Dear Luna

Dear Luna,

You would be 16 months old this month.

You would be cruising all over the place and eating everything in sight.

You would be laughing and smiling and playing with your siblings.

You would be doing crazy things that defy explanation and logic while also making it impossible for me to scold you without laughing.

You would be wearing cute little bathing suits with ruffles and bows and sunscreen.

Or you could be wheelchair bound due to your Turner Syndrome. You could be a 24-hour concern, requiring my every ounce of energy but worth every exhausted moment.

I would be anxious about your every breath instead of mine. I would be worried about every cough and cold and rash and scrape and ache. I would hover and over-protect and flip out. I would yell at people staring at you and threaten kids who weren’t polite.

I miss you. And I mourn the fact that I don’t have you. The fact that there was this little piece of me living in this world who I didn’t get to nurture and hug.

I mourn that Maggie has missed out on having a baby sister and partner in crime.  She misses you too. And is often sad about it, but I learn so much from her. When she says she is sad about you, the very next thing she says is that she will see you in heaven when she dies.

You are such a part of this family. I have four children – not three. I delivered you just as painfully and joyfully as I delivered Bo, Maggie and Joe. I did hold you for a moment. I did kiss your tiny hand. I did get to say goodbye.

I owe you some thanks. Thank you for teaching me that every soul means something. Thank you for teaching me that I can be brave in the face of loss. Thank you for teaching me not to take things for granted.

Thank you for Joe. I would not have Joe if I had not lost you first. I would not appreciate Joe or be as patient with Joe if I had not lost you first.

I would not understand my mother’s love for me – the child born after loss – without first losing you.

I know for sure that having you and losing you was all part of God’s plan. I know without a doubt that this all happened the way it was supposed to. But it still hurts and I am still sad. I still wish things could be different. But different in a way that would allow me to have Joe too.

Mostly, Luna, I love you. I love you without knowing you. I love you without meeting you. I love you completely. I love you in a way that I can’t explain.

Give my daddy, my sister and my brothers big hugs and kisses for me. You are a lucky little girl to be there with such a crowd of amazing people.

Love,
Your Momma

Fireboat

This was the story I wanted to do last week with the Fourth of July, but it worked out better to do Blueberries for Sal instead. Fireboat by Maira Kalman is about the real life fireboat called the John J. Harvey from New York City. Built in the 1930′s and retired in the 90′s, the Harvey came out of retirement on 9/11 to help fight fires and save lives.

On Monday, we practiced with our letter F. We wrote them on the board and Maggie did a prewriting worksheet. Then we listed as many words as we could think of that started with F. (The word “fart” got a lot of giggles.) We finished the letter F activities with a F scavenger hunt.

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She still needs some help.

Then we went back to our basement school room and talked about timelines. We constructed one on the board starting in 1930 and ending in 2020. We found 2014 and practiced how to say what year it is. This was difficult because big numbers like 90′s and 80′s are numbers we hadn’t really covered before.

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Then I took suggestions from Maggie and Bo for dates to put on our timeline. Our birth years. When mommy and daddy got married. Even put grandparents’ birthdays and great grandmother Oa’s birthday on the timeline. Bo thought it was weird how everything was clustered in one area of the timeline.

Then we opened the book and found the major dates in the history of the Harvey and added those to our timeline too.

We made smaller timelines on paper for each of them starting with the year they were born and ending with 2014. Bo noticed that he had more events on his than Maggie did. Again, the years were hard because the numbers were big.

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On Tuesday, we learned all about David and Goliath. In the book, the Harvey is retired and considered pretty useless, but ended up being needed on 9/11. So I had them tell me how the two stories were similar. Bo had a memorized answer to what the story of David and Goliath teaches us: “Nothing is impossible with God.” So we ran with it. I think Maggie was having a harder time with it, but eventually she said she wanted to be brave like David.

They drew pictures of David and Goliath and I had them repeat the story back to me using their pictures.

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Bob's handiwork

Maggie noticed the size difference between David and Goliath, so we reviewed the big/small lesson from last week and sorted buttons according to size.

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Also mentioned in the book was the word “hot-cha” which led too discussion on nonsense words, so we spent probably too much time coming up with words for things. Bo was very good at this. A great big storm is called a “wundow” and Baby Joe’s squirming can be described as “woogely-boogely.” Maggie took some prompting but when I asked her to come up with a word for how smart daddy is she said “sum art.” When I said that smart is already a word, sh said “No! Suuuuumart.”

Also, Bo noticed that there were a lot of lists in the book, sho we practiced making lists of things. We talked about grocery lists and wish lists and Christmas lists. Then we listed things we love. That was a full day and one where I let them take lead and explore.

On Wednesday, I let daddy teach them all about boats. I thought at first that he was teaching over their heads, but Bo was really into it and even Maggie has repeated things she learned that day.  We acted out rowing and steering and driving a boat. Maggie loved that.

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He took them on a historical tour of the design of boats starting with canoes and moving on through lots of different boats. They learned terms like johnboat, runabout and center console. We also differentiated between displacement boats and planing boats.

Then we used a picture boat to identify some of the boats in Fireboat. Ocean liners. Tugboats. Things like that.

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We took a field trip out to the garage and got in daddy’s runabout and learned boat vocab like bow and stern and all that. The kids really liked being in the boat and really seemed to be into learning the vocabulary.

