Horse Unit Study

Billy and Blaze.  Three boys.  Do I really need to say more?  You can imagine.  There’s Billy, wishing he had a horse.  And then, he gets one for his birthday.  It was bound to plant an idea in someone’s mind.  And it did.  William is positive he’s going to get a horse for his birthday.  I am positive he is not.  So in lieu of a real horse, we’re going to spend the next 6 weeks on a horse unit study…I know, I know…a horse unit study?  Really?  Doesn’t really compare to the glamour of a real horse.  Well, let me repeat…there will be no real horse for this kid.  But at the end of the six weeks, when William’s birthday arrives, there will be the surprise of horse riding lessons!  So I figure the next 6 weeks Horse Unit Study will not only beef up our science (we finished our chemistry book and we’re just continuing with experiments throughout the year), but it will also prepare the boys for an exciting spring treat.

So here’s the plan (3 days a week for 6 weeks):

We’re using Amanda Bennett’s Horse Unit Study as a guide.  We’ll use her copywork and vocabulary lists as well as her research points.  They’ll keep all their horse related work together, which I had planned to bind at the end of the study, but today I found these adorable spiral notebooks at Walmart (okay, I realize the cow notebook is totally not related, but there was only one horse notebook and sweet Joseph said, “That’s okay, this one will work for me!”)

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Research will be done with the following nonfiction books:  Kingfisher Illustrated Horse and Pony Encyclopedia; Horses; Album of Horses; National Geographic Ponies; Usborne Horses and Ponies; H is for Horse; I Wonder Why Horses Wear Shoes.

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Every day, each child will be required to choose a book from the fiction basket (lots of Billy and Blaze adventures; Cowgirl Kate stories; A Perfect Pony; A Horse Named Seabiscuit; Five O’Clock Charlie; Wild Horses of Sweetbriar; James Herriot Treasury)  At the end of the week, they’ll be required to choose a book from the week to do a narration and illustration.

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We’ll also be listening, as a family, to two audio read-alouds…Misty of Chincoteague and Black Stallion (this picture shows Black Beauty on my Kindle because the book and audio were free for the Kindle, but I plan to use an audible credit for Black Stallion once we finish Misty.)  After each read-aloud, we have the movies to watch.

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In addition to our reading, we’ve got lots of horse puzzles, a horse card game, Horse Crazy activities and some art lessons on drawing horses.  And like I said, horseback riding lessons to finish it all up.  So if you’ve got a horse question, give us 6 weeks and then surely someone around here will be able to answer you.

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Summer Plans 2014

july 2, 2007 048_1We don’t stop schooling during the summer, but we do school a little differently. a little lighter, and a little more learner led.  We always keep up with math and reading, but the rest of our “school day” is led by the children’s interests.  This summer we’ll be spending our days studying plants and we’re shaking up our math and grammar quite a bit with some fun living book studies.  We’re also continuing along with American and World History and for the little ones, we’re adding Wee Folk Art’s summer plans into our days.

**I have to apologize that I don’t have all the links for the books done…maybe I’ll eventually get around to it, but I wanted to at least post the plans.

Wee Folk Art

We’re using Wee Folk Art’s summer plans which include studying ponds and weather.  We switched the weeks around, so we started by studying ponds (for four weeks) and for the remaining 5 weeks, we’ll be studying weather.  Our Wee Folk Art plans basically consist of read-alouds, a poem to memorize, art and music appreciation, and a science experiment.  Plus 2 quilt blocks!  In the plans are a  few pond visits (including the one by Granny’s when we go to visit!) to see pond life (the pictures below are a recent trip out to Pollywog Pond).  Here are the books we used for ponds:  Frogs; It’s Mine; Box Turtle at Long Creek; Look out for Turtles; Little Wood Duck; Make Way for Ducklings; Have You Seen my Duckling?; Were You a Wild Duck; Ducks Don’t Get Wet; Pond Circle; Eliza and the Dragonfly; In the Small, Small Pond; Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond; Near One Cattail.  For the quilt blocks, we’re going to be doing handprint blocks, based on the ideas from Marcia Layton’s book Handprint Quilts.  Our pond quilt block will be ducks.

