Thursday, September 3, 2009

CSA Farming

We are lucky enough to live in a state where most of the year we can run out to a farm stand and get fresh produce. In our neighborhood you can't drive more than two miles without seeing one. It is becoming increasing more important, both environmentally and health wise, to eat fresh foods grown locally.

In our pursuit to eat even healthier, we have been trying to eat more organic fruits and veggies. This left us with a local vs. organic dilemma. Do we eat the local fruits and veggies, most of which are not certified organic but do come from small family owned farms in the area, or do we buy the organic produce that has been shipped from elsewhere in the country or even the world?

The solution - Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). How a CSA farm works is that customers purchase "shares" in the farm in the winter or early spring which the farmer uses to purchase supplies for the upcoming growing season. When the produce the farmer has planted is ready for harvest, the customers come to the farm to pick-up their share of the harvest. This arrangement lessens some of the risk family farmers face in growing and harvesting and allows us to support local farms in our community. We found a local farm at that is certified organic!!! The leading picture is what we got this past Saturday. We bought a small share and get a similar amount of veggies each week! Definitely a success.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Family Fun Day

Fred and I have arranged our work schedules so that one of us is always home with the kids. This arrangement, unfortunately, does not leave many opportunities for the family to do things all together. Our solution was to create monthly Family Fun Day. One day a month we both take off of work and Ms. Q takes off of school and we spend the whole day doing something fun together. This was our first one. It worked out great so we are planning our next one for September.

We started out at the Cape May County Park Zoo.

Then we ate Rita's water ice - yum - and rented a movie. When we got home we set up a tent in the backyard so we could have a camp out!

We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs - and of course that sweet Jersey corn.

Fred set up a movie projector and screen for an outdoor movie and we all had a great time camping out.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Outdoor Challenge #4 & #5

I just realized that I never published our expereince with challenge #4. Although I wrote it last week I seemed to have saved it in draft format. So I added this week's #5 to it.
Challenge #4
The Outdoor Hour Challenge this week was to walk outdoors and observe. The challenge was to notice what your child pays attention to and develop a focus area. The next challenges will involve discussing and researching the chosen focus area.
I found this passage in the recommended Handbook of Nature Study reading very inspiring:
"The child should never be required to learn the name of anything in the nature-study work; but the name should be used so often and so naturally in his presence that he will learn it without being conscious of the process."

Why this passage strikes me so, I am not sure. I know very few scientific names for things. In fact, when I was required to learn the scientific names for things in school I am pretty sure I purposely ignored the teacher because of the irrelevance of this knowledge to life. The idea behind this statement is what really captured me. We are new to nature study but have always been nature observers and enjoyers. I have no idea how to "teach" about nature. But this statement is reassuring in that I really don't need to teach anything, just set a good example.
We really enjoyed the park we went to this week. It was new one for us, close enough to get to quickly and just enough nature for observing. It is a city park, not a preserve, but beautiful just the same. After discussing all the plants and animals we saw today, Ms. Q decided that her focus area will be butterflies!

Challenge #5
For this challenge we brought a friend and spent most of the day hiking through the pinelands.
We tried to keep focused on looking for butterflies but there didn't seem to be very many. According to an article I read in the local newspaper, our over abundance of rain this summer has dramatically decreased the number of butterflies in our area. It did however increase the number of mushroom varieties we saw on our hike. We saw over 20 different kinds! The different colors, shapes, and sizes had the girls running with the camera from one spot to another.
The highlight of our hike was this little guy (or gal):
The girls thought it was so cool how (s)he covered up with the leaves in order not to be seen. This led to an interesting conversation about camouflage in nature and how animals use it for protection from predators.
Other highlights included a set of deer tracks that Ms. Q identified and attempted to follow, a salamander climbing on a tree trunk, and an observation deck overlooking a fast moving stream.
Here are some pictures from our day:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dolphin Camp (Finally!)

