Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Florida

My Florida

I've lived here my whole life. Sometimes when you grow up in a place and you still live there...and you see it everyday, you start to miss it. You start to not see it. 

You get so caught up in traffic lights and Target that you miss the beauty all around you.

At least I do. I'm constantly running through my to-do list. I'm constantly feeling just a little (and sometimes a lot) behind.

It can be awfully refreshing to put that all on a shelf for a morning and just take a walk.

To some place new and quiet. Some place peaceful.

To be a child.

It's amazing to see your home through your child's eyes. I remember when everything seemed so big and wild.

I remember believing that it was all just waiting for me. 

It's an exciting feeling.

And now it's all just waiting for my kids.

What an invitation.

I don't want to miss it.

I don't want them to miss it.

Because this is their home.

This is their Florida.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday's Art Smarts: Paper Bag Pirate Ships

Happy (belated) Talk Like a Pirate Day, Matey!

In case you missed it, it was yesterday, and it must've been somewhat official because Krispy Kreme was definitely giving away dozens of doughnuts for dressing and talking like a pirate. If that's not official, I don't know what is.

We, however, talk like a pirate most days since pirates happen to be one of Daniel's very favorite things right now. In fact, hardly a day goes by when Daniel isn't singing about going to Bag o' Bones Island. So even though it has absolutely nothing to do with our learning theme this week, I couldn't let the day pass without some sort of a celebration.


1. brown paper lunch bags
2. stuffing material (we used magazine pages)
3. stapler
4. card stock cut into triangles
5. toothpicks
6. packaging tape
7. tempera paints
8. paint brushes
9. (optional) puffy paint


Project Ahoy!

Start by stuffing the paper bag full of your stuffing material. I told my kids to ball up the paper, but not too tight. Stuff until you've got a nice, full "ship."

After the kids stuffed, I folded the open end down into a sort of triangle and stapled the bag closed.

Then we opened our paints and got decorating. I just squirted a few drops of paint onto a little palette for each of them and they were allowed to brush and mix at will. I did not give them water for rinsing and instead told them to just wipe the brush dry on their palette before choosing a new color.

They painted their sails:

And their ships:

After the tempera paint dried, I opened the puffy paints and let them further decorate.

After that, we needed to let the ships dry overnight. They got a little carried away with the puffy paint. Arg!

This morning, we added the sails by pushing a toothpick into the top of the bag, positioning the sail in front of it, and taping it down. I also added a bit of tape between the card stock and the top of the bag to stabilize it.

Ta da!

Shiver me timbers - it was quick, easy, simple, and fun!

Let's go find some treasure!

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Things That I Want and The Things That I Have

Today Daniel had five accidents. Five.

Two of them happened in a row as we were walking out the door to go to Silas's check up at the doctor. We were already late.

I couldn't understand why he didn't just go to the bathroom. Why? After I got him in front of the potty, I had to stand in another room while he finished up. I was very close. To losing it.

And I am exhausted. I am so tired. I can't keep my eyes open and I don't know why I'm still awake. Except that there's something kind of therapeutic in just typing out my thoughts, stream of consciousness style.

So, here goes.

Today was so hard that I am glad to see it's over. The kids are in bed. I think they're asleep. I need a break. A real break, not just a pop into the nearest book store kind of break, but the kind where it's okay to wake up late and I can go to the bathroom without worrying what the one year old is getting into. The kind where it's a reality that I can just hop on my bike and ride to the nearest coffee shop. And then I can sit there and drink a cup of coffee. Or two. I want time. Some real time to just be. I want freedom. Some real freedom to come and go as I please. With just me and my keys and maybe another cup of coffee. I want to sit on the beach and close my eyes and listen to the sea gulls and kids playing and know that I don't have to keep half an eye (or both eyes all the time) on them.

Those are the things that I want.

But what I have is an office chair and a computer desk and a very worn and very cozy blue blanket on my lap. And I have the sound of the water filter in the turtle tank we just set up this week. That's nice. It's like a water feature and it makes me wonder why we haven't kept fish before. I love the sound. I have a warm house and a warm bed with not one, but two warm blankets. I have flowers and strawberries and new baby radishes coming up in the backyard. We just saw them for the first time today. That was fun. And I have three sleeping children in their beds. And they are good. They are hard. They are maybe the hardest thing I've ever done. But they are so good.

Those are the things that I have.

I suppose, in the end, that's not such a bad list. In fact...I kind of have a lot.  

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Friday's Art Smarts: Fingerprint Ants

Well, you know what they say...a day late and a dollar short.

