It actually felt great to get back to school this week after being off all last week due to Brynne's sickness! We had a great week of learning!
The highlight of our day each day (after watching Carl on CNN Student News) is reading our latest Little House book. This week we read Chapters 13-23 of On the Banks of Plum Creek. So far this is my favorite book in the series.
In grammar we learned about helping verbs. And I mean we learned them. You just gotta memorize those suckers. There's no other way around it. To help us out we learned The Helping Verb Song (to the tune of Jingle Bells). By the end of the week Brynne had the song memorized and now knows all 23 helping verbs! Eli almost has it memorized, too.
To finish up our study of the parts of a tree, we completed a Parts of a Tree Unscramble from Education.com and watched the video The Secret Life of Trees by the University of Illinois. These were both very good.
As Laura and Mary started attending school in our reading, we learned about the great educator Noah Webster. We watched Who Was Noah Webster - Drive Through History. We have this series on DVD and the kids are now old enough that they really enjoy it. We will be using it more and more.
Then the kids did a Noah Webster biography reading assignment and an online quiz by Garden of Praise. I was thrilled at how well the kids did on this. We are not ones who usually take tests. In fact I completely shy away from reading a passage, answering questions, and then testing on them. It feels like the part of school that I think is worthless ... total memorization and regurgitation of information. Typically I know when my kids have retained information that we have studied because they talk about it and use it in real life situations. I don't need them to mark A, B, C or D to show me they have learned something about a topic. But I was curious how well they would do if they were required to take a reading comprehension test. They read the Noah Webster biography that was detailed in facts. Then they answered 20 multiple choice questions. Eli only missed two and Brynne only missed one. They were beaming at how well they had done! And I was, too. It's always fun to have confirmation that they really are as smart as I think they are! Then Brynne saw that there were other biographies and quizzes that were on the site and she wants to do some just for fun. Okay ... go for it!
We started learning about Conductors and Insulators from Science Kids. This was a computerized activity where the kids could choose items that they thought would light up the bulb when placed in the circuit. They learned the attributes of those things that would be good conductors and those that wouldn't (insulators). On Monday we will be doing a set of experiments about conductors and insulators. I am looking forward to the experiments (they look fun!) and getting back into our science notebooks.
We did a short writing assignment by doing a five-senses descriptive paragraph. We had just read a part of the story where Laura falls in the freezing cold creek. I had the kids imagine themselves doing that and to describe, with all five of their senses, the experience. Our writing could use a little work. We haven't done a lot of writing this year but we will pick back up with Write Shop after Christmas and do regular daily assignments.
Ma and the girls would make star light catchers out of old scraps of paper to hang off their shelves since they did not have money for other decorations for their home. They resembled a string of paper dolls. We took a few minutes to make some.
The topic of debt has come up in our Little House assignments lately. We watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie where the Ingalls family had built up a tab at the general store waiting for Pa to receive payment on a job he had been working on at the mill over the past couple of months. When it was time for him to get paid he was told that the company they had been doing the work for had gone bankrupt and they would not get paid. The family had to sacrifice (truly sacrifice ... not the 21st century's version of the word) to get the debt paid. Then one of the stories in On the Banks of Plum Creek involved the family borrowing all of the supplies to build their house with an intention to pay the debt once their first wheat crop was harvested. There is evidence of possible "grasshopper weather" so we are anticipating they will lose the crop and not be able to pay the debt. The kids are stressed about this as we are reading. I have also been sharing with the kids some instances of how debt has affected our lives personally. I have tried to be as honest with them as possible. What they have learned from these stories is, "Just don't do it." Do not go into debt. Don't. Honestly, if this is the only thing they learn this entire school year then I am happy.
We listened to and discussed the song Uncle John is Sick Abed. This song is part of a story where the girls are playing "Ring Around the Rosie" on the playground because that's what Nellie wants to play, but the other girls want to play "Uncle John". Nellie gets mad and pulls Laura's hair and trots off like she has won, but then the girls walk away from Nellie and play Uncle John anyway. (Of course Nellie's behavior always gives us good topics of conversation!) The kids took this story and completed a sequencing worksheet to determine if they could remember in what order the events of the story took place. We had read this a couple of days before so it was a challenge for them. But they did great! It is also interesting to learn about the different games that children played in pioneer days. Very interesting.
We spent a couple of different days creating a prairie flower landscape canvas to hang in my bedroom. We used this tutorial and worked together. We have loved visualizing what the prairie fields must have looked like at the Ingalls' home and now we can see a piece of it every day. I love the way it turned out! I am honored to hang it on my wall!
We spent the last 45 minutes of each of our school days watching Little House on the Prairie. This week we watched Season 2, Episodes 1-4.
Brynne started basketball practice this week and the kids are back to bowling on Saturday mornings. Did you know that in three games of bowling you walk approximately one mile? With the strength exercises of lifting and throwing the ball, you can bet we count our bowling time on Saturdays as P.E. school hours. They receive constant instruction from the owners of the bowling alley. Eli is also going to start bowling on Friday evenings to get in some extra practice because he treats bowling as his sport. He doesn't just think of it as recreation. He wants to improve and compete in it.
We figured up all of our hours to determine when we will be able to take our Christmas break. We will take off Thanksgiving and the day after and then will end school for the first semester on December 12th. We will then take off school for a month before we resume on January 15th. Seeing a long break ahead gives us incentive to put in our hours now.