Saturday, May 30, 2009

Backyard Critter Camp - Day 1 Ants

Our camp this year is a nature theme and are using some wonderful books that I first found at a local nature center.  Also spotted them at several booths at our homeschool convention last week-end too. 

The book series we used for the first day is "Are you an Ant?" by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries

Today we started with a prayer and devotion.  Then we read the story. 

Just a close-up of our littlest camper sitting with her big sister and brother.

We talked briefly about how much weight an ant could lift and demonstrated this with a few of the kids - smaller children trying to lift one of the teens.  Then we split into younger and older.

The younger children started by searching for ants around the yard.  They looked around the flowers.

Around trees and under logs.

They found some ant larvae under a piece of wood in the forest!

While they were looking, they collected some ants in jars to look at with a magnifying glass.  We also talked a little about the ant - body type and life cycle.  One of my friends bought this really neat 3D manipulative of the ant life cycle.  You can find it here.

Next we did a science experiment with them to illustrate the ant's sense of smell.  I had prepared 2 plates with food - one with sweet foods and the other with salty.  We took these into the woods where we had seen some ants and set up the cafes.

We talked some about which ones we thought would draw the ants.  Most seemed to think sweet.  I did too.

While we were doing this with the younger kids, the older kids were making predictions about the same food experiment.

They also did more in-depth learning about types of ants in North Carolina, functions of the ant and anatomy.

Next it was time for snack.  We had 3 options for the kids.

1.  Ants on a log - traditional version of celery with peanut butter inside and raisin ants on top.

2.  Salty version of above using pretzel rods for the log, cream cheese and sunflower seeds.  (They could obviously mix and match any of these.)

3.  Melon ball ants - we had coffee stirrers and watermelon and honeydew melon balls that they could skewer to make their own ant. 

The next item was a game.  This was one we just made up.  We read about various things in the story and tried to think of ways that the kids could do the same actions.  Here's the game - which was a big hit with all ages!

First they carried a heavy load to the colony.  They could work together if the load was too heavy for one.  This helped illustrated the weight that ants could carry.  We used water jugs and pillowcases with sand or a sleeping bag.  The children carried this down a path in the woods, through our swingset, up the ladder, down the slide and then into the colony.

We marked the colony in the yard using cones and plastic tape.  Inside the colony were scattered limbs, twigs and branches.  Once the ants reached the colony, they had several things to do. 

1.  Remove the "trash" (limbs) from the colony to a designated spot.

2.  Bring leaves to feed to the queen.

3.  Remove ladybug eggs.  (Ladybugs eat aphids.  Ants get "honeydew" from aphids.  Ants remove ladybug eggs from leaves so that they won't be there to eat the aphids.  Amazing, huh?)

The challenge was that once they left the safety of the colony, they had to watch out for predators - birds, toads and lizards.  Several of the children were predators and would just tag the ants to freeze them.  We allowed them to be unfrozen by being tagged by another ant.

The goal was to complete the tasks before all the ants were frozen.  It was a fun game and hopefully helped them to remember a little more about the ant. 

Some of our final activities included learning about different types of ants (African driver ant which marches over anything in it's path, leaf-cutter ant and weaver ant).  We also did another experiment using the sense of smell - ours this time.  I put 3 different foods inside paper bags.  The children were asked to smell (and not peek) to see if they could identify the foods.  I used peanut butter which almost all the children identified, cheese (maybe half got this one if we included variations like goldfish and cheese nips) and an apple slice (this was the hardest one).  We did have a couple of children that got all 3 of them correct. 

Lastly we looked at our food experiment - the cafe in the woods.  We found that there were ants on both plates - different kinds of ants.  The larger ants had gone for the salty plate and were enjoying the bread and cracker especially.  There were some smaller ants on the sweet plate - but not too much was eaten yet.  We were surprised by this!  I thought the sweet would really go faster.

Later in the afternoon, Rebecca checked on the plates again.  This time she found that the sweet plate had definitely been a hit.  The apple, applesauce and peanut butter were gone.  The cracker was mostly gone and  so was the bread. 

