Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rain Gutter Regatta & Writing

Highlight of the week for Cullen: the Rain Gutter Regatta with his scout pack last night. Here is a silly pic showing off his little sailboat.

Lung power was no problem, but controlling exact direction of airflow was trickier than anticipated! This made for funnier races, though.

Cullen won his match, but didn't have a fast enough finish time to make the finals. There was time for the boys to just race for fun, so they got to blow their boats until they were tired of puffing.

Now a drastic change of subject...

One of our biggest school-related goals this year is to strengthen Cullen's writing ability and build some stamina. Our oldest two, Eric and Taylor, would each spend hours drawing and coloring from a very early age and neither had any trouble with handwriting when it came along. However, Cullen has never shown more than a minimal interest in drawing or writing endless pages like his brother and sister. If I work really hard, I can sometimes talk him into coloring a Spider Man page, but never more than one. Now that he is writing, his hand and finger muscles are having to catch up to the demand he is placing on them. Because this is a new problem for me, I've had to put in a little research and intentional effort to help build those little muscles.

Last year, he announced to me that handwriting practice was "EEEEVVVIIILLLL" while glaring his eyes. (I think that came from a Sponge Bob cartoon.) About five words was the most he could manage in one sitting last Spring. He's come a long way since then, I am pleased to report!

Though he still makes a face if a great deal of writing is asked of him at once, his attitude has improved greatly along with his stamina. He makes an effort these days to produce readable writing, catching most of his own mistakes and correcting them. I just thought I'd share an example of copywork that he is especially proud of...

and a few sentences he composed and wrote. (Neatness was not the primary goal of this assignment - writing something he wanted to write was the point!)

Weekly, he makes improvement in quality and in amount of writing he can manage. Not too many things other than this have been a real challenge to him yet as far as learning is concerned. (Now there are other issues that are a different story!) I am terribly proud of his determination to work through something that isn't always easy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cub Scouts, Spider Eggs & French-Accent Rap

We have a new salute! Cullen is learning the basics of how to be a cub scout, and he's enjoying it thoroughly so far. Next Monday evening, his pack will be having a Raingutter Regatta with lung-powered little sailboats. We are just getting started on ours and expect to be painting it over the weekend. Of course, Boy Scouts means selling gourmet popcorn, too, so if any of you are really interested in purchasing some caramel or chocolate-covered popcorn, please let me know! We will set you up!

An update on our favorite spider from an earlier post: the spider has disappeared and left a large, untended and tattered web. We found a rather large egg sac a little farther up in the shrub, though, and we will be watching as the season changes for signs of little baby spiders emerging.

The earlier part of this week was much too hectic with my business requiring time normally dedicated to schooling. Not that anyone is looking over my shoulder, but I really do not like to get behind with Cullen's work. Today has been more than I could have asked for! Cullen has had the best attitude, and there have been no interruptions! We are completely caught up with where I think we should be. Even his handwriting practice brought no complaints, and when he was writing out the names of the continents, he produced probably the most beautiful word he has ever written. For just a few seconds, I thought I must have written it. Of course, later in the day when he composed and wrote a few sentences on his own about his favorite game, his handwriting somehow reverted back to its usual appearance!

Cullen added a little zing to his reading selection today by doing the whole story of Ruth and Naomi from his Beginner's Bible as a French-accent rap song, complete with beatbox noises between paragraphs. Keep in mind that any French accent he has managed to obtain has likely come from cartoon sources only. I was able to supress my giggles and pretend that I noticed nothing unusual, but just barely. As long as he is reading correctly and clearly, he can do as he likes to make it fun. Or funny!

This evening, we'll read together about Johnny Appleseed in honor of his birthday tomorrow. If you see Cullen carrying a pot on his head tomorrow, you'll know why!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Math Snapshot

I thought I'd give a peek into our math time. (Maybe I'll cover some of our other subjects over the next few days, also.) Cullen is using the Horizons Math 2 this year. It is a little advanced, maybe, for his real grade level, but the Miquon curriculum we used last year, as well as his own love of math, has him ready for this. He does balk sometimes at a page which requires tons of writing. I usually have him do about half of the problems in writing, and if I feel he needs a little more work to firm up his understanding of a concept, we'll do the rest of it orally. His stamina for writing is improving, but still needs work - that's another post, though! You can see in the photo that we keep "brain food" on hand! Goldfish pretzels are a necessity for math time.