That's only half true here. I'm not claiming this project was a dollar short, though it is a few days late (sorry about that). It didn't quite go as planned, but I liked how the kids took an idea and ran with it. Just did their own thing. Sometimes their own thing is pretty cool ;)

The idea behind this project couldn't be more simple. Give the kids black and red paint. Review the parts of an ant. Let them dip their fingers in the paint. Make an ant. Or two...or lots. Once the paint dries, use a black marker to draw in the legs (after reviewing how many legs an ant has), the antennae, and the eyes.  Simple. Easy peasy.


Wrong. At least, for my kiddos. Here's what happened.


1. Tempera paint in the colors of your choice (we used black and red)
2. plates on which to spread the paint
3. art paper
4. black marker


Squirt two small puddles of paint on the plate, one in each color. Show the kids how to dip their fingers and make fingerprint ants on art paper by connecting three fingerprints together. I learned that the adult (you) might need to be very specific during this step. Because it you're not, this might happen:

We ended up with a whole lot less ant and a whole lot more Morse Code. Once I became more involved in the supervision they both seemed to catch on...a little. I think they just loved making fingerprints. Why stop at three when you can make four, five or six?

If you do happen to get a few good "ants," then wait until your paint dries and move on to the next step. Or, you could stop here and admire your series of polka dots.  

Give those ants some legs and antennae.

By this point, I had completely let go of any idea that this was going to look like what I had envisioned. And it started to be fun to see what they turned their dots into.

Some of Daniel's ants had really looooong legs :D

Ready to see their finished pieces?

Daniel, age 3
Notice that he didn't stop with black marker. Once he got a hold of a red crayon, it was all over from there. 

Natalie, age 4
If you look carefully, you'll be able to make out some princess stamps. Because what is art without a stamped castle in the corner?

Thanks for bearing with us. Sometimes art projects don't go exactly as planned, but they're always a lot of fun!

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Creating an Ant Buffet and Homemade Ant Farm

Today's post is twofold, and both of the parts were completely spur of the moment. This, by the way, is one of the things I love about homeschool. As a teacher in a traditional school, there's a lot less room for spur of the moment ideas and activities. You can, of course, do some of that, and some teachers do. But I am really loving the freedom of learning and teaching at home. 

"Ah. You wanna see what ants like to eat? Sure. Let's look in the fridge."

"Oh, you want to make an ant farm like the one in our story? Well...I think I have some vases up here. Let's look." 

Since we're at home, everything we need is already here. It is nice to have a plan, but it's also nice to add things in...because we can. 

Anyway, on to the fun stuff. As we've been talking about ants, one of the questions that came up was, "What do ants like to eat?" Our story basically answered that question already: other insects, sugar, and honey. But I thought it would be so much fun to make an ant buffet to test out a bunch of different foods. So after nap, we did.

I cut out a piece of cardstock to look like an artist's palette (You know...a palette of food instead of colors. Is that cheesy? Maybe that's a little cheesy.). Then I raided our fridge to come up with a bunch of different kinds of foods for the ants to sample. It doesn't take much. Ants don't need a lot.

Here's what we came up with:

That's (from left to right): cheese, ham, sugar, honey, carrots, crackers, raisins.

Before we let the ants have a go at the buffet, I asked each child what they thought the ants would really go for. Natalie hypothesized that the ants would love the sugar and the honey. Daniel thought that they would go for everything. And my personal hypothesis (though I kept this to myself) was that the ants would be all over that pile of sugar. 

We searched for a few minutes for a good, active ant hill, and then set up camp. Within a few minutes, we had some action:

Bam! First surprise. The cheese (with this particular species of ant) was by far the most popular.

But the crackers and the raisins weren't far behind:

Whoa! They were all like, "Oh no. This is coming with us."

And after they'd explored those things, they found the honey:

Aren't they kind of cute? They kept reminding me of horses drinking at a trough.

They didn't touch the pile of sugar. In fact, I set this down at three different colonies, and none of them gave it a second glance. Interesting. 

I gave the kids their hypothesis pages (on which I wrote their hypothesis down for them) and instructed them to each draw what they were observing.

Natalie is drawing her ant here in yellow:

And Daniel chose orange for his ant. He was so cute - he was thinking out loud as he drew, and I could hear him say, "And this is the thooorax."

Okay, it was at this point that I remembered the kids wanted to make an ant farm. And here we had a bunch of worker ants ready to go.

The problem was, though, it wasn't set up yet. So I hurried inside and grabbed a few supplies. 

One large clear glass vase
One smaller vase or bottle. When we fit our bottle inside the larger vase, there was about a quarter inch of space all around.
rubber band


I carefully turned the bottle upside down and placed it inside the larger vase.

Then I gave Daniel the spade and instructed him to dig up some dirt near the ant hill (not on top of the ant hill, though) and put it into the sieve. After that I sifted the dirt into the vase. Most of it landed on top of the bottle and then I brushed it down into the sides. Sifting the dirt first makes it easier for the ants to dig their tunnels.