Ms. Q and Fred FINALLY made it to Dolphin Camp this week! They were originally supposed to go last month but were rained out. Ms. Q has been waiting for Dolphin Camp day since we studied the ocean and dolphins as a unit study in May.
They began the day with a lesson on dolphins and learned how volunteers at the Marine Mammal Standing Center help rescue dolphins who have been stranded on the shore. Then they took a cruise to see if they could spot any dolphins.
Dad do you see any yet?

I think there are some there!


Thursday, August 6, 2009


Ms. Q has been patiently waiting for her sunflowers to bloom...and they are finally here! She has been checking on them and recording the progress in a sunflower journal she made. She observed and measured them each step of the way from planting the seeds until today when this little beauty final opened. She took a million pictures of them (including the one above).

She was slightly disappointed that it isn't taller than her but I explained that not all sunflowers get that tall and she was ok with that. She is so proud of her flowers she has been giving visitors a tour of them. Which is really funny because they are planted right next to our driveway and anyone parking in the driveway will have already seen them! But she likes it when people comment on how beautiful they are. So - Wow - isn't this flower beautiful!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Karate Kids

Ms. Q and the team from Art In Motion Karate did a wonderful job demonstrating their martial arts skills Saturday. The kids performed a wonderful demonstration at the San Juan Festival here in town despite temperatures that soared into the high 90's.

This was the demo team's first presentation and the kids practiced hard the last few weeks to make sure they were prepared. Congratulations to the kids on a job well done. We are so very proud.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Outdoor Challenge #3

Outdoor Challenge #3 was a great success! It has been raining off and on for weeks and Little M is getting over being sick, so we stuck to our own backyard again this week.

Ms. Q is already used to drawing in her nature journal and she was excited to draw the story of our nature walk. She noticed a small hole in the ground that ants were walking around but not going in. She hypothesized that this was not an ant hole because it was too large. I asked her how deep did she think the hole was. She did not know but she thought it must be pretty deep because it was so big. I took a long blade of grass and stuck it into the hole. It wasn't very deep but very loud buzzing sound followed and a large dark insect stuck its head out of the hole!!! We yelled and ran away, but did come back again to finish our exploring.

Ms. Q thinks that the insect could have been a cicada nymph. She knows more about insects than I do, so I believe her. Evidently cicada nymphs grow underground and then come out and climb trees to shed their skin before becoming mature adults. She loves collecting these skins every year.

Her journal entry was great. She wrote the story and drew some great pictures to go along with it. I tried to remind her to use descriptive words like we did last week to describe what she experienced and she did pretty well with using them in her narrative. So far so good. We are really excited to get to next week's challenge.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Nighttime Visitor

We had a little visitor to our house last night. No it wasn't Santa Claus or even the tooth fairy. It was something even better...a skunk!! Now you may ask "why is a skunk better then Santa or the tooth fairy?" Well, simply because this little guy (or gal) sparked some serious curiosity and not just for Ms. Q.
We watched this skunk wander around the front yard for a really, really long time. Then I made Ms. Q go in to bed, again. She was already in bed when I ran in to wake her up to see it! But while we were watching it, she asked a lot of really good questions that we were able to get the answers to today. We went to exploring nature and found out what kind of skunk we think this is, what it eats, where it lives, and so many other facts.
The funny thing was that after Ms. Q went in to bed, Fred and I stayed outside and watched it some more. I asked him the same questions that Ms. Q asked me and he couldn't answer then either. Here is an animal that we have lived next to our entire lives and neither of us knew what it eats, what kind of house it builds, or how long it lives. I am so glad that we are now taking the time to really see what our world has to offer and learn from.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Outdoor Challenge #2

Our challenge for this week was to spend some time learning about the sounds of nature. We also learned about the perils of nature today too. Ms. Chatterbox had a bit of a rough time staying quiet during our walk, mostly because she kept telling me about the sounds she was hearing! "Did you hear that?" and "What kind of bird was that you think?" We agreed to take a break from not talking so she could excitedly describe the things she saw. She did really well with describing her experiences. She heard chirping, dripping, rustling, buzzing; she saw red ants, big birds, fast dragonfly, wet spiderweb; and she felt cold wet rain, smooth wet grass.

