Monday, April 27, 2015

Homeschool Hiking

We have an awesome homeschool co-op group that we get together with regularly.   All of our kids are very close in age and we all live pretty close to one another.  We can already see we are building lasting friendships with these fun friends.  I know some who aren't familiar with homeschooling think that homeschooled kids don't get "socialization."  Well, they are completely wrong!  Our kids get plenty of organized interactions with other kids and adults. 

from one of our first co-op meet-ups last fall. 

It's fun to see how much each of these kids has grown even since the fall!
I admit, I feel like a wonderful perk to being a homeschool teacher is that, to some degree, I can pick my kids' friends.  The group of us moms connected last August, exchanged contact information, and the rest is history.  Each month, the hosting mother comes up with some fun lessons (based on the theme that has been decided).  She schedules crafts, activities and always allows for plenty of playtime.  At our last spring-related meet-up, it was decided that scheduling a hike very soon was a must!   So, we did not delay and scheduled it immediately.  We had that hike this morning.  What glorious weather we had!   We just had a big thunderstorm last night, so there was plenty of water to fill up the creeks where we hiked.  It made the hike even more exciting!  Here are some photos of our adventure with our friends.  (We missed two of our co-op moms and 4 kids.  We will have to do this again with all of us--so much fun!)

Right away, Abbey found a "cool stick."

And she was elated over all the puddles she could splash in!

And, I noticed that just like when our family hikes together, Luke was always at the front of the pack.
There were lots of neat things to throw into the water and watch them splash.
And our friend, Jack, found the coolest stick I have ever seen.  Doesn't it look like something you would find in the Lord of the Rings or Narnia?
Because of the recent rain, the water was rushing pretty rapidly down the creek bed.  There were several little "waterfalls." 
The kids enjoyed throwing various objects into the water and watching them flow down the stream. 
The scenery and weather was absolutely gorgeous!

My friend, Sarah, had a great idea about putting duct tape on the kids' wrists.  As the kids found a treasure, they could stick it on their duct tape bracelet instead of having to carry it.  There ended up being some pretty cool bracelets at the end of our hike.

Our friend, Ava, is one of the sweetest, most kind little girls.  Here she is helping out another friend, Austin, with his bracelet.
We had so much fun exploring with our friends.

Abbey couldn't get enough of the water and the puddles!

Thankfully, I brought an extra pair of shoes for her to change into.  With Abbey, if there are puddles around we always need an extra pair of shoes.

A message along our hike:  "True Love is not easy to find." 
We spotted this really cool, black, furry caterpillar.  Thankfully, us moms remembered that there are caterpillars with that resemblance that, when touched, can cause severe allergic reactions to humans due to a toxin that its tiny hairs emit.  So, it was fun to look at, but we definitely didn't touch.
This was our beautiful scenery as we walked back to our cars. 

After our hike, we headed to the nearby Whole Foods for lunch and ate outside on their picnic tables.  4 moms and 10 kids.  I am sure Whole Foods employees were thinking, "Oh Yay!  Look who is coming to visit!" (said in a sarcastic tone), as we all came up the escalator from the parking garage.  But, it was such a great time there and we made some lasting memories for the kids!  What a fun day with friends!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Strawberry Pickin'

Last week, we decided to make our school lessons strawberry-related since we decided (sort of last minute) to go to Sweetberry Farms to do some strawberry picking.  The kids really enjoyed all of the fun seatwork we found here:

The fun lesson pack was geared towards kindergarten/first grade, but I was able to adapt it for Abbey as well.

There were so many fun activities, like this "color by sight-word" coloring page.
And it seems we can always find a way to bring legos into our schooling.  One morning last week, we used Lego figures for our mathwork. 

On Thursday, we made the beautiful drive to the farm to pick the strawberries.  I was in awe of the beauty of the spring landscape all along the way.   I saw so many beautiful wildflowers and scenery; and honestly, if the kids were not with me, I would have stopped many times to take pictures of the beauty so I could share with Drew.  It truly was breathtaking!  

We had a lot of fun at the strawberry farm picking strawberries.  Here are some of the photos of our little adventure.

there were plenty of strawberries to pick!

trying to decide on the best ones to pick...

Look at that concentration!
She looks pretty proud of her find, doesn't she?

Another big juicy strawberry!
It took quite the planning to find the perfect row, because on each end of most rows was a ton of mud.  I finally found a great row and a way to maneuver around the very deep mud that was at the end of it.  We worked our way to the middle of the row and began picking. A few minutes later, I decided to step over the row we were on to the next row.  I brought Abbey along with me.  I figured that way we could cover more area and get the best strawberries in the middle (and dry area) of both rows.  We were picking strawberries for about a minute in that new row and I looked up suddenly to find Luke at the end of our row stuck in mud.  Both feet were almost entirely covered in mud.  I guess he heard Abbey and I's "oooooo's" and "ahhhh's" over the beauties we were finding on our row and he felt he was missing out.   He must have gone back down the original row we entered rapidly and tried to trek up the very muddy entry of the row we were on at lightning speed, because we weren't on that row long at all before we saw him stuck.  I literally had to pull him out of the mud, because he couldn't move his feet. 

Only the very tops of his white shoes were untouched by the mud.  Oh, boys!