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On Thursday, we learned all about NYC. We looked at lots of photos of things like the Twin Towers, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park and the George Washington Bridge. I will admit that I partially cheated by letting them watch “Enchanted” – a movie they love so they could identify the landmarks we went over.

We talked about the foods too (big deli sandwiches, big floppy pizzas, hot dogs and bagels) but Bo insisted that we have those foods too so it can’t be special about NYC.

Friday morning, we continued with NYC and talked about 9/11. They built skyscrapers with Legos. We looked at photos of 9/11 and talked about what would happen to a building if a plane ran into it. We prayed for people who died and who had family die that day. We talked about being trapped and that led into a discussion about heroes.

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We moved pretty seamlessly into talking about public servants like doctors, fire fighters and police officers. We borrowed some dress up uniforms from a friend and they each dressed up as something. Then we talked about what they would do in case of a tragedy like 9/11. They loved this. We prayed again and thanked God for them.

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Officer Korn

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I had every intention of having them do some exploration of who their heroes were and stuff like that, but having had a rough week personally I felt like they had done enough.

This week we are taking the week off so we can reinforce their Vacation Bible School lessons instead. After that, we will be studying The Story About Ping.

Broken Hearted

Everyone grieves differently. If I had a penny for every time I have heard that in the past four years, I would, well…I’d have a whole lot of pennies.

Yes, I get it. I won’t process things the same way as my husband, my mother, my sister and my brothers.

And I think I have nailed down how I have chosen to deal with losing a brother, a baby, a sister and my father in less than four years. My grief has manifested itself as irrational anxiety regarding my health and the health of my loved ones.

In other words, this is a conversation I have with myself often:
“Ouch! My arm aches!”
“Oh no…is that a sign of something bigger?”
“Like what?”
“Osteosarcoma. Myocardial infarction. Arthritis. Osteomyelitis. A million things!!”
“Are you sure it is not from the three hours I spent pulling weeds in the yard yesterday? Or the baby I carry around 24 hours a day?!”
“Psh. No way. Oh! Is that chest pressure? I am leaning toward a heart attack.”

And on and on and on it goes. I begin to convince myself that my body is trying to tell me something and I become hyperattentive to all the little aches, pains, twangs and twinges I feel. I convince myself I have chest pains or that those twinges and cramps are signs of cancer.

I start to outline all my imaginary symptoms to Patrick so that he can report them accurately to the ER doctors when I fall over unconscious.

So I spend my life in constant fear of dying. I know what it feels like lose a parent and I see what it has done to my nephews to lose their mother. I don’t want my children to feel that. To know that hurt.

I feel like there is a tiny beast curled up in the space where my heart used to be and it bites me now and then to remind me to be afraid. At least once a day.

Part of me wants to ignore it. This anxiety is a result of my grief. I need to breathe deeply, relax and everything will be fine. You are imagining it, Katie.

Then I think that I am ignoring my body. My dad spent the whole day before his heart attack feeling sick and promising that he’d see the doctor if he still felt bad in the morning. Would he still be here if he had listened to what his body was telling him?

My grief is no longer predictable or reasonable. I feel like I have slipped in something sticky and the more I struggle, the more of this junk I get on me. And it’s keeping me down on the floor because it’s too sticky to pull myself up.

The accumulation of my losses has really started to chip away at my sensibilities.

Then this morning, at 5 o’clock after I put my sweet baby Joe back to bed, I decided I was going to ignore my sleepy eyes and study my Bible. According to my notebook, the last time I had a good and thorough exegetical study was the day that Joe was born. Maybe here is part of the problem? And I clearly didn’t finish it as I stopped in the middle of a paragraph. Galatians 2 and I stopped in the middle of verse 17.

So I picked up where I left off.

Business as usual until I got to verse 20. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

Forgive me for taking this verse out of the context of the passage which is talking about being justified by faith and not by the Law. My husband would (rightly) hang me by my toes. But I read that and thought about my current stage of anxiety…

This life is not my own. I was so willing to admit that when I was trying to mourn the loss of my daughter Luna – that I didn’t own her and that God had every right to take her from me. I even remember praying daily when I got pregnant for the first time that I would accept whatever happened to him because he was a gift from God and not something I was owed. So why did do I feel so differently about my own life?

When I chose to live my life for Christ, I died. I already died. The person writing this right now is a work that God will continue to improve on my whole life. In fact, in verse 19 it says “for through the law, I have died to the law so that I might live to God.” All the church and ministry and prayers and studying that I do, that is an expression of love to a God who made it so that I don’t have to do all those things to get to heaven. And if God wants me to die, it should be my joy to do so.

I have lost sight of that love. I resented the loss of my father especially. I was angry. I was so angry that I couldn’t pray as much as I used to because my favorite way to start a prayer was “Father in heaven” and now my father is in heaven…so it hurt to say that. It was like I was giving God the silent treatment. And if I am being fully transparent, I am still reluctant to fall into his arms the way I need to. It’s like I am talking to him, but I won’t hold his hand. Instead of the warm and affectionate “Father in heaven” I use a more distant “sovereign Lord.”

Then I thought of my love for my husband and children – the love that makes me afraid to die because I don’t want to leave them behind. The love that makes me anxious that I will discover some sort of mysterious terminal illness. And verse 20 tells me what kind of love Christ has for me – “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Would I give up my life for my children? Absolutely. Would I sacrifice myself for my husband? In a heartbeat. But why am I afraid to let God choose that for me?