Our first day went well.  We have 3 more days of camp next week.  One of the things that I love about doing this is that I learn a lot about a new subject too.  These picture books are wonderful!  Great facts packaged in a clever story.  I highly recommend them! 

I'm happy to share more about how to host your own co-op camp if anyone has questions.



Friday, May 29, 2009

Co-operative Summer Camp

I've been a part of an co-operative camp since my oldest two were very little.  I organized the first one when Christopher was 4 or 5.  It's a wonderful way to have a great camp experience without the cost associated with many of the camps. 

We have typically chosen a theme or a book to work from.  Some of the topics we have covered include the following:

*Nature Fun (book title w/6 topics)

*More Nature Fun (follow-up book in the series)

*Various other nature topics

*Jungle animals

*Around the World

*Artists (different one each day)

*Explorers (focused on one from each continent)

*Outdoor Adventure

Any topic really would work in this format! 

Here are the logistics for those that may want them.  We typically start planning in the winter (Jan or Feb in years we are on the ball).  This year I wasn't motivated until ... May.  We are pulling one together quickly - and it is working!  I'm thankful to be joined by a fun and creative bunch of ladies!!!  That really is what makes it work!

We split the moms into teaching pairs for each day of camp and rotate days so that each mom carries an even amount of the load of teaching.  This year, based on the children's ages, we have a teaching pair for the younger kids (4-9) and the older kids (10-16).  Our camp day starts at 9:30 and ends at approximately noon.  We like to start early so that we aren't dealing with too much of the heat. 

Our general format has been this:

9:30  Prayer/devotion/opening activity

10:15 Snack (try to relate it to the theme of the day)

10:40 Craft or hands-on activity

11:00 Free time (allows for those who want to work longer to have more time with a craft)

11:20 or 11:30 Activity/Game

12:00 Lunch or more time to play.

The teachers are responsible for supplying all that is needed on their day.  No collecting or transfer of money which is nice.  For location, we have usually rotated homes. 

We ask each student to bring a water bottle and lunch and to come with sunscreen on.  We also have the parent complete a medical release form if they are not going to be staying at the camp.  This is a "just in case" thing that we have thankfully never needed.  We also collect cell phone numbers from moms that are dropping off. 

That's it!  And it really is a lot of fun.  Its a great opportunity to do some of those fun things that you have been wanting to do.  It is also a fun thing to brainstorm and work with another mom in planning things.

This year, as I mentioned, I was really unmotivated for a number of reasons.  Our fun Field Day is the day I finally felt like I could do this.  Our camp this year is different in some ways - ways that are stretching me.  When I finally realized that we could pull this off, I handed it to God.  He has surprised me in some ways - but isn't that like Him.  I'm sorry this is vague, but I don't feel at liberty to discuss some of these things on a blog since they involve others. 

God is taking me out of my comfort zone and challenging me to follow Him.  I see this in various areas of my life.  Sometimes I fight it.  Why do I do that?  You would think I would have learned by now.  This time, I questioned briefly and then surrendered.  I've felt a calm and peace that could only be Him.  God is good - and in the details of something even as small as a summer camp.  

I'd be happy to discuss or share more details if anyone wants them.  I'm working on uploading photos so I can share our first day which was yesterday with you. 



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guess What's New Here?

Let me tell a little bit of the story behind it first.  Roger and 4 of our children got up early on Monday morning to catch a train.  (I love that Roger enjoys spending time with our children - and has fun doing it!)  One of his good friends took them to the train station so that the rest of us didn't have to get up at 6am.  Thank you Duncan!  I did get up to say good-by and give out hugs before going back to sleep. 

They met the conductor as they boarded the train.  He dropped his hat onto Daniel's head and the boys loved taking turns wearing it.  .

Free food was enjoyed by all!  Who knew they would give out free food?  They played games and loved the big table to do this on.

The conductor on the right is the one who loaned out his hat.

After riding for a few hours, they were met at the station by my sister and her daughter.  During the moments of sunshine that day, they enjoyed swimming. 

Aunt Laura treated the girls to a pedicure.  It sounded like it was a lot of fun and I hate that I missed out on all the fun!  I stayed home with Eliana and Christopher.  Eliana had therapy and I needed to get some things done before we started our camp this week.  (More on that another day.  Our first day was today and it was great fun!)  I wish we could have all gone on the trip!

