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We've been covering Owl Moon by Jane Yolen in a lackadaisical way over the past week. Owl Moon is the story of a girl who goes out with her father on a winter night in hopes of seeing an owl. So naturally we've been learning about owls and the moon.

You can buy an owl pellet online, but K's grandfather was visiting and brought a couple that he had found in the woods. Since these were fresh from the owl and not nicely sterilized like the ones you find online, I was quite grateful that he was there to handle the dissection. The reason pregnant women shouldn't change cat litter is that it can carry toxoplasmosis, a disease adults barely notice but is dangerous to fetuses, and the place cats normally pick up toxoplasmosis is from eating wild rodents. Even after microwaving the pellets to help kill the germs and taking care not to touch them, I'm not sure I would have felt safe being that close to them. Anyway, with the help of some plastic utensils and a multitool, the pellets were dissected and it was deduced that they were the remains of a bird and some sort of small rodent.

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We spent another day reading all about owls. We also did a neat art project I found called Winter Birch Tree, where you put down masking tape to look like tree trunks and the moon, cover the paper in dark blue water color paint, sprinkle some salt on to give the effect of snowflakes, and then peel up the tape so you have a lovely nighttime scene of trees and the moon. If one wanted, one could use the opportunity to point out the use of shadow in the art in Owl Moon while adding shading to the trees. We didn't, or at least as far as I know since this art project happened while I was at work. K's two efforts didn't have much resemblance to those on the web page I found the project on, but they're lovely in their own way and she had fun.

On our last day, we read a bunch of books on the moon and solar system, watched several videos on Discovery Streaming, and then did a project on the phases of the moon. It was a fun and productive day, but not in a way that gives me a lot to talk about.

So that was our week of Owl Moon, which was really more like a week and a half. I've been trying to plan out what we're doing in the next few weeks. At 30 weeks pregnant, my energy is pretty low and getting lower, so I think we won't be covering a lot of books as thoroughly as I would like. I'm also not cleaving terribly closely to Five in a Row at the moment. K keeps giving me requests for topics that it doesn't cover very well, like London, or her ocean obsession or her longstanding request to make a volcano. Added to that is the fact that FIAR is a bit poor when it comes to racial diversity or really much of any diversity outside of the USA and Western Europe. So next week we're doing a book on Hawaii (to be determined based on what I can get from the library), which will address the volcano desire as well as some ocean life. After that, I'm contemplating Robert McCloskey's One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder jointly, which will give us the excuse to spend more time on the ocean, and even throw in some dentisty, another subject of interest (no, that particular choice doesn't address the lack of racial diversity, but they're good books for the ocean-obsessed child). Beyond that, I'm not sure yet.

Books used this week:

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
See How They Grow: Owl by Mary Ling
Owls by Tony Angell
Owls : the Silent Hunters by Sara Swan Miller
Great Horned Owls by Doug Wechsler
I didn't Know That the Sun is a Star by Kate Petty
The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
The Moon by Elaine Landau
Moon by Steve Tomacek
The Magic School Bus Get Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole
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So we've been engaging in educational pursuits lately, really. Many of my plans have been stymied by the nasty cold I've had for the past two weeks. K also threw a wrench in my plans for starting with a week on castles and the Middle Ages by developing a grand passion for the ocean and fish.

I'm finding myself often being caught wondering where I draw the line between insisting K do the things I have planned and deciding that the advantage of homeschooling is that we can follow her passions. When it comes to reading and math, I'm good at staying firm, although I might make compromises like letting her spend more time on Reading Eggs or put off a handwriting assignment until tomorrow. But with everything else, my feeling is that in first grade, it's only reading and math that have a particular level that a child should be able to achieve. As for the other subjects, it's important that they learn history, science, art, health, etc. But there is anything in particular in those subjects that you can point to and say, "A first grader should know that." It's not like she should be expected to know American history through the War of 1812 and have a good grasp of geology. So since our approach is that she should be exposed to these subjects but the actual topics we cover are entirely up to us, it's hard to insist that we absolutely must be learning about castles when all she's interested in is dolphins and sea anemones.

So we finished up The Duchess Bakes a Cake and our study of the micro-organisms that help make our food by making bread and yogurt, then moved on to Very Last First Time, the story of an Inuit girl in Canada who goes beneath the sea ice at low tide to gather mussels on her own for the first time.

And here was where I ran into a problem I've worried about since embarking on FIAR: what if K refuses to read the main book? We had a bit of this with Cranberry Thanksgiving, but I was able to get her to listen to it after some persuasion. The thing is, sometimes K will take one look at something and decide she absolutely does not like it and will not be moved on the subject. She's extremely stubborn, and I have learned that fighting it head-on is the worst possible approach if it's not something that's really important (stubborn refusal won't get her out of a trip to the dentist or picking up her toys, for instance). It's better to try and take a different angle or give her time to warm up to it after some persuasion. In this case, for reasons she wouldn't or couldn't explain, K refused to read Very Last First Time. And I was getting sick and was nearly seven months pregnant and just didn't have the patience to work her around to it.

So I decided that there was nothing stopping us from covering the topics I had planned on covering. So we read lots of books on the Arctic and spent quite a bit of time looking up information on the sea animals that live there. We did a lesson in pontillism, which is the style Very Last First Time is illustrated in, but works fine as a standalone topic. K developed a passion for sled dogs, so we looked up information on them and K spent quite a bit of time getting pulled around in a laundry basket by her visiting grandfather.

From there, we moved on to Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, with more success. I'm hoping to finish it up in the next couple days, so it will get an entry of its own.
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On our last day of Mirette, we studied the geography of Paris. I didn't have a lot of luck finding age-appropriate non-fiction books, but found several nice picture books that gave a good overview of the geography of Paris. We started with Everybody Bonjours, which I nearly didn't check out at first because the text is so basic, but then I flipped to the back and found the detailed guide of all of the Paris landmarks pictured in the book. Highly useful. From there, we read a few more books and looked for the landmarks we had already learned about. We did a brief detour to learn a bit about gargoyles, then watched a few videos on Paris aimed at tourists. Since Mirette takes place in the 1890s, we've been reading a Magic Treehouse book that takes place during the World's Fair of 1889, for which the Eiffel Tower was built.

Then we moved to the hands-on portion of the lesson. First, I had K cut out a paper model of Paris that I found on the Web, which was great fun to play with. Then we made a wooden model of the Eiffel Tower from one of the many kits available at Michaels. We've done a number of those kits and they're surprisingly good for $5 or less. They're marketed as 3d puzzles, but with some glue (and I highly recommend using glue if you want it stay together), they become very nice little models, or in a couple cases, lovely little dollhouses with functional furniture. It became clear quite early on that K inherited my interest and ability in working with her hands. I did a lot of the model (there were parts that just would not have fit together and stayed without adult strength), but she was very good at spotting how the pieces should fit together. Altogether, it was a very pleasing project.



Our next book is going to be The Duchess Bakes a Cake, largely because it came in the mail the other day and once I said the word "cake," K was set on it. I wouldn't have necessarily chosen right now for it because we have plans for two other books to take advantage of grandparents being around for Christmas who can help with certain topics. The medieval theme of Duchess lends itself to a more extended study that we won't have time for if we want to cover the other books while grandparents are here. Life is also pretty distracting right now, which is why I haven't been pushing heavy academic work right now. But we can always find another book to cover the Middle Ages if we want to come back to it later.

Books used today:

Everybody bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman
Babar Loses His Hat by Laurent de Brunhoff
Come fly with me by Satomi Ichikawa
Night of the new magicians by Mary Pope Osborne

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