You know, Christ also was anxious about his death on the cross. He prayed fervently that God would choose a different way, knowing all the time that He wouldn’t. My husband mentioned something to me the other day about how God knowingly designed the human wrist, full of sensitive nerves and ligaments. He designed the wrist knowing that Christ would one day feel a nail driven straight through those intricate and painful nerves. Christ knew exactly the nature of his death and he still accepted it.

And so it is with a more human hesitance that I try to accept that God’s will for me may WILL include death.

I am not saying that I am magically no longer anxious. Because I still am. But I am working on focusing on the ultimate goal here which is not me. It is not even my husband or children. My ultimate goal is to live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.

Pray for me to be able to remember that when my anxieties creep up on me and that beast in my chest where my heart used to be bites me.

Blueberries for Sal

Again with a late update. This week was a little busy because my husband and soon were participating in a summer wrestling camp at MACA until lunchtime. We had to save school for after naps which didn’t leave us too much time for much.

I moved our schedule around a bit so that we could go blueberry picking during this week and do the book Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCoskey. We love this book for its clever story about a girl and get mother who encounter a bear cub and his mother while picking blueberries.

Our first day was a little minimal so that we could run out to have dinner with family. We talked about the letter B and worked on some pre-writing exercises with Maggie. Last week I said she wasn’t interested in doing these or trying to stay on the lines but this week was a completely different story. She has really been working hard at it. Practiced writing B’s on the board and Bo practiced his lowercase b’s as well. We talked about the sound that B makes and listed a bunch of words that start with B. “Bo!” “Bear!” “Bed!”

Then the edition of the book we own came with a CD of songs and activities which we did. The changed some popular songs to feature bears and blueberries like “Here we Go Round the Blueberry Bush” and “Ten Little Blueberries.” Maggie, just having gotten up from her nap was a little reluctant to participate, but Bo was all over it. I took lots of pictures but then switched phones and can’t find them.

We took a break on Tuesday so that could go out to eat with my mother.

On Wednesday, we concentrated on the parables from Luke 19 – the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. Patrick told them the parables and we talked about what parables are for. We reviewed a bit about symbolism that we discussed last week.

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Patrick explaining to them the parables.

We hid a coin and had them search for it. We did this a few times and then they were pretty bored with it. 

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Bo proudly displaying his coin. And his mohawk.

We then acted out the Prodigal Son, which was pretty interesting with a four year old and a two year old. It was more like readers theatre or probably more accurately repeat-after-me theatre. But they liked it and they really liked running throughout the house to find props.

We talked about being lost or found. Then we made paper “hugs” Because they really liked the part of the story where the father greets the Lost Son with a hug. Maggie decorated hers and Bo wrote “found” on the inside of his because he wanted to be sure that everyone knew he was found and not lost.

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Bo took this picture himself.

On Thursday we talked about differences.  We started with bigger than/smaller than. In the story, there is a small girl with her bigger mom and a small bear with his bigger mom. The story also compares the size of Sal and her mom’s buckets and compares the amounts of blueberries they picked. So we moved from size to number – greater than/less than.

I made them little Pac-man style monsters that they could use to practice figuring out which was greater than the other. There were a few different worksheets I made them. One with dots they had to count, one with numbers and one with shapes of different sizes. They were very excited to put googly eyes on their monsters too.

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Then we saw that the mouths of their monsters were very much like the greater than/less than sign (does that sign have a proper name?) and we practiced that on the board. We only did this briefly because I honestly don’t think the sign is the important part.

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The last thing discussed this day was how some things can weigh more than something else and that is different from overall size. We constructed a scale out of a dowel rod and two baggies. Then predicted which object would be heavier and then we tested. A little intro to the scientific method, of course. Maggie is ornery and would always pick opposite of Bo even if Bo presented a good case. But they liked it.

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Friday morning was a beautiful, breezy, warm day and was perfect to go blueberry picking. We went with my mom (Nana) and it just so happened to be her birthday, so practiced our B sounds and made her birthday cards. I found a little tin pail like the one in the book and we let Maggie carry that to put berries in.

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There is a lot of onomatopoeia in the story, so we dropped blueberri
es in the pail to see if it sounded like it does in the book: kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk. And we talked about other words like that. Drip drop. Flip flop.

I had every intention of making a bean bag toss but had a busy week and with the fourth of July we had a good time with family instead. We baked some blueberry buckle together and that was enough for us!

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Next week is Fireboat by Maira Kalman.  Looking forward to a normal(ish) week.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Sorry my post this week is so late – we have had a busy weekend and I took the time to deep clean my kitchen instead of updating the blog.

This week, we studied We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  This is a repetitive story that lends itself to hand motions, which is the very first thing we did.  We read through the story once and then went through it again making up hand motions together.  I would ask, “What hand motion would show a deep, cold river?” and they would make suggestions until we picked one everyone liked.  Once we figured it all out, the kids wanted to do it over and over again.  All day.  All week.  Even now that we’re done with the book.

This is what they chose for the line "We're not scared!"

This is what they chose for the line “We’re not scared!”

In the book, it says “We can’t go over it/We can’t go under it/Oh no!  We’ve got to go through it!” So we talked about over/under/through and other locative prepositions and practiced with a tunnel that we have.  We practiced going over and under lots of things and talked about how some things are easier to go over or under and others are more difficult.  We then used gummy bears (sticking with the bear theme) to demonstrate these prepositions.  They got bored with this pretty quickly, I think because they already understood pretty well.

Going THROUGH the tunnel

Going THROUGH the tunnel

We reviewed our senses from the week at the beach and practiced using them to make observations.  Then we talked about what an adjective is and what it means to describe something and practiced describing all sorts of things.  “Gummy bears are delicious!”  “My hands are sticky!”  “These are squishy!”  They weren’t ready for school to be over, so I let them work in some workbooks on things like patterns, colors, shapes and letters.  They really loved working in these, especially when bribed with gummy bears.

On Day 2, Patrick took the kids out on a Habitat Scavenger Hunt to find each of the environments mentioned in the book (grass, river, mud, forest, snowstorm, cave) and they had a blast running around in the forest and splashing in the mud.

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Maggie asked if she could take all her clothes off and run around in the river.  Of course, a couple of the environments were hard to find, so we had to improvise.

This was our cave.  For the snowstorm, we let them stick their faces in our freezer.

This was our cave. For the snowstorm, we let them stick their faces in our freezer.

Bo carried a clipboard with everything listed on it and was a little upset when they didn’t do them in order.

Bo carrying his clipboard through the "deep, cold river"

Bo carrying his clipboard through the “deep, cold river”

After they came back, we made story paintings.  I pasted a paper cave in the center of the paper and separated the remaining space into five sections – one for each of the environments.  Then the kids painted the environments into the sections.  Green grass.  Blue river. Brown mud, etc.

Maggie's trees.

Maggie’s trees.

Bo was very methodical and painted the whole section.  Maggie had much less patience.  Then we glued some googly eyes in the middle of the cave for the bear in the cave.  Bo was so excited to use the glue himself.

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We talked about what a habitat was and went through each one and listed animals that lived in them.  Bo was very excited about crayfish living in mud because he had found one when they went on their Habitat Scavenger Hunt.

Day 3 was all about Bears.  Bears are my favorite animals, so I was excited about this.  We filled in our animal information worksheets and practiced terms like carnivore and omnivore.  We looked at photos of various species and watched some videos.  We compared species and mentioned how to tell the difference, so Bo knows to look for the shoulder hump on a Grizzly bear now.

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Maggie drew a bear on the board.

Maggie drew a bear on the board.

Then we talked about how we can compare things in a simile using the word “like” because I wanted to link bears and my Dad (their Papa) in their minds.  My dad died suddenly in April and he was obsessed with bears (both Chicago and the animals).  So, we looked at a photo of him and talked about how he is like a bear.  “Papa is big like a bear and strong!” “Papa likes to eat meat and plants like a bear.”  Then we talked about how symbols and images can help us remember someone.  We went around the house and looked at the pictures hanging up – we have a moon painting by my Aunt Bim to remind us of our baby Luna, a bear painting to remind us of Papa, drawings by Uncle Jake and Aunta Nina’s handprint.

My dad gave me this picture of a bear that hung in their house for as long as I can remember.  It's always been my favorite.

My dad gave me this picture of a bear that hung in their house for as long as I can remember. It’s always been my favorite.

We practiced with other similes and I said “Bo is like a strawberry because his shirt and shorts are all red.”  We then had a lesson in the difference between metaphors and similes because Bo said if he was a strawberry he’d be small and a triangle and covered in seeds.  So we talked about how being LIKE something and being something is different.

We ended the day by reading several other books starring bears.  There are a lot of them – even in our collection.

On Thursday, we learned all about Noah’s ark.  I told them the story and we talked about a few different lessons we can learn from it.  We talked about following God’s directions even when they seem ridiculous.  We talked about being righteous when everyone around you isn’t.  Then we acted out the story using a wooden Noah’s ark set we have.

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Then I gave each of them a pile of popsicle sticks and a sheet of paper and told them to build me an ark.  I didn’t give detailed instructions (although, thinking back on it now, that would have illustrated how Noah followed God’s directions well), but they had fun trying to build something that looked like an ark.  Bo’s actually did look like a boat!

Bo drew a pair of bats in his ark.

Bo drew a pair of bats in his ark.

Then we talked about the number 2.  We practiced writing two’s on the board and did a couple of worksheets.  Maggie is not interested in those pre-writing activities and could not follow the lines and didn’t try to. Bo can do his worksheets completely on his own now and was done in record time.

Maggie circled her 2's instead of trying to draw them.

Maggie circled her 2′s instead of trying to draw them.

Then I made them a couple of “counting boards” where I hot glued pipe cleaners to a sheet of paper and gave them beads to string onto them.  This was intended to help them practice the fine-motor skills, but also to teach them to add by 2′s and count by 2′s.  We put two beads on the first pipe cleaner, four on the second, six on the third and so on. Maggie loved threading the beads onto the pipe cleaners, but asked me not to take a picture of her while she was working.  “It’s really hard, mommy.”

Maggie's chubby fingers stringing beads.  So cute.

Maggie’s chubby fingers stringing beads. So cute.

Bo practiced his mental math by adding two to each number to figure out how many beads to put on the next pipe cleaner.  Then we took the beads off and counted how many beads we used total.

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Friday was a special treat.  We had spent the night at our Oa’s (my grandmother’s) house and left early to go to the National Zoo in DC with my sister Jes and her daughter Lo.  We had spent a little time the night before creating a checklist of animals we wanted to see at the zoo (so we could ‘hunt’ for them), but we left that list in the car back at the house when we walked to the metro.  The metro was a fun adventure for them too because my kids are country bumpkins who don’t know what escalators and elevators are.

My happy boys.

My happy boys.

I carried Joe and Patrick pushed our other two in our double stroller.  Jes used her double stroller for Lolo and lunch (yes, lunch took a whole seat in a stroller). We saw all kinds of animals, but oddly, no bears.  We did see otters napping in a tree stump.  Tigers stretched out in the shade.  Elephants throwing dirt on their backs for sunscreen.  Snakes. Owls. Gorillas. Zebras. Crocodiles. Pandas hiding in the trees.  Orangutans swinging on cables over the crowd of people.  But Bo’s favorite of the day was the lion.  The big male lion was up and walking around and we got to watch him take a drink, pee, poop and roar before lying down to take a nap.  I’ve been to the National Zoo once a year for almost my whole life and I’ve never seen the lion that active.

I think this is when they were trying to find the panda hiding in the tree.

I think this is when they were trying to find the panda hiding in the tree.

It was a long day and a warm day, but it was a lot of fun.  On the way home in the car, we went over our checklist and then we rewrote We’re Going on a Bear Hunt to be “We’re Going on a Zoo Hunt” and we changed the environments to animals and practiced animal noises.  (What do zebras say, by the way?) Then when we got home, we drew pictures of our favorite animals at the zoo and snacked on Teddy Grahams.  I had every intention of organizing a bear scavenger hunt where I hid baggies of Teddy Grahams and made them review the stuff we learned this week to get them, but I was beat after walking all over the zoo.

Bo drew a King Cobra.  That was his favorite animal at the zoo, but the lion put on the best show.

Bo drew a King Cobra. That was his favorite animal at the zoo, but the lion put on the best show.

Originally, I was going to do Fireboat by Maira Kalman to align with the 4th of July (it’s about a fireboat in NYC on 9/11), but because my favorite place to pick blueberries put out its blueberries sign, we will be doing Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.

Goodnight Moon

I chose this book because my girl Maggie just absolutely loves to read this.  It used to be a bedtime staple before we started going to the library and probably was responsible for my drive to make Maggie read OTHER books.  In the book, the author describes a room and then proceeds to say goodnight to everything in the room.

On Monday, we made it all about colors.  I made Bo a worksheet with the names of colors on it and he sounded out the words and colored them in accordingly.

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While he did that, Maggie drew me a picture of a “great green room” and a “red balloon” (and a whole bunch of other stuff that she wanted to draw like “Mommy, this is you with no face!”)  Then Bo did another worksheet where I wrote ROYGBIV down one side and he figured out which color went with each letter and then drew a straight line across the page with that color.  We talked about rainbows and the order of the colors and he drew a rainbow to hang up on the wall.

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Maggie had a worksheet with circles of different colors and she sorted beads into the right colors.

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She got very distracted at this point and insisted that she needed to draw princesses on the board. So we moved on to finger painting!  I gave each of them a glob of red, blue and yellow finger paint and told them that these were primary colors.  We then made other colors from these primary colors and we talked about the color combinations (red + yellow = orange, etc.).  Then I let them paint and make a mess of themselves.  Finger paints are not what they used to be!!!  They washed out of everything without a hitch.

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I may have gone a little overboard on Tuesday, but we had a lesson on the Moon and Solar System. We first talked about what a planet was and what it means to orbit something.  What planet do we live on?  Earth!  We looked at photos of the moon and talked about craters on the surface of the moon.  So they could understand this, I gave each of them a pile of flour on a plate and asked them to flatten it out as much as they could.  Then I gave them a marshmallow and had them (lightly) hit the surface of the flour to leave a crater behind.  We also threw the marshmallows at them to see how the craters looked different.

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Then we talked about how the moon looks different in the sky sometimes and we discussed the phases of the moon. We poured the flour from their plates on the table and drew the phases of the moon in the flour.

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We used a moon board like the one here to talk about how the sun always lights up half of the moon, but we can only see part of it depending on our location on earth.  The kids really loved this board and they continue to play with it still.  I’m not sure how practical it was for me to make it considering we are done using it, but I thought it was cool and they liked it.

Bo takes this very seriously.

Bo takes this very seriously.

Maggie not so much...

Maggie not so much…

And any time I can purchase myself a treat in the name of schooling, I do.  So we used Oreo cookies to make the phases of the moon by removing some of the cream.  I was a little wary of using so many cookies to do a simple project, but my son (being smarter than me) let me know halfway through that we could have used half the cookies because when he cut the crescent moon out of the cream, it left behind a gibbous moon, so he didn’t need those extra cookies.  I swear I had not thought of that.

If you look at the bottom right, you can see that Maggie sampled the gibbous moon when I wasn't looking.

If you look at the bottom right, you can see that Maggie sampled the gibbous moon when I wasn’t looking.

Bo got some practice with his fine motor skills too.

Bo got some practice with his fine motor skills too.