Well, the next day, our family returned home ... like this.

We have a new van.  It's really nice - though I haven't gone for a test drive yet.  It has been 2.5 years since we've all been able to ride together.  I'm looking forward to doing that again!  There is plenty of room for all of us.  :-)  (We've taken out one row of 3 seats to give us storage in the back.)

Roger did a lot of researching to choose the van and the dealer.  I think he did a great job.  I'm looking forward to using it.  Thanks!

Hope you are having a great week!



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NCHE Conference

Wow!  That is really the best word I can use for now.  It was a great experience.  I was looking forward to it - the shopping and seeing friends.  The part that I wasn't expecting was the amazing group of speakers that I heard there. 

I'll start from the beginning.  I went into this conference feeling a little unprepared.  I hadn't planned what I wanted to use for the year with my oldest children - thankfully the younger ones are all prepared to use Five In A Row

This year my oldest daughter Rebecca went with me.  We went with a dear friend and her daughter.  Just the girls.  It was a little odd - all those years of being a vendor and having at least 2 children in tow.  I was asked if I enjoyed the freedom.  Well, yes in some ways.  I also missed being a vendor.  I missed the opportunity to share Five in a Row with so many other new homeschoolers.  I missed the time of sharing and encouraging the people that would come to our booth.  I missed having my oldest son with me as he has gone for many years.  He wanted to stay home so he wouldn't miss his football game.  I also missed having a baby in tow. 

I loved the freedom though of having lunch with some dear FIAR friends at the Mellow Mushroom.  I haven't ever eaten out while at conference before this year!  It was fun to catch up, to laugh and just have fun together.  (No picture though as we thought we would get one a little later - bad idea!)  I loved being able to shop until I dropped ... literally!  I also loved being able to attend some incredible workshops and have the chance to talk with some of the speakers and vendors. 

So, how do I begin to share the 3 days there.  I brought my camera - intending to take pictures, but only took 1 the whole week-end.  Maybe I'll do better next year - but probably not.   

The bookfair is wonderful!  Huge hall with so many books!  Oh, the books.  I love books.  I bought some curriculum, but mostly I just bought books.  Lots of wonderful books - science experiments, history books, fiction novels and more.  I'm not a big shopper.  But when I do shop, I like to get a lot done at once so that I don't have to do it often.

For my oldest (11th grade), some of what he'll be doing includes Advanced Biology, Algebra 2, Write Shop, Wordly Wise, Analytical Grammar review, American History, and a study of the Presidents.  (This picture does not include all of his materials as some are being shipped.)

For my oldest daughter (8th grade), her subjects include Algebra 1, Write Shop, Wordly Wise, Logic, Rainbow Science, Analytical Grammar and a study of the Presidents.

My next 3 boys will be doing Five in a Row, Handwriting without Tears, Wordly Wise, MathUSee (various levels) as their main curriculum items.  They will also join in on the Presidents study, science experiments and more fun things.

New Product I'm most excited about using:  Trail Guide to US Geography

Rebecca has been interested in doing more with geography.  We visited the Geography Matters book and talked with "Uncle Josh" (of the timeline maps fame).  He is so engaging.  He spent time explaining the curriculum and also quizzing the girls in a fun way.  They loved it!  I bought the US set because I'm planning on doing a unit study on the Presidents next year.  (One I'll put together hopefully soon!).  Rebecca really wanted to do the world, but I thought US would go better with our President study.  Maybe next year for the world.

I don't know that I would have thought to look for this, except for reading about it on Michelle's blog.  Thank you!  I love that the curriculum is designed for multi-ages.  The questions and activites are marked by age so that I can use it from elementary to high school!  There is a CD to print out pages for notebooks - again based on age.  There is also a fun cookbook with recipes from each state.  Rebecca was loving this part of it.  Between this and FIAR, I'll have a couple of meals a week taken care of!

I also bought art supplies, nature materials, CDs, games and more!  Lots and lots of fun things!  Rebecca was asking how soon we would be able to start back to school!  We just finished last week!  Gotta love that!