She also felt sharp stinging pain when she was stung by a yellow jacket! Thankfully this happened near the end of our walk around the backyard. After she removed the ice from her arm she drew this picture in her nature journal.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

Fred and Ms. Q were supposed to go to Dolphin Camp today but it started raining last night and the weatherman predicts rain for the next five days! It has now been rescheduled for August 4th. They were a little bummed but decided the movie theater was a good alternative.

In the spirit of slowing down and enjoying life, Fred decided to forgo shoes this morning. He is not a barefoot guy. After a quick walk around the backyard, he declared wet grass between his toes a wonderful sensation. So I guess the rain isn't that bad after all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

So Quiet

It has been so quiet around the house with Ms. Q gone all day. Little M and I are enjoying our time alone together but I do miss Ms. Q. I think Little M misses her during the day too. He crawls over to her room and calls for her in the morning after she's already left. Even Fred said he and Little M were a little bored on Wednesday while I was at work and Ms. Q was at her class.

She seems to be having a blast though. She made a new friend and is enjoying the classes. I think it's good for her to get some time away from the family. As much as she loves us and likes spending time with us, she needs some independence too. I'm glad that she is willing to tell me all about her day though, so I don't feel too left out! The first week seemed to fly by and I'm sure the next week will too.

Ms. Q has been asking when we will do our next Outdoor Hour Challenge but since we aren't having school this week or next I really hadn't planned one. I think we might do one on Saturday or Sunday this week and next. These are usually school days for us and I'm home all day, so really it could work out nicely. I better get reading!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Plans for July

July is a short month for us school wise. Ms. Q will be attending the community college for their college for kids program July 6th through July 17th. She and her friend picked out the classes they are taking together and are really excited. As I mentioned in the previous post, we are doing sports spectacular week again this week because of the July 4th holiday and some other events going on around here lately. Here is what we have planned for the rest of the summer.

Ms. Q and Fred are attending a one day Dolphin Camp at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine NJ. We planned this out when we were doing the ocean unit, so although it comes a little later Ms. Q is still really excited about it. She will learn more about dolphins, do some dolphin crafts, take a dolphin spotting cruise, and participate in a mock dolphin stranding. Cool huh?

July 23-26 Pied Piper Week

July 30 -August 2 Ice Cream Celebration

Aug 6-9 Helen Keller Week

Aug 13-16 Mystery Madness

Aug 20-23 Socrates Birthday (actual birthday in June but we didn't have time to celebrate then)

Aug 27-30 At the beach or Theme park Q hasn't fully decided on this week yet

Wow, summer just doesn't seem to be as long as I remember it being when I was a kid. Although, I have already started to hear the "we're bored" mantra on non-school days!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sports Spectacular Week(s)

This week we started Sports Spectacular Week. Well, weeks actually. Between holidays, nature walking, and birthday parties we have two short weeks before Ms. Q's college for kids classes start, so we decided to do Sports for both weeks. Here is what we will be covering:

-Use non-fiction books to discover sports trivia and/or history. Select interesting facts and create a poster using drawings or photographs. Add information to house timeline.

Language Arts
-Read a variety of sports related literature such as fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.
-Brainstorm as many different sports as you can think of, then put the list in alphabetical order.
-Create a new sport! Write the rules, instructions on how to play, about the playing area and equipment needed, the number of players, how you keep score, etc. Then, if you can, go out and play your new sport!

-Ask as many people as you can "what is your favorite sport?" Record their answers and create a bar graph depicting their answers. Discuss your findings.
-Our public library has a collection of I Love Math books so we will be using the sports math book for this as well. The I Love Math books use literature to reinforce math skills. Q likes to read them for bedtime stories so I'm sure she will love having one as schoolwork.

