Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Beautiful (Almost) Spring Day

Today is February 23, 2012. It's supposed to be winter, at least according to the calendar. But here in the Deep South, the weather has been looking more and more like spring! I cannot tell you how THRILLED I am about that fact! Spring is my favorite season. Thankfully, this winter hasn't been as cold and wet and yucky as most, but we have instead had lots of really pleasant days in which to get outside. Today is one of those days.

We worked on school for a little while this morning, but the outside was just calling us. So around 10:30, I sent everyone outside to get some sunshine. I did bring a little of our school work outside with us, but mostly, I just let nature be their teacher today. And what did they learn from nature? Well....

Britches has been working nearly every day outside with Little Man's magnifying glass. She has been trying so hard to get a fire going with just the magnifying glass and the sun. She's had quite a few good flames going, too, but they go out pretty quickly. So today, she grabbed the magnifying glass and decided on a new experiment. She decided she was going to boil water in an acorn top. Why? I have no idea. It just seemed to her like a great thing to do.

I really thought it was quite funny that she was even attempting this. She had been sitting there for awhile letting it "boil" and decided to check it. Yep, she said it was getting hot. She sat there a little while longer holding the magnifying glass over the water, and then she asked if I wanted to see how hot it was. Sure, why not. I stuck my finger in it, and - OUCH!! That was HOT! She didn't tell me it was THAT hot! Or maybe she did and I just figured she was exaggerating. But it was piping hot! She even got little bubbles to form at the bottom of the acorn top and you could hear it sizzling. She was so excited. Yep, that's the kind of thing that excites her. Then she got another brilliant idea.
She decided that, if she could boil water, maybe she could make a grape turn into a raisin. She took off into the kitchen to find a grape. Well, she didn't exactly turn it into a raisin. I told her that raisins are slow dried so as not to BURN! But she sat there finding great excitement in cooking/burning that grape! (And I just have to say, burnt grapes STINK!)

And what were the others doing during all this "excitement"? Well, they weren't doing any scientific experimenting. But they were doing some clever engineering. AND they were working TOGETHER without even fighting! YAY for that! They went and found some rope and a skateboard and, well... take a look. 
Yep, they made themselves a swing. Never mind the fact that we have THREE swings on our jungle gym! Of course THOSE are no fun! It's WAY more fun to build your own! So they found some rope and a latch thingy, and they engineered themselves a swing. Those two played for the longest time, taking turns and sharing and doing it together and, oh my goodness it was GREAT! They had a blast! 

Our (almost) spring day has turned out really great! And the day isn't even over yet. I've done some planting of seeds and just enjoyed the beautiful day of SUNSHINE! I'm so thankful today that it isn't cloudy or rainy or cold. I tell Brient regularly that I'd really prefer to never move up north, because I would go absolutely CRAZY with such long, cold, dreary winters. I'm not that crazy about snow. So for today, I am enjoying what God has given us. And we are enjoying it while it lasts, because, in the Deep South, it can change in a moments notice. 

Do you ever head outside with your homeschool? What do you enjoy most about it? How do you allow God to teach your kids through nature? If you don't ever find yourself enjoying the great outdoors, give it a try. Head outside and enjoy God's creation!

Monday, February 20, 2012

LEGO School - Code breaker

 At the beginning of this school year, I decided that the "theme" of our year would be LEGO's. My son LOVES LEGO's, so this was mainly for him. But my girls enjoy playing with them just as much as he. We started off the year well, but the last few months have been lacking a little in the area of our LEGO fun. I have just had quite a bit going on and it really hasn't even crossed my mind to include it in our day. But today, I put it on our school day schedule, and the kids were THRILLED! So we brought everything to the table, and they were ready for the challenge of the day.

I started out by telling them that, for today, they were spies. The enemy had cracked all their codes, and they needed a new way to communicate. Their mission: To create a new code using LEGO bricks, and then to write a secret message with their LEGO's. They were thrilled at the challenge ahead of them! They are all really into spy stuff anyway, so this was right up their alley! Here is what they came up with.

Little Sister wanted to know if she was going to do school with the older ones. Well of course she was!! This was definitely something she could get in on. No, she didn't have to make a whole code or write something with LEGO's. She is just starting to read, so that would not have been fun for her. But, I did tell her I wanted her to take each kind of LEGO, place it on her page, draw a picture of it with her crayon, and then label it with one letter of the alphabet. I wrote all the letters on a separate sheet of paper for her to look at, so she would remember all of them. Yes, she knows all her letters, but when you're trying to remember them for something like that, sometimes little ones tend to forget some. She did exactly what I told her, and this is what she ended up with. She got about half way through the alphabet before getting tired of it. So she worked on writing her letters, matching bricks to letters, and following directions.

Little Man went for more of a graph form, so he could more easily see what bricks were to be which letter. This is his code.

I sneaked a peak at Britches while she was working. She is my more detail oriented kid, and everything has to be just right with her. She found her ruler, and before I realized it, she had a really detailed grid with all of her colors neatly labeled. She even went so far as to include capital AND lowercase letters in her code. She always goes above and beyond what I ask of her. 

So that was our LEGO school for the day - code making and code breaking. Can you figure out their code words? 

Have you done any really cool LEGO challenges with your kids? If so, tell me about them. I'd love to try out YOUR ideas! And if you have never done "LEGO school" with your kids, I encourage you to give it a try. You will be amazed at the things your kids will learn from a simple "toy" such as LEGO bricks!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Little Sister's School Day

There are days - many days - that I question whether or not I am doing enough with my five year old. She's the third of four, and, though I try really hard to avoid this, I find myself gearing my time toward teaching my oldest two. They are, after all, the ones "in school", right? Not really, but that's how many of my days end up. So on days when Little Sister really shows out, I am completely thrilled. 