At this point, I was getting tired of unloading bags and just spread a lot of the books and things on the floor.  I'll try to post more during the year as we are using and enjoying things.  Here's a peek at some of what I came home with though.

Most fun new vendor :  Frik n Frak

Wooden toys and games that are so neat.  I can't share all that I bought because some of the items are gifts.  Check out their website if you are looking for an interesting game to give as a gift or to add to your collection.

New event:  I attended the support group leader's luncheon along with another friend from our group.  It was a nice event to encourage leaders and whlle we ate we heard from Michael Farris on the topic of leadership.  His message was encouraging and also funny at times.  There was a second workshop for leaders on Vision by Norm Wakefield which was awesome - for groups or families - it was a relevant message!

Keynote speakers:  There were 3 this year and all were great!  They each spoke numerous times and there just wasn't enough time to hear them all - in addition to the other speakers.  I bought quite a few CDs this year to listen to at home.

The first keynote speaker was Norm Wakeful of Spirit of Elijah ministries.  He spoke on idolatry.  I thought it an unusual topic for a keynote.  It was wonderful - convicting in a gentle and even humorous manner.  Even my daughter thought it was great.  I went to a number of his workshops the next couple of days and enjoyed all of them.

The Wakefields also have a daughter with Down syndrome who is 25 years old.  They shared in one session about the blessings and things that they had learned from their daughter.  It was sweet and encouraging. 

I don't begin to know how to describe his messages - filled with scripture and with encouragment to follow God's leading in all areas of your life.  I would highly recommend going to hear him if you ever have the opportunity. 

Another keynote was John Stonestreet of Summit Ministries.  Again - wow!  His talks were on worldview and were awesome.  I am looking forward to using some of the materials put out by Summit in the future and was  very tempted to get them this year.  I know that our plate is full though and this will be great for next year.  (Though perhaps I'm saying that as I'm still wavering on getting these now!)

Both of these men were amazing.  You may never have heard of them.  If they are in your area, I highly recommend going to hear them.  I think you will be challenged, encouraged and blessed.  I know that I was.

The third keynote was Michael Farris.  I have only heard him at the leaders luncheon, but was told that his keynote was great.  I bought it and hope to have time to listen to it soon.  His name is a little more familiar to most homeschoolers as the founder of Home School Legal Defense and also Patrick Henry College.  I enjoyed hearing some of his story and had God has led him and guided him through his life.  It was very encouraging.

So, I left this event feeling energized and ready to tackle a new year.  I also left feeling humbled knowing that I need to repent and turn my heart more fully to God in areas that I had not even realized were lacking.  I left feeling thankful for the time I had to spend with friends.  I left feeling blessed that I'm able to teach my children at home.



Sunday, May 24, 2009

Preschool Activity Bags

Just a quick post.  I want to share more about our homeschool conference this past week-end - but not sure I can do it justice tonight.  It was wonderful!  So many books and the speakers were awesome!  More to come.

I wanted to share about the Preschool Activity Bags for those who may not have heard of them.  I've done several swaps of this sort.  Years back we did our first swap with our local FIAR group.  We came up with ideas from the internet and others came up with their own.  It was a lot of fun and we got some wonderful (and still used) bags.

A few years ago, a book came out that detailed how to do a swap.  The instructions are clear, concise and detailed.  Each person in the swap gets a list of exactly what to include in the bag down to the label of instructions on the outside of the bag!  I loved coordinating a swap like this!

I hosted a swap in the fall and we had 28 participants!  That was a lot of bags!  We did the other book this spring and had 19 participants.  I highly recommend buying the Preschool Activities in a Bag books if you are interested in coordinating a swap. 

These bags make great gifts for others too!  It's wonderful to have all you need for a fun activity inside the bag.  No searching for miscellaneous things.  Daniel has been using these in his workboxes this year and enjoys them a lot.  I'm excited about having a whole new batch for him to use.

Here are the bags from our most recent swap.