Social Studies/Geography
-Use researching and library skills to learn about sports played in other countries. Then use a map to locate that country.

-Pantomime various sports and have others try to guess what it is (think charades).

-This is the easy one! Play some sports!!! But don't forget to review the rules and safety first-it is school after all.

-Draw yourself playing your favorite sports.

-Discuss what it means to be a team player and demonstrate good sportsmanship. Describe how to display good sportsmanship. See if your library has any story books about good sportsmanship.

I'm trying to work in a field trip to a sporting event but our budget is stretched pretty thin this month with family and friend birthdays so definitely not anything professional. We'll see how it goes.

There you have it-SPORTS SPECTACULAR!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nature Walk Thursday

Today was the first day of Nature Walk Thursday. To recap, our summer plans include spending every even Thursday involved in nature activities. How cool, and timely also, that I stumbled upon The Outdoor Hour. Barb provides free online plans and weekly challenges that connect to The Handbook of Nature Study. I really had no idea or plan about what we were actually going to do on Nature Walk Thursday. I thought Ms. Q and I could just sorta stumble along and figure it out along the way like we usually do. Well, something better just came up! We started with the first challenge today. It was a blast!

We went to Giampeitro Park near our house. This is a favorite spot for playing on the playground so it took a little while for Ms. Q to move beyond the man-made scenery and really see what else their was. We planned for 30 minutes nature walking followed by 15-30 minutes playing, depending on Little M's mood because it would be nearing the time of his morning nap.

The ground was so soggy from the weeks and weeks of rain we have received lately that our shoes were totally wet. We really got into it though and Ms. Q was sad when the timer went off for us to stop. She was consoled however, by the fact that it was now time to go to the playground and some other children had arrived to play while we were walking.

Ms. Q was really interested in identifying the flower she picked from a bush growing near the lake and also in a strange little red mushroom she found. Neither one of us had seen a red mushroom before but we had never really looked for one either. She took a lot of pictures and pasted them into the nature journal she made two weeks ago along with her own drawings of her "specimens" and a little narrative of our "adventure walk" as she called it. M really liked feeling the barks of various trees. I asked him how the bark felt and if different tree bark felt different from others. He's thirteen months old, so he really didn't give me much of a response but it fun nonetheless.

We saw a momma goose with some babies near the lake and Ms. Q was sure to tell me that they were not goose babies but called chicks. I was surprised that she was more interested in the plants she found growing than in the wildlife. I pointed out some turtles on a log, a crane fishing, and the call of a bullfrog in the bushes but she dismissed these things and went zooming over to some flowers growing that she had never seen before. As soon as we returned home she told Fred all about our walk and showed him the things she had collected. She said she can't wait until our next walk and was begging me to give her the next outdoor hour challenge.

Here are some pictures from our nature study.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ms. Q's Birthday

Ms. Q is seven!! That's right she is seven years old. It feels like only yesterday she was a teeny tiny baby. Anyway, we celebrated her day with this delicious ice cream cake that she requested. Yes those are worms on top and cookie crumbs and chocolate frosting for dirt. It was actually very tasty. We went to Sahara Sam's indoor water park for the day. No pictures though, we were having too much fun in the water for that! I guess we could have posed for some outside but Fred barely got the car into the parking lot before Ms. Q was out of the car and into the waterpark!

Here she is with her new bike.

We did manage to get some schoolwork done over the weekend. Here is Ms. Q baking Flag Day cookies. They were sooo good!

Friday, June 12, 2009

America Week

This week is America Week in honor of Flag Day June 14th. We will be discussing the American Revolution and the symbols of the United States of America. Here are our plans.

Read books about the American Revolution (for kids) that include stories about the lives of the colonists and Betsy Ross. Then add dates to our timeline.

Use a map of the United States to identify and locate the original 13 colonies.

Social Studies
Discuss ways to show respect to the Flag. Learn and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Language Arts
See how many words you can think of that rhyme with the word "flag." Put patriotic words in alphabetical order. Write a paragraph discussing your feelings about the American flag.