On this particular day, I was doing school with the older two, and had sent her to play. She came to me and asked if she could have the markers to write on my white board. My husband mounted it low enough where she and Baby Girl could reach it and draw on it. (I'm still waiting on the day when the marker "accidentally" gets all over my wall!) I handed her the markers, told her to keep it on the white board, and left her to herself while I went back to the "real school" with the others. When we finished what we were working on, I turned around to see how she was doing (and to make sure I didn't have marker all over my wall!), and this is what she showed me. 

She put all the markers together to make a pointer stick, so she could teach me what she had drawn. She said, "The red is all the blood in my body, and these black things are viruses that make you sick."

Then she went to the picture she drew of her whole body and began to tell me about it. "These are all the muscles in my body. They are all over, even in my legs."

Wow! I was impressed! I have to tell you at this point, I have no idea where she learned that. No clue! I know I didn't teach it to her. But she had certainly learned enough about the human body to know those things, to be able to draw them, and then to be able to teach me what she knew. So where did she learn that? Hmmm...

One thing I have always made certain to do in our homeschooling is to be sure my kids are watching QUALITY television. My kids don't watch useless cartoons that have no point or meaning. Most of their video games and computer games revolve around some form of teaching. So where did she learn about the human body? My guess is that she learned it from PBS Kids. Our TV pretty much stays on PBS, and it is amazing the amount of learning they get from that quality programing. And when she wants to get on the computer to play games, she goes to PBS Kids to play and learn.

After she "taught" me what she knew, I decided it was time for some fun with Mrs. Frizzle! I LOVE The Magic Schoolbus! LOVE IT! So we went to the library and checked out the DVD that had all three human body episodes on it. She came home and watched them, and she learned about the heart and circulatory system, the digestive system, and the muscular system.

After all her "learning", she told me, "Mama, now I can be a doctor, because I know all about the body." Pretty cool!

So if you, too, are wondering if you are doing enough with your kids, younger or older, I would say to you - relax. If you are facilitating an environment that promotes learning at all time, including their free play time, your kids are learning plenty. They are learning way more than you realize.

Have a suggestion for some creative learning? Something that your kids do that doesn't scream "SCHOOL" to them? Something they find fun and is still educational at the same time? Share your ideas! I would love to hear how you make life your school.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Check it out!

A few weeks ago, I had a sweet, dear friend e-mail me to say she really missed my "voice" on my blog. ~sigh~ She is such sweetness! I just love my Juliann! But I got thinking that maybe a few others of you have wondered where I have gone. (Hey, one can hope! STOP LAUGHING!)

After Christmas, I always slow down. Winter for me is like the summer break that most of you enjoy. It's a time when I stop all the running and craziness, and I just SIT DOWN! And by that time in the year, I seriously need it!

But another thing I do after Christmas is get ready for a few weeks of focused time with God. After the first of the year (when my brain is on slow down mode), I spend some specific time in prayer and fasting, seeking God for the things He would have me do in the year to come in every area of my life. It's also my time to get refilled and resharpened for the ministry to which I have been called.

God has shown me so many amazing things this year! I actually sat down the other night and wrote them all out in list form, just because it helps me to get a clearer picture that way, instead of trying to sort through the jumbled up MESS in my head! I seriously couldn't believe all the many things I wrote down on that list. I was floored when I saw all the ways God had worked on my behalf, and when I looked at all the things He has taught me over these last few weeks. But there is one thing specifically that He told me to do that I have been working on, which is why I have been absent for so long.

Most of you who regularly follow my blog know that I have a heart and a passion for children's ministry. Never thought I'd say that, but amazingly enough, God can change even the most stubborn heart! Anyways, now that Brient and I have been doing this for several years now, I just have such a desire to show other small, growing churches how important children's ministry is. The bigger churches "get it", but it seems like many of the smaller churches are stuck in the past where the thinking was that, if the kids are quiet in church, that's all that matters. They aren't old enough to understand the things of God and not important enough to worry with giving them something on their level that they CAN understand. I seriously want to change that!

So one of the things God told me to do to kick-start that effort was to start a new website. Yep! I have a new website!! YAY! I have spent the last several weeks on it, because, quite frankly, Wordpress is nothing like Blogger, so it has taken me a little time to get used to the new format. I seriously like the ease of my blog right here, but I needed something more for the website. So I am working through it, and hoping it all turns out looking good in the end. ANYWAYS.... Go check out my new website called The Children's Pastor. Just remember as you are looking, it is a work in progress. Bear with me. I still have quite a few posts to write and add to the site before it's right. And check back often, because I am pretty sure it will not stay the same. It's not in my nature to keep things the same for too long. (That drives my husband CRAZY!)

And if you are on Facebook, be sure to go "like" my page - The Children's Pastor. You lovely friends here who read my blog have always been so great and supportive. So I have another favor to ask. After you go "like" my Facebook page, would you consider sharing it on your Facebook? And if you know of small churches who are in need of some help, I would greatly appreciate you sending them to our website.

Oh and one more thing. I am also looking for a few small clients who might need a website built. If you know of a person or small business who is in the market for that, please point them my direction.

So that is where I have been. In prayer and fasting, and building a website. I will be back here regularly. I'm certainly not quitting my blog here! But from this point out, I will be putting all my devotionals and children's ministry posts on The Children's Pastor, and all of our homeschooling adventures, my homeschool curriculum reviews, and all things homeschool will be here.

So head on over and go check out the new website. Then jump on Facebook long enough to "like" the page and maybe post it to your wall. And then go send some of your friends our way!

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess