In November our little four-family rotation came around to me, and I had a great time preparing my lesson plans. We spent the morning learning about the beginnings of Thanksgiving. We read Thanksgiving Day, by Gail Gibbons, played Cross the Sea in honor of the Mayflower's voyage, learned about some differences and similarities between the Pilgrims and the Indians, and made our own Indian "leather vests" out of brown paper grocery bags.
At our second November co-op, we celebrated one of everyone's favorite fruits of autumn: the glorious but humble apple. We learned about the life of John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed. We made our own apple trees.
We snacked on apples and made cinnamon-sugar soft pretzels as the perfect apple complement.
And, after sampling both green and red apples, we graphed our favorites. Red beat.
In December, we had one final co-op for the year, and I volunteered to teach again so that I can have a little break during Baby's first few months. Our Christmas-themed co-op found us reading The Donkey's Dream, by Barbara Helen Berger, and learning about the concept of symbols. We talked about different symbols for Jesus found in the Bible, and each child got to choose a little Christmas ornament to remind him/her of one symbol of our Savior. We made a Jesus-in-the-manger craft (except I used a different printable than the one shown). And then we had a quick grammar lesson and used our new knowledge about nouns, verbs and adjectives (with the mommies contributing a couple of exclamations) to create one very silly Christmas mad lib, as follows:
It was Christmas morning, and more than anything else, I was hoping for a big, cold momma under the tree. I jumped on my bed. I was so excited I could hardly wait for Mom and Dad to get me from my room so we could open the cats. The sparkly smell of delicious sandwiches wafted up the stairs and made my mouth dance. I felt so scared I thought I might go crazy if my parents didn't come soon. Just then, I heard a gentle Esme at my door. "Merry Christmas, Tree," said my dad, poking his bus driver around the door. "Merry Christmas, Tongue," said my mom from behind him. "Merry Christmas!" I ran, giving them both a big playground. "Are you ready to open some hairbrushes?" my dad asked. "Oh, my!" I said, crawling down the stairs. When I got to the living room, there in front of the baby was the most beautiful cook I had ever seen. I couldn't believe it. I felt so small I couldn't even carry. I turned around to look at my parents. They were both singing at me. For a moment, I just drew back. "Goodness sake, Mom and Dad," I finally said. "This is the bluest gift I ever got."Our other activity that day was making Snowman Shish Kabobs as part of our snack. There are numerous cute takes on this craft all over the web, but this simple version worked well for our group, as we have a number of food allergies represented. The kabobs required no dairy, no nuts, no whole grain crackers--just marshmallows, pretzel sticks, skewers, and food decorating pens. And just look at these happy little people with their cheerful snowmen:
Whoops! Someone ate hers before I could get a picture.
November was to begin with an exciting Metro ride downtown to the National Gallery of Art. Unfortunately, when the day dawned, Esme and Matthew were both too sick to go anywhere. I made an early-morning call to our dear friend Mrs. Apple, and she was able to take Meg along with her girls. I was SO grateful for this. Meg and I would have been seriously bummed to have her miss out on this one. When Meg returned from her big day out, she was chock full of stories and bore an art project she had completed at the museum, based on the work of Eric Carle. Not only that, but Mrs. Apple's ever-generous mother, who had accompanied them on the trip, bought Meg a book at the museum gift shop, Usborne's I Can Draw People. Meg had a fantastic time working through this book over the next few weeks. Here are a couple of the drawings she produced:
Our second November field trip was a Wilcox event, conceived by me and executed by my exceedingly excellent husband. A group of about 25 kids showed up at our church one morning, met Mr. Wilcox in the auditorium, and proceeded to take the Official Covenant Life Church Behind-the-Scenes Technical Tour. Dave did such a great job planning and leading our time. The kids got to try out a microphone, play with volume and effects on the big sound board, put on a light show, use the graphics and lyrics software to project stuff on the screens, hook up cables on the stage, explore the Treehouse Gang set, tour the video production room, and see themselves live on the big screen. What an exciting morning! (At least, I thought so... and the kids all seemed pretty psyched too.)