Muddy hands and strawberries

She looks up to her big brother.  It looks like she is trying to copy him in this picture.  :-)

Abbey was really distracted during the strawberry picking because she kept hearing the goats.  She was excited to see them.  So, we picked quickly and then went over to visit them.  Poor goats.  Luke and Abbey were afraid to get too close with the grass they picked (in hopes to feed them).  This was as close as Luke got.  :-)  He threw the blades of grass at the goat, hoping one might land in its mouth.  Ha!
He has a pitiful, "feed me" look.

And, of course, we had to finish our trip with some jumping on the big bouncy pillow.
Abbey had to take a little rest and check out other people.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Nature Walk--Homeschooling adventures

Homeschooling is so much fun.  I definitely didn't think I would be saying that a few years ago, but now I realize it truly can be play.  Learning doesn't have to be so structured and strict (and boring).  And, as I mentioned in a previous post, my teaching style has morphed into something totally different than it was at the beginning of our homeschooling adventure.  When I first began, I had a curriculum all ready to go and would pull all of the days lessons each morning.  It was very structured and Luke really was learning a lot.  But, I have to admit, although there were a lot of fun games, I found it to be a bit boring and repetitive at times.   With our move, our homeschooling really became more relaxed.   Besides just being super busy, I think another reason for the relaxed nature of our homeschooling now is that I am more experienced and am starting to really understand how both of our kids learn.   As I have relaxed and become more comfortable, so has our schooling.  And, I imagine our "curriculum" will continue to get tweaked as we go along and figure out learning styles and my teaching style.

Today we started a "strawberry-related" unit study in preparation for a field trip we plan on taking to a farm to pick strawberries.

Luke and Abbey both did some pattern games and some math.   Then, Luke worked on a word search on strawberry-related words and did a "color-by-sight word" picture(instead of "color by number"), while Abbey painted a strawberry patch.

After we did this "seatwork" we decided it was just too nice to stay inside for any longer!   We spent the entire rest of the day outside.   When i first began homeschooling, I used to say to Luke when it was time to begin our schoolwork for the day, "Ok, let's do some school."  I've learned that I do not have to use that word any longer.  Now, he often doesn't even realize we are doing "school."  For example, when we were doing our seatwork, I told the kids we were going to do some fun things to get ready for our trip to the berry farm.   Then, when we were finished with that work, I told them it was time to go on a fun nature walk.  Of course, there were many learning opportunities along the way, so it was a great learning adventure for both of them.

We decided to try to see how many different varieties of flowers we could find.  We are nearing the end of the wildflower season here, but I knew there would still be a few stragglers.    I let Luke and Abbey take a picture of the flowers with my phone camera when they spotted them.   They did a really good job!

I also had Luke keep a tally sheet of all the flowers we found, so that he could learn about using tallies for counting.

Luke and Abbey decided they wanted to bring a little wagon and a storage container in case they found any treasures they wanted to bring back.

making the trek through our backyard over to the trail along the creek.  
Abbey found a treasure right away.  (I love her chubby wrists and her hello kitty tattoo!)
It wasn't long before we found more treasures.   They found the motherload of pecans and wanted to bring some back for daddy to eat later.   We counted them.
We also found several Mulberry trees with tons of ripe fruit, which I was super-excited about.

Between collecting the pecans and mulberries, we felt like true foragers.  The only way to harvest mulberries is to collect the fruit off of the ground.  If you have one in your yard, you can put a tarp down and then shake the tree.  The ripe fruit then falls on the tarp.  We didn't have a tarp, but I shook the tree a bit and we collected some mulberries from the ground.  They were so yummy!  Luke says he has a new favorite fruit!

They were all over the ground!

This trail is just so lovely. A bonus is there are many benches and picnic tables along the way.  We made use of this one to eat our oranges that we brought as a snack.
Luke found a snail shell, which was his favorite treasure of the day.  We have found a ton of these over the past month.
spotting more treasures
It was such a beautiful day!   The sounds of birds singing glorious songs, the running creek and waterfalls even made it more magnificent.
As we were walking along on our hike, we talked about how awesome God is to create each of these special things.  We saw so many different bugs, plants, trees, flowers, grasses, birds, etc.!  We talked about how God created each individual thing specifically for a purpose.  Luke said, "God is pretty cool. I like God!"  I replied, "He's pretty awesome, isn't He, Luke?"  Abbey exclaimed, "Yeah!"  I asked Luke and Abbey about their favorite treasures from the hike. Here were their responses:

Luke:  "The snail shell"      Abbey:  "The pecans"    And my personal favorite treasure was all the mulberries.  I was like a giddy little kid over those!

By the time we got back, it was time for dinner.  With the weather being so absolutely perfect, of course we had dinner outside in our backyard.  The picnic table was calling for us to sit at it to enjoy our meal as we passed by it with our treasures.

Thankfully, we had plenty of leftovers from last night's meal, so it didn't take too long to prepare.
After dinner, Luke wasn't ready to go inside.  In fact, he pretty much stays outside all day (when we are home) since we moved.   I love it!  I'm so glad God gave us this fun place where he can stay outside all day and play and explore.  We are all enjoying the space so much.

There are so many things I love about homeschooling.   As you see, we were able to cover reading, science, math, Bible truths, and so much more in our afternoon.  And, I don't even know if the kids realized the whole time they were actually being "schooled."  I am so thankful that God has called me to this homeschooling adventure, and is equipping me and enabling me each day to do so.