for the linkup!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ruminating On The Joys of Freedom From School

I hear a lot of people say things like "How do you find time to homeschool? I could never get it together enough to manage coordinating that!" But lemme tell you.....

Elementary school almost killed me.

School times are not in any way shape or form based on work schedules and coordinating every body in the house waking, leaving, coming, and going to bed at different times wore me to the core. I am not organized in the least when it comes to time management and even as a stay at home mom I completely wilted under the stress of trying to manage elementary school life.
It is nothing like June Cleaver's days of everyone getting up, having a breakfast together, kids going off to school around 9, coming home in the early afternoon, playing before coming home for dinner at the same time as Dad, doing a bit of homework, and going to bed.

It was more like dragging a sleepy child up in the wee hours of the morning,
shoving her out the door so she can make her hour bus ride, then doing all the things teachers expect parents to do during the day (because apparently they aren't able to manage their time either and have children do their schoolwork, not to mention the constant requests to come in the help "supervise" classroom activities and parties (I'm shocked at how many "rewards" children are constantly given in school. Food based rewards. Nothing motivates Sit Still and Pay Attention like telling them they'll get skittles if you do!),
and then waiting for the bus since they have about an hour long window when they may arrive at your house and you HAVE to be there because even if you feel like your six year old is responsible enough to walk 100 yards home the school knows better
and then forcing your grumpy child to do her homework when she'd much rather be out playing since she's already been sitting inside missing out on the sunshine all day
but you know she has to do it now because when Dad comes home you'll eat and by the time you're done she will only have just enough time to take a bath and get into bed so that she's not literally melting into nothingness due to sleep deprivation.

Needless to say, I have a lot of respect for the vast majority of parents who do this. Every day. For years.

We lasted 3 months before I couldn't take it anymore. My child was in school all day but yet somehow the school had reached it's tentacles all the way into my house and strangled my own daily routines.

So what do we do now?

We play in a lot of gardens. Ours or other peoples.

We spend a lot of time taking care of our various pets

And try to meet up with Dad for lunch at least once a week

We can leisurely do our errands...

....and can enjoy painting from life rather than from a picture.

We play dress up

Sometimes as animals...

...and sometimes as nice gentlemen and ladies

We perform plays and make movies (this is a still from Lily's book report on Ramona Quimby Age 8, in which Lily made a commercial to sell the book, just like Ramona did)

And take lots of field trips

We enjoy silly things like playing with light and reflections

And only fall asleep when the house is still and quiet

So maybe homeschooling is a bit more about me than the kids. I am terrible at handling stressful days, I am terrible at forcing my children to do things, and I am terrible at doing things I don't want to do.
I melt into a pile of goo when you throw a bucket of stress on me. But hey, we all just have to do our best with what we have, right?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Making the Most of Your Zoo Trip for Preschool-1st Graders

Finally warm weather means it's zoo season!
Although it's never much fun to have to do "school stuff" when you just want to go somewhere and have fun. I get it. But it's almost impossible to talk to the children about what I want to discuss with them when we go to the zoo. They're too full of energy and excitement to be reflective about what they're seeing.

Luckily we have a zoo membership so we can take fun trips and purposeful trips, without having to attempt to make zoo trips both. 

We had been talking about animal adaptations and classifications, so we took along a little notebook to keep track of the different kinds of animals we saw. Were they mammals, insects, arachnids, birds, fish, reptiles, or amphibians:

This was easy enough that it didn't really distract from the pleasure of observing the animals but we still got into some interesting discussions about how we could decide which category some should go in: Are penguins fish or amphibians or birds? How do we know?
There is nothing more fun than seeing you kids answer an obvious question ("Of course they're a bird!) and then become shockingly silent when you follow it up with "how do you know?"
You watch them silently thinking and trying to figure it out: "how in the world do I know that?? Maybe it's not. Am I sure?"
Nothing like a little doubt to get the gears grinding.

Once we got home we created a chart showing the kinds of animals the zoo has.

We then listed some of the special adaptations animals in the zoo have....

And combined all of them into a new animal: A furry, pouched, clawed, beaked, horned, striped, six-legged...uh, thing. I'm not quite sure if it was given a name. But it did have a child.

Finally, we looked at the adaptations our invented animal had and tried to guess what kind of environment it would live in. Has fur? Must be snowy. Has a beak and claws? Probably climbs and lives in trees.

None of this was the least bit "schooly" for my children and in fact they had a lot of fun coming up with their new animal and its habitat.

Happy schooling!

St. Patricks Day Homeschool Projects

Yes, St. Patrick's Day was two weeks ago. But I've had my moms birthday present sitting in my garage since August and still haven't sent out all of my Christmas cards so realistically I'm doing pretty well posting this within two weeks.

We are not Irish in any way, shape, or form. If I had to make up our family ancestry it'd be more like
1/4 Peruvian
1/4 German
1/2 British (note, this is different than simply "English")
Yep, no Irish

But St. Paddy's Day is a big day for us. Well, for me and the children it is. I think it's mostly because I love the color green, mostly because I love a good potato, and mostly because I love Irish literature. Mostly.
So every St. Patrick's Day we have our beer pot-roast, Irish soda bread, and boiled potatoes with a lovely chocolate stout cake (recipes here), and fill the day with activities, stories, and movies about dear Ireland.

The children and I cut out various heart shapes and glued them together to make four leaf clovers. Some we punch holes through and wrapped pipe cleaners through. I put them in a vase to make a faux clover bouquet. The rest we gave away to residents at my grandma's retirement community.

We also did one of the coolest experiments I've ever seen. I was absolutely floored by this. Most experiments we do are either anti-climatic or don't work as promised but this did both!

We started with three jars full of water. In one we put red food coloring, another yellow, and another blue. You know, the primary colors. Then we took a sheet of bounty paper towel, folded it, and put one end in the red water. Then we took an empty glass and folded the other end into it. We repeated with the blue and yellow, and continued until we had a circle of alternating water filled and empty jars with paper towels connecting each. (See full, and better, instructions here)

Then guess what happened?!? The colored water literally CLIMBED up the paper towel and filled up the empty jar. Because there were two colors going into each jar the colors would blend and we ended up with a full color wheel of colored water.

It took an entire day for all the water to finish but it was still really amazing to water.
I'm not sure how "Irish" rainbows are but it was still a fun experiments to complete. I don't know what experiment would be more Irish except for cooking a baby (Swift anyone?) but...yeah we're not doing that.

So we ate
did a craft
did an experiment

and finished our day with that wonderful classic, The Secret of Roan Inish

We've got to get Jimmy!!

Hope you have as wonderful of a day as we did!