Next, we did an activity that I found on this blog that she called Mystery Moons.  I took a piece of white paper and a white crayon and drew some moons on them, then the kids took watercolor paints and painted over the drawing to reveal the phase of the moon I had drawn. Bo kept getting frustrated and saying “My paint isn’t working on this part of the paper!!!” So I explained to him that was the whole point of the exercise.  The kids are so cute saying “gibbous.”

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And as if all that wasn’t enough for one day of school, we also talked about the planets.  We went through them in order from closest to the sun to the farthest from the sun.  We talked about one unique characteristic about each and did a couple of activities for some. Bo’s absolute favorite was the volcanoes we did for Venus.  We put a little bit of baking soda in a canister, added a few drops of food coloring for flair and poured in some vinegar so we could watch the eruption.  Of course, we had to do this a few times.

Maggie loved getting to pour her own vinegar.

Maggie loved getting to pour her own vinegar.

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We also talked about the winds on Neptune and used a straw to blow on the liquid left over from our eruption so we could see what the wind did to it.  Bo liked to blow on it from different angles to experiment and see how it would behave differently.

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The last thing we did was put together a Styrofoam solar system model I found on clearance at WalMart for $1.  We had to paint it and that took forever – I ended up painting most of it myself after the kids had gone to bed.  And Patrick put it together the next morning.  Bo and Maggie have proudly displayed it in their room.

Saturn and Mars are Bo's favorites.

Saturn and Mars are Bo’s favorites.  Maggie liked dwarf planet Pluto because we painted it pink.  Yes, the kit included it.  Maybe that’s why it was $1.

He really enjoyed mixing colors so that the yellow of the sun was different from the yellow of Jupiter.

He really enjoyed mixing colors so that the yellow of the sun was different from the yellow of Jupiter.

Wednesday was all about the letter M.  I know we had done this already, but I really wanted Maggie to get the M down since her name starts with it.  We started by using M&M’s to make M’s on a paper.  (I wrote the M’s first and they filled them in with candy.)

I promise I didn't let them eat ALL of those M&M's.

I promise I didn’t let them eat ALL of those M&M’s.

Then I had Maggie count and sort the M&M’s like we did with the colored goldfish at the beach.

It took a lot of prompting, but she did it!

It took a lot of prompting, but she did it!

Bo made a bar graph again like at the beach.

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He also did math with the M&M’s like we did at the beach. I gave him a worksheet with a plus sign and an equals sign.  I put M&M’s in two places and he had to fill in the third.  When we did this with goldfish at the beach, I lamented not moving the variable. (I always put the unknown after the equals sign.) But he did a great job with it when I moved the variable to a different place.  Off to algebra we go!!! :)

He was in the middle of this equation.  Clearly 1 + 2 does not equal 8.

He was in the middle of this equation. Clearly 1 + 2 does not equal 8.

Maggie practiced drawing M’s on the board and when she drew a particularly good one, Bo got so excited he jumped up and gave her a huge hug.  “I’m so proud of you!!!” he yelled.  So sweet.

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Bo drew some lowercase m’s on the board too.  He also did a worksheet practicing with the letter M.

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Next we practiced some preposition actions since the book talks about the cow jumping OVER the moon and three little bears sitting ON chairs.  So I would call out a preposition and they had to act it out.  They loved jumping over things.  But “through” was a harder thing to act out – but they tried!  The last thing they did was to go on an M scavenger hunt.  I gave them canisters and told them to bring me things that started with M in them.  Bo brought back “money” and Maggie (with help from Bo, I think) brought back “marbles.”

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Thursday was our Bible lesson.  Patrick read Genesis 1 to them and we talked about the seven days of creation. As he read, every time it said “good” he would play a note on the piano and the kids would shout “Uh….great?!” They really struggled with the whole “good” thing…

I wrote numbers 1-7 on the board and Patrick drew corresponding pictures to the days of creation.

Bo adding eyes to the bird on Day 5.

Bo adding eyes to the bird on Day 5.

Then we had the kids run through the days by looking at the pictures and I bribed Bo with M&M’s to do it without looking.  The boy got it on the first run.  In fact, he could also repeat it this morning – again, bribed by M&M’s.  Then we went outside to find all the things from creation that we had talked about.  The kids really needed to run around and scream about stuff.  CHICKENS ARE BIRDS!!! LEIA IS A DOG AND DOGS ARE LAND ANIMALS!!!

Chasing our doggie Leia.

Chasing our doggie Leia.

We even took extra silly pictures of ourselves for the creation of man.

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Because I couldn't pick only one.

Because I couldn’t pick only one.

Then we brought back some of the color stuff from Monday’s lesson and tie-dyed a couple of shirts.  Patrick was the artistic master mind for that project.  I had found a tie-dye kit on sale at the store and thought it would be fun.  The kids really loved it and couldn’t wait to wear their shirts.

Bo really loved the gloves.  I think he's a scientist in the making.

Bo really loved the gloves. I think he’s a scientist in the making.

On our last day with the book, we talked about phone numbers.  (The first lines of the book are “In the great green room, there was a telephone…”) We talked about mommy and daddy’s phone numbers and then practiced dialing the numbers on mommy’s phone.  Modern cell phones are so much harder for a child to operate compared to a home phone.  They had to learn how to turn the phone on and unlock it.  Then they had to find the phone app and then dial the numbers.  It was pretty crazy, but they practiced calling daddy a few times and killed the battery on my phone. (And that is why there are no pictures for this day….sorry about that.)

