Friday, February 09, 2007

this week in homeschooling

I decided a broader topic heading for my homeschooling posts would be appropriate, as I know I'm wanting to write about more than just about what books we're reading.

This past week's theme has been snow, specifically focusing on animals (especially birds) and how they survive during storms. As you can see, one of our projects this week was to make pine cone birdfeeders. We collected pine cones from our woods, stuffed peanut butter in the gaps, and rolled them in birdseed. Then we hung our finished birdfeeders on our Christmas Tree on our deck (moved out there after Christmas for this very purpose). We've spent a lot of time the past few days watching the birds come to eat at our feeders (and the other kinds of foods we put out for them -- seeds, nuts, berries, fruit). We've been identifying which type of birds come to our feeders, and which food that particular type of bird seems to like best -- we've discovered that the nuthatch and woodpecker prefer the suet, the titmouse really loves the peanut butter on our pinecone feeders, the chickadees prefer the black oil sunflower seeds, and the goldfinches like the thistle seeds. Mysteriously, the nuts we put out seem to disappear when we're not looking....could it have something to do with the squirrel we watched climb up onto our deck last week? We haven't seen him again since we started putting more than just birdseed out there, but I highly suspect he's sneaking in when we're not looking. I'm sure catching him in the act (bound to happen eventually!) will cause much excitement with the kids.

We did some googling to see photos of all the snowfall in Oswego, NY. Seven feet of snow on the ground -- imagine! My back is glad it's out there and not here, though a part of me would love to see what that depth of snow looks like -- imagine being able to tunnel through snow that is over your head! As for us, we got 4 inches of the white stuff last Friday, allowing me to break out the snow theme FINALLY. The books we've been reading reflect that. And we've spent as much time as the bitterly cold temperatures and windchills have allowed us to outdoors, sledding, making snow angels, having snowball fights (though our powdery snow doesn't ball up well, so a snowman is currently out of the question). The kids have developed a real passion for sledding, and we've had to insist on them coming inside long before they want to, cheeks, noses, and ears bright red, kissed by Jack Frost.

This week we've been reading:

The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader. This book is an oldie (published in 1948) but a goodie, and a Caldecott Medal winner. It describes all of the preparations that a wide variety of woodland creatures make in the late fall to prepare for winter. Then winter comes, along with a little snowfall. Then a big storm hits, burying and freezing all the available food. It talks about how this effects each creature. Then a little old man and little old woman come to the rescue for those who can't find food, putting out seeds and grain and hay, attracting all the critters who are still stirring to the feast. In the end, the groundhog puts in his Feb 2 appearance. The text is longer than most books that I choose for my kids, but because it's a topic they are exited about, this quickly became a favorite of theirs.

Blizzard, by Carole Gerber, illustrated by Marty Husted. The Map Man and I LOVE this book. My kids are luke-warm on it, and I'm not sure why. Lovely, simple rhymes and beautiful watercolor illustrations contrast a gorgeous New England winter storm with a cozy indoor scene, then blends the two in the end as the storm subsides and the boy ventures outdoors to make a snow angel. It's just SO appropriate for where we live and the season. I don't get why the kids aren't just thrilled to pieces over it. Go figure.

Gingerbread Baby, by Jan Brett. Here we go again, our favorite Author delivers another big hit around this house! This is the classic Gingerbread Man "catch me if you can" story, told as only Jan Brett could, with a Scandenavian flair and absolutely delicious illustrations, and a 100% totally satisfying ending (which certainly can not be said about the traditional version of the story!). The kids are ga-ga about this book, and so are we.

I expect our snow theme will run into next week too. Would be nice if we got another snowstorm in the interim, but it's not looking likely according to the weather forcast. Poor kids want to make a snowman!


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