In December, Meg and I took a surprise field trip to see The Sound of Music at Olney Theatre. A friend who had a last-minute scheduling conflict asked if I would be able to take her daughter and use her extra two tickets for Meg and me. Um... free theater? OK! So off we went. It was Meg's first professional theater experience, and she was captivated. The first act of the show was probably an hour-and-a-half long, and I don't think Meg moved a muscle the whole time, except to turn and beam at me when she recognized a song. As for me, I had never seen a live production of The Sound of Music--unless you count the one we did in high school, with yours truly as a decidedly brunette Maria. So it was great fun to see this show--a real treat to be there.
Meg continued to love our Spell to Write and Read curriculum in November and December. She now has about 80 spelling words under her belt, plus compound words, and is able to use the phonograms and rules she's learned to sound out out many others. We also ventured into the world of writing sentences, which Meg finds absolutely elating. I really love dictating a sentence to her and seeing her face light up when she completes it correctly.
Meg read Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall aloud during November, and in December she started The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden and Barbara Cooney. I finished reading The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) to her, followed by Charlotte's Web (E.B. White, Garth Williams) and, most recently, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (Margaret Sidney).
By the week before Christmas, we almost finished out all of our math material for November and December. I still have two lessons left to squeeze in somewhere. I noticed a definite change in the productiveness of our math time when I switched math to a later time slot (we used to do it right after Circle Time each morning). For whatever reason, Meg and Matthew are not as tempted to be out-there silly during math if we spend time focusing elsewhere first. Math highlights from the last couple of months include graphing our extended family members' eye-colors, playing "which number is missing?"with our number cards, using pennies as manipulatives, and starting to learn to tell time. All big hits.
We are almost finished building our My Body projects! Recently we've added the stomach, small and large intestines, liver and lungs. Science is easily Matthew's favorite part of our school week, and he constantly asks in his most hopeful voice, "Are we doing 'My Body' now???"
Meg and I continued to read through America Begins, by Alice Dagliesh. It's been great to use our globe to talk about the routes and discoveries of various explorers. I love that my kids are already getting some world geography into their little brains. I'm positively ashamed at my own geographical ignorance--certainly through high school and college, and sometimes still today!
We continued listening to samples of classical and jazz music, trying to distinguish between the two, and working to identify specific instruments by ear. We have also gotten to know just a few composers and musicians, though we're only skimming the surface at this point. The kids LOVE Dizzy Gillespie, "the man with the strong cheeks." And Meg finds Pavarotti absolutely fascinating; she begs me to find YouTube videos of him performing whenever we have a music lesson.
I don't know that I've blogged about our Circle Time (how we start each school day) before, but for now it looks like this:
1. Sing the days of the week
2. Update days of the week on our poster
3. Pray The Lord's Prayer
4. Pray our own prayers--each person chooses one thing to pray about
5. Go to the front door to check the weather, talk about our observations, update our weather poster
6. Sing one "fun" song to the Lord ("My God is So Great," "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," "I'm in the Lord's Army," etc.)
7. Learn/practice our hymn of the month
8. Recite The Pledge of Allegiance
As far as hymns go, so far this year we have learned and memorized (with the help of hand motions):
1. "My Hope is Built"
2. "Amazing Grace"
3. "Come, Ye Thankful People"
4. "O Come, All Ye Faithful"
This is really old news, but I forgot to mention in September and October's posts that Meg and Matthew took their first swim lessons together. They both did a great job--especially Matthew, who started out terrified to get his face wet and became MUCH more courageous as the class moved forward.
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This is not really a rich, reflective post like many bloggers out there are posting today, but in a way, it is fitting. 2011 was, among other things, a year of much time, prayer, thought, effort and labor poured into our decision about schooling and our subsequent efforts to do kindergarten at home. And it has been a wonderful adventure so far.