Some highlights of our homeschooling week…

Katie and I are loving, loving the Harry Potter series. I have such cozy memories of reading it all the first time, but I am experiencing more joy sharing that world with her. She is so engrossed in it, and I can see her actively involved in that world as we’re cuddling and reading and discussing. We finished the second book, The Chamber of Secrets, this week, and we are now a little over a third of the way through The Prisoner of Azkaban. We love to read. Katie and I are bookworms together—I love sharing that trait with my daughter. She has had many, many, many thousands of pages read to her in her short life—and we see the fruits of this philosophy in her vocabulary and cognition and in her imagination. This Harry Potter world is such a rich one for her. Even when we are not reading, I can hear her using the characters and plot and some of the new words in her play. I do not know which one of the seven books we’ll be on in October, but I plan to decorate parts of the house like Hogwarts this year for Halloween. So much fun!!

Her favorite character, by far, is Rubeus Hagrid. She wants to marry Hagrid and go to school at Hogwarts. She asks daily when she can meet Hagrid. We’ve discussed whereabouts Hogwarts would be on our real globe (most Harry Potter scholars locate Hogwarts in the Scottish isles based on textual information).

One of our morning activity trays involved coloring three pictures of Hagrid and gluing them on orange paper to make a Hagrid poster. She also wrote his name at the bottom of it. She is gaining real momentum now on writing her letters—very exciting!

In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Hagrid teaches a class called Care of Magical Creatures. We read a passage this week about a hippogriff, one of the creatures Hagrid introduces to the class. The hippogriff is described as a blend of several animals’ body parts. For one of our trays, I cut out several different animal heads and bodies, wings, and tails from various magazines. Katie was instructed to glue them together however she wanted to make more of the magical creatures that Hogwarts students might learn about in Hagrid’s class.

Some of Katie’s magical creatures.

After reading about stereognostic activities (the student is blindfolded and must discern properties of objects through senses other than sight), I decided to try a stereognostic tray. I put four different kinds of blocks (several of each kind) in a big jar, attempted to blindfold Katie, and had her sort them using only her sense of touch. This was a BIG FLOP for us. The blindfold kept slipping, and Katie couldn’t resist the urge to peek. Since she obviously can sort blocks very easily when looking at them, this did not have the degree of educational value that I’d hoped for. I need a better blindfold!

But this tray was much more to her liking! She had a bowl, whisk, a dish soap pump, and a little chicken pitcher filled with water. She had to pump soap into the bowl, pour in the water from the pitcher, and whisk heartily to make bubbles. Fun!

I was excited to give her this tray, too—but it proved too easy. I knew she would match up the lids to the jars right away, but I thought it might take her longer to screw them on. The whole tray took maybe a couple of minutes to complete…at most. I’ll give this to Eric when he is much younger. Again, I wish, wish, wish I’d started some of these “practical life” trays with Katie when she was 18 months or so.

This was an easy tray to set up. 😉 I love these Melissa and Doug lacing beads. We ended up moving this to the floor and all three of us played with it. Eric can’t lace, yet, but he loves to take the beads off of the laces—which is also a great skill to practice.

Science this week was more bugs! We had a fabulous opportunity to see preserved and living specimens from UCR on Thursday (see blog post) and also made a couple of bug-themed crafts at the workshop. In keeping with our bug theme, here was our major art project this week:

A butterfly! We painted it and then put some sparklies on its wings. We had made one like this for my mom for Mother’s Day using a cool color palette. I brought out the warm colors today, and I quized Katie to see if the big art unit we did last summer (my previous blog site has several posts about these lesson plans) is still sticking to her brain. It is. She identified these as “warm colors” and we talked about some of our projects last year on Van Gogh, Cassatt, and Monet.

We hung it up in our yard from one of our trees over by the kiddos’ picnic area.

Other fun stuff: one of the games we love to play is Memory. We started out last year with using just a few of the cards, and now we are actually playing the whole board. Great brain food, for sure.

And what is Mr. Eric learning?  The biggest challenge of schooling at home is accounting for the difference in their ages. I am thankful every day for my education and my experience as a teacher, for gaining training and experience with differentiating curriculum, and for knowing how to run parallel activities at the same time without going bonkers. Thank you, thank you, for years of classrooms with 35-40 students—I am used to energy, hubbub, activity, multi-tasking. It is still a challenge, and I am still feeling my way around the pre-school years. I will always be a high school teacher at heart, but I am grateful for this time of learning how to teach the basics, of how to break down concepts into simpler and simpler values. If I ever do return to my classroom, this experience of teaching my own children in their youngest years will have made me a better teacher for the older ages, as well.

Eric is learning how to use a spoon to feed himself this week. He is practicing at it very hard, every day. He actually initiated this earlier this week. Sometimes he wants to do it on his own, and sometimes he likes when I stand behind him and put my hand over his to help guide the spoon.

And in!

I’ve always read/attempted to read to Eric, of course, but unlike Katie, he hasn’t shown a true interest in books until just this month. (Katie was always interested in books, and she first laughed at a book at nine months old). Thankfully, Eric has now started showing definite interest in reading this month, and there are certain books he loves and will bring over to me to read. He loves a book about different colors, and a book about dancing. He likes the Karen Katz lift-the-flap books, as well. Generally, the more babies in the book the better—he enjoys their faces.

Eric is showing signs of understanding quite a bit of language. He knows what to do if we say, “Give the ____ to ____” or “Bring the _____ to ______ ” for example. He also understands more abstract phrasing such as, “Can you clap like that baby in the book?” (To which he responds by clapping). If I ask him (for example), “Can you point to the grapes?” in his book, he does. He likes to say, “I got” or even “I got it!” when he goes over and picks up a toy. He has also begun to point. We will ask him to find various objects in the house (“Where is the clock, Eric?”), and he will look around and point to whatever it is.

Most of all, like Katie, he adores the moon. He will point to it and make sounds whenever he sees it, inside or outside of the house.

His other favorite activity is to be held and walked around and shown all of the light switches in the house. If it is a switch, he likes to figure out what light it goes to, and then we turn it on and off, on and off, on and off, saying it each time. He likes to push on the switches himself, if he can. Cause and effect is endlessly entertaining, yes?

We also walk around and talk about all of the family members in our picture frames around the house. Katie used to love that, too.

Best of all, though, is time spent outside. Eric (and Katie, too) explores everything. We look at roly poly bugs, ants, leaves, bark, hoses, pipes, the garden, dirt. We go down the slide. We climb. We swing. We wander all over. I am fairly sure he would live outside, if he could!