Then we talked about 911 and how we use that only in emergencies.  We had to talk about what an emergency is and I might have freaked Bo out a little trying to give him examples.  He said he hoped he knew how to use the phone at school in case an emergency happens there. We wrote 911 on the board.

We read the story twice on Friday once in the beginning and again to identify the rhyming pairs.  Then we rhymed back and forth with random words like “blue” and “light.”  While we were doing that, Maggie said that “dark” rhymed with “light” and so we ended up talking about opposites.  We acted out opposites like big and small and old and young.  My favorite was silly and serious.  :)  If only I had pictures…

The last thing we did was to practice fine motor skills by using scissors to cut out M’s from a piece of paper.  Bo did pretty well, but still needs some practice. Maggie kept wanting to hold the scissors horizontally.  Our tie dyed clothes were dry, so we wore them to a picnic lunch at the lake.

Our finished tie-dyed clothes.

Our finished tie-dyed clothes.

Now every picture is a silly picture.

Now every picture is a silly picture.

A lot of what we did this week was really basic, so we’ve found ourselves reviewing all week.  We had “mush” for breakfast like mentioned in the book on Saturday morning.  To make it special, I wanted to make mush different from our regular email so I made breakfast quinoa with bananas.  They were not big fans of this.

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They are always learning to look forward to next week’s lessons.  We’ll be doing “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen.  Lots of “bear-y” interesting stuff planned.  Okay, okay…I’m ashamed of myself. But still, it should be a fun week.

The Night of the Moonjellies

This week, we are vacationing with the whole Korn family on Oak Island, North Carolina.  They have been coming here for years and this year, we planned it so that all of Patrick’s siblings could be here together.  Bo really wanted to continue to do “school” while we were here, so we chose a beach themed book called Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha.  This book is a story about 7-year-old Mark who helped his grandmother at her food stand in New England.  He finds a jellyfish on the beach on the way to the stand one morning and his grandmother takes him out on a boat to return the moonjelly to the ocean after a busy day working at the stand.

Besides my own children were my niece Lucy (almost five) and my nephews Conley (almost 4), William (2) and Jameson (17 months). William and Jameson only did the school thing when they were interested.

On Monday, it was a little rainy, so we were stuck inside in the morning.  I brought some individual white boards to replace the chalkboard at home and I had Maggie practicing O’s while Bo and Lucy (who are pretty much the same age) wrote out the word “ocean.”

We looked at a map of the United States to compare where we are in North Carolina to where the story takes place in New England.

We looked at a map of the United States to compare where we are in North Carolina to where the story takes place in New England.

In the book, the boy has many responsibilities at his grandmother’s food stand like filling the ketchup containers, replacing napkins and straws and helping to make onion rings.  So we talked about what a responsibility is, why it’s important to have responsibilities and then I had each child choose a responsibility for the week. Wiping tables, helping with dishes.  Maggie really wanted to cook.  We created chore charts and I bribed them with treats when they completed their job for the day. (Swedish fish, of course.  Keeping with the ocean theme.) I never saw children more willing to do work.

Creating a simple chore chart.

Creating a simple chore chart.

On Tuesday, we went out to the beach.  We started by comparing the dune with the beach. (“There is grass on the dune.”  “There is water on the beach.”)  Then we discussed the purpose of the dune – to prevent the water from getting to the houses and causing damage.  We saw a lizard in the dune and watched that for a minute.  Then we went down to the beach and played all morning.

Loving the sand - not so much the waves

Loving the sand – not so much the waves

While we were there, we collected shells for our fossils (more on that later).

Lucy showing off her shell.

Lucy showing off her shells.

We also tried to find as many creatures as we could.  Daddy caught a shark, so we touched the shark (feeling how rough the skin felt if you rubbed it in the wrong direction) and looked at the way it swam and watched it munch on minnows in the tidal pool.  We caught some sand crabs and put them in a bucket.

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Patrick showing Conley and William a sand crab.

We dug into the sand where we saw an air bubble and found a clam.  Then Bo found a shell in the tidal pool that had something attached to it.  He was very excited about it because it did something (I don’t know what) that made him think it was alive, so we put it in the bucket with the crabs.  Later we came back and it had opened up.  It turned out it was an anemone!

Our anemone, Carl.  Okay, I just made that up - but we should have named him Carl.

Our anemone, Carl. Okay, I just made that up – but we should have named him Carl.

We came in for lunch, and I mixed up some salt dough from a recipe I found on Pinterest. It worked pretty well except it was a little wet (my fault) and we had to use lots of flour to keep the shells from sticking.  A few of the kids lost interest pretty quickly, but Bo was determined to use every bit of that dough to do a million different things.  Handprints.  Finger prints.  Shells.  We ended up with a lot of fossils. (And one case where Lucy wrapped the shells up with the dough instead of just leaving the imprint.)  I had doubled the recipe for the dough, which in hindsight I didn’t need to do.

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Wednesday was a later night because we spent the morning all over the place.  And it was math day.  We started by making some jellyfish.  The jellyfish had tentacles on them with numbers and the kids had to glue the correct number of pom-poms on the tentacles. They loved the glue.

Maggie decided the jellyfish needed a mouth.  And Jameson looks on hungrily.

Maggie decided the jellyfish needed a mouth. And Jameson looks on with much curiosity.