I'm excited about hosting another swap some time this summer.  This will be using another book from the same publisher called Science Activities in a Bag.  This is geared for elementary aged children, but can be stretched to include older and younger.  I'll post more on that later.  If you are local and reading this and are interested in the swap - let me know.  (I'm happy to do non-local, but not sure how much the shipping would be for the bags.)  I think this will also be a great addition to our bags!



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Big Green Pocketbook

This is a wonderful book which is part of the Before Five in a Row curriculum.  If you have a 2 to 4 year old, I highly recommend this wonderful resource!  It has been blessing our family for more than 12 years now!  :-)

We've been reading this book with Daniel over the last week.  It is a story about a little girl that goes to town with her mom on a bus.  She takes her empty big green pocketbook with her.  As they run errands, she collects things and puts them in her purse.  At the end of the outing, she falls asleep on the bus ride home.  As they get off, she forgets her pocketbook.  She is sad because her whole day is in it.  Thankfully, the bus driver returns her pocketbook in her mailbox.  (She is picked up by the bus at her home.)

We decided to take a bus ride to town too.  I did this many years ago when Christopher and Rebecca were little.  It was fun to do it again!  Christopher and Eliana stayed home and had fun together.

We drove to the nearest bus stop and waited for the bus to arrive.

The children liked putting the quarters in for our ride.  It cost 2 dollars each for Rebecca and I and the little boys were free.  We split up and sat in our seats to enjoy the ride. 

We rode for about 30 minutes and then arrived in downtown Chapel Hill.  I hadn't planned our stops, but had thought we would just explore and enjoy the town.  Our stop dropped us in front of this store.

We had to go in.  They had homemade gelato.  It was early, but we all agreed that it would be nice to have a treat.  We split some gelato and Daniel chose a cupcake.  It was very yummy!!!  If you are local - give it a try!

Next we went to the bank.  We needed change for the bus ride home.  Rebecca had found a lollipop in her pocketbook.  She gave it to Daniel as that is what happened in the story.

Our next stop was the Post Office.

Daniel had a letter to mail.  We stood in line to get a stamp.  While we were waiting, we looked at a mural painted on the wall and talked about it.  We tried to figure out what was going on in the painting and in what time period it was taking place.

It was fun finding clues in the painting and looking at the expressions on faces.  We then read a plaque on the wall that let us know our guesses were accurate.  When it was our turn, we bought a stamp and Daniel mailed his letter.

After looking at the picture, we were curious as to when the post office had been built as it is an obviously old and beautiful building.  I had told them we might find a clue outside.  And we did ... a cornerstone!

This fascinated Isaiah and he began looking for cornerstones on other buildings - and found them too.

As we crossed the street, the children were delighted to find their Daddy on the other side!  We walked a short ways to a church - the one Roger and I were married in. 

We tried to go in, but the front doors were locked.  We walked around and found another entrance into the church.  Still the sanctuary doors were locked.   Isaiah was excited to find a cornerstone though - 1925.  Here are Roger and the kids in front of the church.

Next it was time for lunch.  We went to a drugstore (like in the book) to eat.  This store has been here since 1923.  It is quite a local tradition!

They have great burgers, sandwiches and more.  It was a yummy lunch and fun to eat with Daddy!

We visited a "UNC store" (as Isaiah called it).  The owner is so nice!  We bought a t-shirt for Christopher here.

We walked with Roger back through campus.  It is such a beautiful campus.  Here is a campus landmark, the Old Well.

Given Isaiah's interest in cornerstones, we looked for one we thought he'd really think was neat.  It is the oldest building on the UNC campus.  Old East.  Check out the date!

As Roger headed back to work, the children and I looked a few more things.  We stopped by Wilson Library to look at the North Carolina collection.  There were many interesting things in there and I hope we can go back again when we have a little more time.

We walked through Student Stores, checked out Fetzer gym and then waited for our bus.

It was a short ride back to our van.  As we were getting off the bus, I carefully checked to make sure the boys had their bags.  Thankfully a gentleman called me back to get my pocketbook!  I can't believe I almost left it. 

What a fun day!  I'm so glad we did this.  I was motivated to do something since we had no therapy today.  I should probably just plan fun little trips like this more often.  If it looks like fun - give it a try!  We had a blast!