Not gonna lie. This was a tedious process. In the end though, It only took about 20 minutes to get all the dirt we needed.

Unfortunately, by that time the little black sugar ants had had their fill of our buffet and were all back inside their ant hill.

Er. So we picked up the buffet and went in search of a different colony. We found these little guys:

Who didn't touch the cheese at all. In fact, they were mostly excited about that ham and the honey.

But really, they didn't come out in droves like the ants at the last colony. So we picked up our buffet and went in search of another one. I did end up finding some pretty enthusiastic little ants by the sidewalk in our back yard, and we collected some of them, but they were bright red. Fire ants. 

Oh. You're probably wondering what that cloth was for. It's to keep those little guys inside:

Although I'm not really sure that it worked because when I checked on them this morning, I found a couple very lethargic ants and...nothing else. Where did the rest of them go? Could they have escaped??

Good thing I opted to keep that farm on the porch. The last thing we need is a bunch of angry fire ants running around our house. 

So. Back to the drawing board. 

Maybe it's a good thing that our ant collecting didn't go so well yesterday. Because, without a queen, an ant farm won't last for very long anyway. Not only that, but you won't be able to witness a true colony in action since the workers won't have much to do but dig. This kind of farm is useful and fun for watching the ants dig their underground city, but it isn't nearly as educational. After yesterday's unsuccessful attempt to gather some ants, I think I'll be reworking our technique, and will try to capture a queen. Either that, or we'll just send off for some ants. 

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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Mighty Ant

Ants are strong - really strong. Check this thing out:

That large ant that you see there wasn't actually moving. Well, not by itself, anyway. We saw these two much smaller ants dragging the larger (and quite dead) ant across our driveway. Which was an awesome thing to witness after our short lesson on ants and ant behavior this morning!

Today we started our second week of homeschool. I'm happy to report that last week was a success - not only did we survive, but Daniel finished the week on a high note and was ready to get started with week two today. 

Ants. I wanted us to get up close and personal with ants this week for a few different reasons.

1. Maureen Spell has included nature journal pages for ant study in her amazing ebook, available here
2. "Ant" begins with the letter A, which is the second letter of the alphabet that we're studying. I wanted Daniel to learn all the letters in his name first, and then we'll move on with the rest of the alphabet.
3. Ants are everywhere. There are plenty of opportunities in our yard for easy observation, ha ha. 
4. And last, but not least, ants are super hard workers. They are (say it with me, Daniel) diligent. The ant provides the perfect opportunity to help Daniel understand what that word means. 

If you're curious about our plan for the week, you can visit my planning page here.

Today we read Ants are Fun, by Mildred Myrick.

We bought our copy of this book a few weeks ago at a consignment shop and I'm so glad we did. Not only is it an engaging story that held my 3 year old's attention the whole way through, but it's loaded with all kinds of facts. Also, it doesn't hurt that Arnold Lobel drew the pictures. And since we can all agree that he's one the greatest authors/illustrators of all time, we should also agree that this book is worth checking out. 

From this story, Daniel learned that ants start out as eggs, then hatch into larvae, grow into pupae (which he loved saying over and over again...three guesses why), and finally become adults. We also talked about some of the things that ants eat (sugar, honey, and other insects) and that two colonies of ants can end up fighting each other. 

Which is what made those ants on our driveway this morning so exciting! Was there a fight? Did the small ants kill that larger ant somehow, or did they just find him? Were they taking him back to the colony to be eaten? 

I asked Daniel all these questions, but his eyes were glazed over at that point. I'm pretty sure he was in beach mode already. Fair enough. He'd been a good student that morning. Time to play.

The beach! It's always fun to go to the beach, although it felt a little weird to be there without Natalie. 

I let the kids play for a little while. Here's Silas working on his own little nature study.

Look, mom!

After some play time, I gave the boys snacks and sat down with Daniel to do what we came to do (other than play): letter practice. So I grabbed a handful of sand and put it in the lid of a plastic shoe box. At first we reviewed letter D.

Good job! I'm so glad I caught his "Aren't you proud of me?" face.

Then we worked on letter A.

Not bad! I had to help him with this one. I drew the first line, then he finished with the other two. This was definitely a second or third attempt; the first couple tries were a little crazy. 

I love how school for Daniel is turning into a natural part of his day...starting with a very short lesson and story in the morning, then moving on to some sort of activity and snack (outside if possible). And that's it. It's not too much or forced. And he's practicing skills (and lessons are being reinforced) as we go about our day. It just seems like the best - the easiest - way to do things. It's working for us.

We didn't stay too long today since we had to get home, get cleaned up, and get to Natalie's school to pick her up. So after about 45 minutes to an hour, we packed up. Not a bad way to spend the morning!

Have a great Monday and a great start to your week, everyone!

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