Cullen is working every day on his addition facts, trying to get a little faster with them. Flash cards and games are standard for us, but we do try to mix it up a little. Here he is using Learning Wrap-ups to see how quickly he can get his +3 facts correct. We love these little gadgets! Plus, they give Cullen a reason to wallow around on the floor. Might as well have fun!

We are off now to our very first Cub Scout meeting, and I think I am just as excited as Cullen is!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

History Center Visit

Yesterday, along with my sister, Windee, her son, Walker, our cousin, Jamie, and her daughter, Kathyrn, we spent the day at the Atlanta History Center's homeschool day event featuring demonstrations of 19th century farm skills and crafts. I even learned a few things!

Costumed re-enacters demonstrated and explained the way things were done over 150 years ago. The small working farm at the center had sheep, chickens and small patches of corn, cotton and vegetables. We learned about cooking and kitchens, dyeing wool, spinning wool into thread, making pottery, dipping candles, woodworking and a little about blacksmithing. Most surprising to Cullen - discovering the outhouse!

This gentleman not only showed us how furniture was made, but also went into great detail about shoes of the period. Did you know that shoes were made to fit either your left or right foot? You would put on a new pair of shoes, soak your shod feet in water, then let the shoes dry on your feet in order to get the best fit from the new leather. Metal hobnails and heel plates were standard to provide a little traction on the slick bottoms.

The kids got to make their own clay bowls. Ours is still drying in the kitchen; we plan to add some paint in a few days.

Candle-dipping took a bit of patience, but he came home with a little-bitty candle!

Of the permanent exhibits in the history center, Cullen enjoyed the old phone the most. He's still talking this morning about the fact that you didn't dial numbers, you asked the operator to connect your call.

We had a great time - mostly because we shared the whole experience with our best buddies!

Jamie and Kathryn have each posted about our visit. Check them out!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ancient Art

This afternoon, I took Cullen down to the High Museum of Art to see the exhibit of ancient art and artifacts from the Louvre. Over the next several months, we'll be learning a little about the first civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and China. This exhibit covered much but not all of those. We're also really looking forward to the TerraCotta Warriors from China that will be coming within the next few months.

We have some hands-on crafty-type activities planned to go along with our history, which should be fun. Now when we sit down to write like a Sumerian on a clay tablet or with heiroglyphs like an Egyptian, we know first-hand what the real thing looks like!
There were some really amazing things included in this exhibit!!! The huge Tiber sculpture, partially pictured above, was absolutely stunning. Cullen was unexplainably fascinated with its feet. Well, they were pretty big! One of the most surprising items was an Egyptian sarcophagus for a cat. Can you tell I thoroughly enjoyed myself?

Before we left, we took a stroll through the folk art and contemporary exhibits, which were really big hits with Cullen, especially the odd glass sculptures. Looking around at everything, he announced, "This is the coolest!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wednesday on the Web

We have been incredibly busy!!! We aren't quite settled into a firm school routine yet, though my hopes are still high!

This past week, family duties made things a little crazy. My Mom and aunt switched houses. Yes, you did read that correctly. My cousin, Jamie, attempts to explain the tendency of certain family members to move around in circles in her blog, so I won't go into the whole story. Let's just say, we are exhausted.

Today, as on every Wednesday while these enrichment classes are going on, we only work on the basics at home - handwriting, reading and math - to make room in the schedule for Cullen's two classes. He is absolutely loving chess! Though he claims that he is learning nothing in the hands-on robotics class, he was discussing this afternoon the difference between 90 degree turns and 180 degree turns and how to tell the robot which one to make. I told him I am pretty sure that counts as learning something!

Between classes, there is always time for bug hunting with friends.
There were plenty of bees and butterflies to follow.

The big attraction for everyone today was an ENORMOUS spider. I am not exaggerating - the creature was over 4 four inches across! It had no fear whatsoever of any of us. Horrible and beautiful at the same time is an odd combination, but that is the only way I can describe it. I think I know what kind of spider it is, but I'm off to look it up, to be sure. Here are photos for your viewing pleasure!

This shot is the underside of the spider as she enjoys her lunch:

Still working on that tasty little bug:

Not the clearest focus, as it was moving rapidly, filling in the center of its web:

A few months ago, Cullen would have been too terrified/grossed-out to really watch this creature. We just finished reading Charlotte's web, so he was much more interested in getting a close look, even if this spider was only "scribbling" on her web!