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Beginning next week, we’ll be studying weather.  Our book list includes: Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain; Oh Say Can You Say What’s the Weather Today; Alfie Weather; Come on Rain; Little Cloud; The Cloud Book; Rabbits and Raindrops; Down Comes the Rain; Thunder Cake; Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roar; Rainbow of My Own; All the Colors of the Rainbow.  Our quilt block will be rainy days.


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I gave the kids a choice for science this summer…plants or oceans.  Surprisingly (or not, since what boy doesn’t love dirt?), they chose plants.

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The main topics we’re covering are flowers, seeds, leaves, stems and roots.  We’re using AIMS Primarily Plants for hands-on experiments and tending our own garden.  And, of course, we’re armed with an exciting book list.

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Here are our plant books for the summer: The Reason for a Flower; How Flowers Grow; Pick, Pull, Snap; How a Seed Grows; Planting a Rainbow; Sunflower House; From Seed to Plant; The Complete Book of Flower Fairies; Fairy Houses…Everywhere; How to Find Fairy Houses; Fairy Houses of the Maine Coast; In a Nutshell; One Bean; A Tiny Seed; The Dandelion Seed; A Seed is a Suitcase; A Seed is a Promise; DK Eye Know Plants; Peter in Blueberry Land; Growing Vegetable Soup; Going on a Leaf Hunt; Weeds and Wildflowers; Jack’s Garden; To Be Like the Sun; Up, Down, Around; What Do Roots Do.

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Before we started our plant unit, I was reading a series of books by GJ Walker Smith.  In her books, she tells these fascinating stories about fairies (some of which she made up and some based on legend).  I got really excited about fairies, but figured the boys would totally not be interested.  I should have realized that at the mere mention of building (fairy houses, of course!) they would be on-board.  Joseph, especially, got very excited, taking on the role of the Leaf Fairy (we all get sprinkled by leaves when he passes by us!).  The boys spent this past week building fairy houses (and they followed all of the rules, as outlined in the Fairy House books.  Our Fairy Houses of the Maine Coast book is missing in the picture above because it spent much of its time outdoors this week, providing inspiration and guidelines.

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Our plant unit also happened to correspond with my book club book The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  Fascinated by the idea that flowers speak a language and mystified by the process of buying flowers, I enlisted the help of the kids to tackle the world of flowers.  First we visited a local florist who was kind enough to teach us everything we wanted to know about what it’s like to be a florist.  The kids loved standing in the walk-in refrigerator and each one brought home a flower of their choosing.  Our friendly florist explained that by putting flowers in a vase beside your bed you are guaranteed to have sweet dreams.  Both William and Joseph were pleased to include this new idea as part of their bedtime routine.  I showed Joseph the guide at the back of The Language of the Flowers and just like me, he fell in love with the idea that flowers can speak.  He looked up each of our flowers from the florist shop and gasped when he realized the flower of his choosing, the red carnation, meant “my heart breaks.”  Before I knew it, he had drawn a bouquet for me based on the meaning of the flowers (apparently, when you are 7 or younger, a flower is a flower is a flower because they simply drew whatever flower they imagined in their drawings and then simply labeled them…it never occurred to them that each flower looks different). My bouquet included flowers that meant beloved daughter, love and sweet and lovely.

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Then William and Joseph appeared with another hand-drawn bouquet…this one filled with flowers that did not carry such a loving message.  The flowers in this bouquet meant things like I cannot be with you, I do not trust you and, even, I declare war on you.  A little shocked at the message, I said, “Oh wow, this bouquet seems a little angry.”  “Well, of course! We drew this bouquet for the devil!”  A bouquet for the devil…who could have imagined such a thing!