Listen to the "Star Spangled-Banner" and use the words for copywork. Play patriotic music while we work.

Use tiny pieces of colored tissue paper or construction paper to create a flag. Make cupcakes with miniature flags stuck in them.

Use cut out stars in red, white, and blue to reinforce concepts of addition, subtraction, place value, etc.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Plans for June

Yes I know we are already into June and it is a tad bit late to post about plans for the month. But I am going to anyway. We took last week "off" of unit studies for a little break after the ocean unit and to plan for the summer. We will be doing school stuff through the summer but only in the morning. After lunch is free summer kid stuff!

This is what our days will look like until September.

Start with daily warm ups (as usual) - getting the weather report and recording it on her calendar, writing in her journal, reviewing spelling and vocabulary words, and documenting the progress of her sunflower garden.

Ms. Q will continue to work in her grammar and phonics workbooks. She loves doing workbook pages but I have found some new websites with free games that she will totally love doing more than workbooks.

Both of us hate her math workbook and we actually stopped using it about a month ago anyway. So there will not be any math workbook stuff. We have partially switched to living math with manipulatives and math games and it is really much more fun. The last board game I made up about clocks she asked to play even when it wasn't "school time," so I know she enjoyed it. I do supplement these activities with free worksheets I find online, but again, she likes the worksheets. I think we will use some math online games too. I don't plan to introduce any new math concepts during the summer, just reinforce what she learned this year.

Instead of our usual unit study we decided on theme weeks for the summer. Each theme will last only for that week and will hopefully cover most of the subject areas.

Here is what the schedule looks like for the rest of June:
June 11-14 America Week!
June 18-21 Ms. Q's Birthday Week!
June 25-28 Sports Week!

We just started America Week today, so I will write another post with the plans for the week but we have some other fun stuff for the summer too.

New for the summer are Nature Walk Thursdays! Every even week we will take Thursday to spend at a park or other outdoor space. Ms. Q made up a nature journal to take along and we will be creating a hiking pack with necessary supplies like binoculars, plastic bags, a ruler, magnifying glass, camera, pencils, and crayons. Using her four senses (we left out the sense of taste for safety and grossness) she will record what ever she wants any way she wants about the day.

Also new is our goal of reading one hundred books during the summer! This was sparked by a reading list I found on the New York Public Library's website called 100 picture books everyone should know. These are some of the best children's books ever! Some of the books Q has already read or didn't interest her so we are using the booklist as a guide and adding our own. We are recording our progress on the livingroom wall with a giant bee hive. After we read a book it's name is written on a bumble bee that Q colors and adds to the wall. So far so good!

Well that's it for now but rest assured that the adventures continue.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ocean Lapbook

Alright-here it is: The Ocean Lapbook!

On the first spread is most of the minibooks for animal classification. I found these at homeschoolshare. Ms.Q learned to classify animals into vertebrate or invertebrate groups and then into the five vertebrate and four invertebrate groups.

We created an animal classification diagram on the kitchen wall.

The next page spread has minibooks for spelling and vocabulary words as well as a listing of all the books we read during the unit study. There are some more minibooks left over from animal classification too.

We read the book Swimmy by Leo Lionni and talked about personification.

Ms. Q learned how coral reefs are made. She also learned the names of five of the world's oceans and where they are located (see the map on the right page). The picture is of the food web we created on the living room wall. See below for a larger image. I wrote about this in a pervious post.
Here are minibooks for the layers of the ocean, ocean habitats, undersea explorer Sylvia Earle, and Ms. Q's animal study about dolphins. The dolphin minibooks are from homeschoolshare too.
Here is the ocean layers minibook open.

The final section is two full sized books Ms. Q made during the unit study.

Her creative writing story titled Sea Water is about a turtle and a sea dragon.

And here is her book about the items she collected during our trip to the beach.
She did a wonderful job!!!