Tuesday, May 31, 2016

100 Days Smarter!

We launched our school year back in September of 2015. And it's the end of May 2016...finally celebrating being 100 days smarter.  We VERY casually counted our days of learning.  using these by our calendar:
and boy was it exciting to flip that card over to 100 and add our final sticker on our pattern chart.

This 100th Day celebration thing was introduced to me back in 2004 when I was teaching 27 first graders.  During the class calendar time, the kids would help me count down.  We had to be consistent with our 100 day countdown because the school made a big deal out of it also!  Celebrating back then was fun stuff...so it was a MUST to carry over this concept into our homeschool.

When you school year 'round, why stress about when your 100th day will be celebrated?  Learning happens in this house (and all around town) every day.  Last week, we hit the big number...and THIS is how we celebrated it.

I created a SlideShow using google drive.  This show sparked up some excitement, added fun ways to do Math/critical thinking and kept us on track.

The night before, while watching TV with the hubby, I blew up 50 balloons, then bagged them...10 balloons per bag.  
I knew this would be a great multiplication problem for J, a great way to reinforce counting by 10s for N, and just plain fun for MiniM.

Once we blew up the rest of them up, I posed this question ...

Lots of good conversation came from this question.  And lots of FUN came from this frugal idea.   Be sure and check out the SLOW-MO video on our Mommy's Little Learners Facebook page.

The next question was a little sneaky.  And the boys were VERY concerned about tummy aches after eating 100 donuts.

And all of you that know me well, probably know that I could throw down on 100 donut holes.  Here was my plan all along:

As our morning rolled along, we had fun with popcorn kernels and measuring DrPepper in milliliters.

This one REALLY surprised them.  Milliliters sounds like ALOT to a 7, 5 and 2 year old.  They were very surprised to find out how much 100 ml really is.

Today was the day for groceries so I weaved the 100th day of school celebration into going to Sams.  

  I gave J &N a REAL 100 bill.  They helped pick out groceries and even picked out a book as their goodie.  During check out, they handed over their $100.  J said "WOW!  we need more money to pay all these!"
Exactly!  My point had been made (at least to the 7 year old)  Two Hundred dollars goes REALLY fast when you are feeding 3 boys and their Daddy.

And to end the epic day...I asked them this:

And I bet you can hear their screaming answer! 

Later that night, I video interviewed them answering this question:
And what they said brought tears to my eyes and made my heart so happy.  
We did, learned, explored, read, hiked, played and so much more...all together!    
And darn!  The 7 year old never got his picture taken with the photo prop before it got tossed in the trash.

Happy Learning with your Little Ones!

Monday, May 16, 2016

What do I do with THAT littlest learner

This is a question that I get ALL the time! How do you teach with a toddler in the house?

Sometimes, I wonder myself.  So I’m glad you asked…because you gave me the chance to take a walk down memory lane and look through old pictures. (sniff, sniff)

And 3 things became very apparent during my search for pictures for examples.

*Confinement or Sensory Entertainment - if we were learning in the kitchen, MiniM was strapped in his high chair with either a snack or some manipulatives.  If we were playing with Legos or something small, he was in the pack n play using his Duplo Legos or something big.  He was confined, but he was there.  If we need to do a reading lesson, he is outside playing in his sand table while I sit at the picnic table with J.  If we are working on a Math problem, I send N and MiniM out to clean the sliding window with a squirt bottle and some rags.  WHO CARES if they get wet!  If they give us 10 minutes - that’s golden.

*Inclusion and exploration - I honestly feel that all little brothers and sisters want is to be including in the exploration and learning that is happening.  Telling them “NO!” only makes them want it more. (It’s only getting us set up for the teenage years, right?)  So I always make sure that if MiniM can be involved, he is involved.  If they are writing, he is “writing”.  If they are doing Math, then he has manipulatives doing “math”.  If it’s something that he could seriously get hurt doing or completely mess up…I wait.  I wait until he is napping or until he is occupied with playing by himself or with N.  And sometimes, I just might have to wait until a Saturday morning to teacher J when Daddy is home.

MiniM has his own station to explore.  He has learning toys at his eye level that I rotate every so often (helps maintain the excitement)  We clean up together, putting everything up in it’s place so that it’s “like new” again the next hour he decides to play.

*Honoring their time and youth -  I sprinkle learning throughout our day!  So when I teach J and N, we either do it as a group and the baby is contained somehow OR we do it in small chunks.  These guys are young!  Let them be little!!!  

If we need to do a reading lesson, we read outside while MiniM plays at his sand table.  My lessons are short and sweet bc of how old my kids are now.  Someday, we will ALL be able to sit around the table and enjoy learning together as I popcorn around and teach each of them. 

But for now, I’m giving myself grace.  I’m giving them a childhood FULL of learning that looks a lot differently than it will in 5 years.

No more Writing Blues..

He can read like a 2nd grader, does math like a 5th graders and writes like a hummmmm…a kindergartener!

This is my J-man.  And it was very evident that he needed some help in writing.  I knew from classroom experience, as a public school teacher, that writing is really an art.  And kids flourish, in writing, when they are given the opportunity to write and share with their peers.  But how in the world was that going to work as a homeschooler?  I knew that the 5 year old and the 2 year old in the house were NOT going to help me this time!

Well…this was my solution.  Let's form a weekly Writer's Club (notice it's not a class, because a CLUB is much cooler)

As a classroom teacher, I was NEVER given the option or opportunity to hand-pick my own students.  I had emailed a few moms about this idea of a “Writer’s Club” and they were in!  I had writers that were proficient and I had writers that barely knew their letter sounds.  And that was just what J needed!

So I rounded up my students and we began Writer’s Club.  The purpose and goal of this club was to embrace and enjoy writing.  To celebrate and share ideas and collaborate as a team of young writers.  

And I can proudly say that is just what happened…and it was beautiful.

Every Monday, for 4 weeks, I would walk these amazing kids down to our local library.  The other moms (being the saints that they are) would commit to staying and playing with all the others back at our house.  It was the perfect set-up!  J got time doing some purposeful learning with his friends (and away from his brothers) while N and MiniM got to socialize with kids of their own ages. 

While at the library, our Writer's Club would learn and write for about 1 hour, walk back to my house and then have a GIANT playdate and picnic.

Turning and talking to our writing buddies about our writing topics and ideas

J planning his Kylo Ren book out on chart paper

The crew doing a round table share of their homework before class started.
The littles enjoying their picnic!

Every kid deserves a light saber fight after their writing lesson, right?

After everyone had played and ate lunch, each writer would share.  They would proudly share their work...not with their peers, but with their parents and even better their siblings.  Smiles were shared, applauds were given and proud writers beamed as their took their bow for their hard-days work.

MiniM even decided that he deserved a chance to share his "writing".  This moment, seriously, brought tears to my eyes! 

 But the fun didn't end there!  The last day of our sessions were ALWAYS the Publishing Party!  This was end of the finish line, the performance after all the practice...this made it all worth it! 

Before our party, our class work would be preparing for THIS!  We brought my laminator.  We bound books using my binding machine.  We put the finishing touches on this young writer's work so that this moment could become a great memory for all!

During our 2nd session, we wrote a non-fiction class book titled "All About Animals"

So my Mommy Mission was accomplished!  J is writing independently now, creating his very own books (usually about Whales).  He even started sending emails to Daddy at work, just about every day...all by himself.

His confidence was lifted.  His attitude towards writing clearly changed.  
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