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When our initial fresh flowers began to wither, the boys each chose a flower to press and then they kindly requested another trip to the florist.  We visited a different florist (the one who did mine and Daxson’s wedding flowers 11 years ago!) and armed with the guide, each child was able to pick out a flower that had a particular meaning.  (William insisted on a red carnation.  I reminded him, “William a red carnation means ‘my heart breaks'”  “Yes, Mommy,” he solemnly replied, “I know.”  Hmm, not quite sure what to make of that.)  Andrew chose a lily, which means “message” and Joseph ended up with a Chrysanthemum, which means “truth”.  All the boys were quite pleased with their choices and the flowers are still sitting beside their beds, bringing them sweet dreams.

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We are continuing our study of World History, mostly covering the beginning of Christianity.  We’re finishing up Story of the World Volume 1 alongside our RC History lesson plans (the beginning of Volume 2).  For American History, we are following Serendipity’s Native American plans, making an ABC Native American book based on D is for Drum and we’re learning quite a bit with the If You Lived With…books.  After our Native American study, we’ll review the early colonists.

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We are using Ruth Heller’s books and Word Fun for our grammar lessons this summer.  One day each week we’re reading a different Ruth Heller book (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, interjections and conjunctions, pronouns) and then later in the week, we’re reading the corresponding section from Word Fun.  The Ruth Heller books are awesome…packed full of tons of information and so fun to read.  After reading the stories, the boys are making a page of that part of speech to add to their lesson book.  Toward the end we’ll be using Punctuation Celebration and Eats, Shoots,&  Leaves for a quick review of punctuation.

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For our math lessons this summer, we ‘re reading lots of math stories (especially Stuart J. Murphy’s books), playing games (using Family Math) and reviewing math facts (with flashcards and Xtra Math).

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Summer Plans

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We don’t stop schooling during the summer, but we do school a little differently. a little lighter, and a little more learner led.  We keep up with math and phonics (reading or spelling, depending on whose lessons we’re referring to), but the rest of our “school day” is led by the children’s interests.  This summer we’re spending our days studying the presidents and birds, both topics chosen by Joseph and happily followed by William.  Here’s a basic overview of our plans:


Each day we’re studying a new president.  After reading all about the president of the day, Joseph makes a timeline page to add to his President Book.  Here’s what we’re including on each page:  The President’s Name; Years in Office; Vice President; # President; 5 Facts; President’s Nickname; Birthplace; Born and Died Dates; First Lady; a star sticker to symbolize the president’s party (gold for federalist, silver for democratic-republican, blue for democrat, red for republican, green for whig); a sticker portrait of the president; and a quote from that President.  Some days we complete just one, other days we complete more.  All last week, Joseph was up by 6:30 am (he who usually sleeps til 8!) to work on his President page.  After all the pages are complete, we’ll laminate them and have them bound into an official book.

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The books we’re using for our research include the following:  So You Want to Be President; Don’t Know Much About the Presidents; The Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Presidents and Their Times;  DK Eyewitness Presidents; Wit and Wisdom (for the quotes); The Look It Up Book of Presidents

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Some of the other things we’re supplementing our Presidential studies with include: Melissa and Doug President puzzle; The History Channel’s Presidents; Men of Destiny board game; Jingo American Presidents and First Ladies game; Meet the Presidents board game; Mr. President (and old time radio show); Sing a Song of Presidents (book and CD); President Activity book; Presidential Cookies (as soon as I’m back to baking, we’ll add a cookie recipe each week to supplement our studies); Dover President coloring book; Dover First Ladies coloring book

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For our bird study, we’re spending a lot of time outdoors with our binoculars looking for birds and learning to recognize them.  To do that, we’re using a Bird Log; Backyard Birding for Kids; and our Birds of Texas Field Guide.