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Then we did some fishy math with some goldfish crackers.  Maggie and Conley had worksheets with numbers written on them and I asked them to put the correct number of goldfish next to the numbers.

Conley counting crackers.

Conley counting crackers.

Bo had a more complicated sheet with a plus sign and an equals sign.  I put a number of crackers on each side of the plus sign and he had to give me the answer by doing the math and putting the correct number of crackers on the other side of the equals sign. I found myself wishing I had made it more complicated by putting the unknown in a different place.  Maybe he’s too young for algebra?

So proud of himself.

So proud of himself.

Then we used colored goldfish crackers to categorize by colors.  I had Bo do a bar graph type organization so we could compare the numbers of each color. Of course the kids got to snack on the goldfish when we were done.

Getting all the fish separated by color.

Getting all the fish separated by color.

He loved how he could see which color had the most and which one had the least.

He loved how he could see which color had the most and which one had the least.

Thursday morning snuck up on me.  (Beach time always seems to accelerate as you work through the week.  How is it Sunday and Monday went so slowly and boom it’s Thursday already?) The kids were anxious and excited about school this morning and they kept asking what we were going to do.  We started by having Patrick read the story for a change of pace and so that I could get everything together for our session.

Reading time with Patrick/Daddy

Reading time with Patrick/Daddy

We talked about jellyfish today.  How they have no brain, no bones, no lungs, etc. and they are mostly water.  We talked about their tentacles and how they use those to stun their prey and pull them into their “bellies.”  (I figured gastrovascular cavities was unnecessary for four year olds.)  We watched some You Tube videos about jellyfish and watched how they moved.  I decided that the word “bioluminescence” was not too much for four year olds. (Especially when Lucy started explaining to me what echolocation is.)

Huddled around the iPad.

Huddled around the iPad.

We started by making jellyfish out of paper bowls.  There were ones like it on Pinterest with coffee filters, soda bottles and other things, but I had paper bowls.  It was simple, but I should have had more ribbon (or maybe used crepe paper) and figured out a better adhesive for the ribbons because they kept coming off.  I probably would also have painted the paper bowls, but I didn’t think about that until afterward.  But the kids liked them and of course started wearing them as hats.  They were super excited to show them off.

Lucy modeling her jellyfish hat.

Lucy modeling her jellyfish hat.

Bo decided his jellyfish was a mask instead.

Bo decided his jellyfish was a mask instead.

Then we painted with watercolors.  Maggie enjoyed this so much from the Peter Rabbit study, so I brought them down to the beach.  I was going to try to do jellyfish paintings like this, but the watercolors needed so much water to drip down the page like that.  It was hard to keep five kids from drinking the paint water, let alone get them to follow directions.  But they liked painting and painted for a good long while.  Lucy and Bo painted beach scenes and the others were happy just to get some color on their page.

William making a big reach for the water.

William making a big reach for the water.

So intent on their work.

So intent on their work.

Finally, for fun, I gave them all glow bracelets, reviewed the idea of bioluminescence and we went and closed ourselves up in a dark bathroom to play for a while.  They had a lot of fun with this and even ran down to the dark basement to play when I got tired of supervising them in the bathroom.

Glow bracelets in the bathroom.

Glow bracelets in the bathroom.

For our last day, I wanted to spend the day on the beach since it was our last chance to do so.  We read the story, talked about our five senses and used those five sense to make observations about things on the beach. “Sand feels crunchy!” “The ocean tastes salty!”  “The sea shell smells like nothing!”

Bo and Lucy feeling the sand.

Bo and Lucy feeling the sand.

Racing through the waves to feel the water.

Racing through the waves to feel the water.

Then we talked about how the grandmother creates a keepsake for the main character to commemorate the “night of the moonjellies” and I handed out little jars for them to create a keepsake of the beach.  Bo was determined to get both wet sand and dry sand and was utterly confused that he couldn’t keep the dry sand dry.  Lucy and Conley put some shells in theirs.  Maggie liked how she could shake hers up and get the sand and water to mix and then if she let it dry, it would separate again.

Bo showing off his beach jar.

Bo showing off his beach jar.

The collection of beach jars.

The collection of beach jars.

The week was a great success and the kids were awesome to work with.  They continued to volunteer to do chores and earn Swedish fish all week long and they were super excited for school every morning.  It was a little crazy with all those children, but it was fun to see how the wide range of ages played out.

Cousins are best friends for life. :)

Cousins are best friends for life. :)

When we were driving home on Saturday, we stopped at an exotic fish store in Richmond and saw all kinds of colorful fish.  Maggie and Bo loved the sting rays and they even had a shark.

These are actually skates (not rays).

These are actually skates (not rays).

 

The shark!

The shark!

And finally, to close up the week’s lessons on responsibilities and sea life, we went to the store and bought Bo a beta fish. It is his responsibility to feed it and take care of it.  He has named it Fire Red, Fire Ice and Siamese Fighting in the past 12 hours.  I am not sure what name he will settle on, but we’ll see how this pet thing goes.  (Not that we don’t already have chickens, rabbits and a dog…)

First thing in the morning, "I'M FEEDING THE FISH - COME GET A PICTURE!!!"

First thing in the morning, “I’M FEEDING THE FISH – COME GET A PICTURE!!!”

As fun as all those crazy kids at the beach were, I will admit that I am a little relieved to be going back to just my two next week with the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise-Brown. Just for my sanity’s sake. ;)