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Here are the extra resources we’re using for studying birds: Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring book; Birds Alphabet Coloring book; Bird Mazes; Learning About Birds; Your Backyard DVD (this is what sparked their interest and got us started on this unit study!); Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Birds; Crinkleroot’s 25 Birds Every Child Should Know;  The Bird Alphabet Book; Baby Birds and What They Eat; Reading Rainbow’s DVD: Birds of a Feather; Blues Go Birding; Tea with Lady Sapphire; Adventures of Sammy Jay; rubbing plates of birds; Bird Toob; Common Bird Songs; Bird Fun board game; Bird Watching Trivia board game

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Resurrection Eggs

This was the 1st year that Joseph was able to hunt for eggs.  Last year I had planned to do an egg hunt with him, but William was born on Good Friday and all of my Easter celebration plans went by the wayside.  So I spent some time during Lent this year finishing my homemade Catholic version of Resurrection eggs and Easter morning after Mass, Joseph hunted for the eggs…

If you’ve never seen Resurrection eggs, it’s a really neat idea.  Basically you take 12 plastic eggs, number them and you choose 12 of the main events of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with, of course, the resurrection.  Then you put a symbol of each event into the corresponding egg.  Here’s what I chose:

1: Jesus enters Jerusalem…a piece of a palm branch

2:  Jesus washes his disciples’ feet…a piece of a towel

3:  The Last Supper…a piece of bread

4:  The Agony in the Garden and Judas Betrays Jesus…a prayer and some coins

5:  Jesus is Questioned by Pilate…King of the Jews sign

6:  The Soliders Mock Jesus…a purple cloth and a thorn

7:  The Scourging at the Pillar and Pilate Condemns Jesus to Death…a rope

8:   The Way of the Cross…a small cross

9:  Jesus is crucified…a nail

10:  Jesus dies…dice (for when the soldiers cast lots)

11:  The Burial of Jesus…a rock

12:  The Resurrection…I left this one empty to represent the empty tomb on Easter morning

Then on Easter morning, you bury the eggs.  The kids hunt for the eggs, but they don’t open them until all of the eggs have been found.  Once all 12 eggs are found, together you open them one by one, telling the story as you go.  I simply found a picture of each event, mounted it on cardstock with the title of the event and laminated them.  The pictures helped me tell the story, but the lack of words on each page allow me the luxury of adapting the story from year to year based on age range (good thinking, huh?)  Joseph LOVED it!  Definitely worth the time and effort to make them and certainly a tradition we’ll continue!

A Day for Kite Flying

Yesterday Joseph made and flew his first kite.  It was nothing elaborate, nothing technical, but it was certainly special and so very exciting.

First he decorated his kite…

What a beautiful rainbow!

That's a goal post with a football going through it.

Then we took it outside to fly it…

Ahh, the sheer joy of kite flying!

 Then we took the kite to fly around the neighborhood…

Dax even drove by while we were out walking and stopped by for a little kite flying…

The downside to flying a kite with Joseph…now he says he wants to fly.

The Process…not the Product

I think one of the hardest lessons to learn as a mommy is that presentation is NOT everything, contrary to what we’ve been trained to think.  It really is all about the process with children…not the product.

The following may not seem like such a big project to most moms out there, but you have to understand my little Joseph.  He’s a perfectionist.  He cannot stand messes.  He wants everything nice, neat, and clean.  He will not touch play-doh, mud, or anything even remotely messy.  I feel like he’s missing a whole chunk of his childhood because he refuses to get sticky, gooey, or messy!  So my mommy brain went into overtime trying to remedy this situation.  What could I possibly do to get him to embrace the messy side of life.  Enter a cake mix, frosting, and some other goodies…

It took us two days to complete our project (one day for baking and one for decorating) and in the end our product may not have been perfect, but who cares?  It really was the process that mattered. because Joseph did it all…he dumped ingredients, mixed, decorated (with a utensil of course!), sprinkled, and lo and behold, he even fed himself!  Isn’t victory sweet?