Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April Showers....

It seems like the rain will never quit! We're praying for so many people who are suffering from flooding and spring storms. We had a miserable drive home from Michigan in the rain.... our grass is SO long... our yard is so muddy... our Easter Egg Hunt with our homeschool friends has been postponed... BUT those little things are nothing compared to the suffering that so many are enduring. Hopefully all these April showers will soon bring beautiful May flowers and better weather.

I had intended to get us back to schoolwork this morning, but we all got off to a slow start. The boys were playing nicely and I was beginning to tackle the mountains of laundry and the various suitcases and bags of "stuff" from the trip. Before I knew it, the boys were outside in their pajamas and rain boots. They were swinging and singing and having a great time.  I was able to start laundry, tidy up the kitchen, make calls, and send some emails. Of course, by the time the boys came in they were quite muddy and needed a bath.

Later we met up with my Mom and Carter for lunch and a trip to the library. It was nice to have a day to settle in. Spring Break's over now, though. Tomorrow we're back to the books... and a playdate!... and maybe soccer practice if the rain holds off.

Happy Easter!

We have just returned from a wonderful visit with Jon's family in Michigan. Jon RARELY gets to see his family at Easter because of tax season. Since Easter was so late this year, he thoroughly enjoyed attending the Holy Week services and spending Easter with his family.

We had lots of fun coloring eggs at Grandma's house, swimming in the hotel pool, and having a big party to celebrate Easter and some family birthdays. The Easter Bunny even delivered goodies to our hotel room! Unfortunately I have no great pictures of Easter morning with the baskets or at Church because my camera decided to do a weird "memory card error" trick. Here are some pictures I did get from the weekend:

Grandma and Ray checking out some Easter goodies

Aunt Julie and Adam

Ray, Addie, and Adam

Cousins waiting patiently for Easter baskets from Grandma!

Wow! What a haul! Grandma spoils us!

The "big kid" cousins

Getting ready to hunt for eggs

Trying to rescue the PRIZE egg from a crevice in a hollow tree!
Celebrating Spring Birthdays!

Spring birthday honorees - Jon, Susan, and Bud

Adam looking cool in his new shades

Adam sporting his new Spiderman swimsuit and playing with a squirt raft from the Easter Bunny

Our Easter Prayer Table
(Decorated by Dad and Mary while we were gone - Thanks!)

Activities for Observing Easter's 50 Days

For the past few years we have celebrated the Easter Season using The Good Shepherd's Garden calendar resource. It's great and I highly recommend it. We really enjoyed the weekly "garden parties" last year. However, for several reasons (including travel plans and the boys' level of interest), this year we decided to do something different.

I gathered 50 plastic eggs and Jon helped me fill them with papers naming a variety of prayers, crafts, and activities that will help our family celebrate Easter for the full 50 day season.

Each day we'll open one egg and complete the activity printed on the paper inside. Then we will hang the egg from our kitchen cupboard. As the Easter Season goes on, we'll have a growing reminder of the joy of Easter.

I considered several ways of organizing this activity. The obsessive-compulsive organized side of me really wanted to date the eggs so I could control which activities we would do each day. However, I decided to "live dangerously" and just toss them into the bowl and allow the boys to choose them randomly. We'll see how that goes! The reality is that we're going to be very busy throughout these next several weeks. So I tried to keep the activities simple. I think the key will be continually reminding the boys that the Easter Season lasts longer than the jelly beans. We'll discuss the various symbols, rituals, and commemorations that are part of this great Season. We'll revel in the great Mystery of the Resurrection in many ways for many days.

I'm including my list of 50 activities below. However, one of the great things about this activity is that it can be adjusted to fit the age level and abilities of the children year after year. If I had older children I think I would list a Scripture passage for each day and have the children look it up and read it and discuss how it relates to the daily activity. Older children could also help with brainstorming ideas and compiling the list.

In random order, here are the activities I put inside our eggs:

Go on a picnic!
Read The Parable of the Lily.
Go on a nature walk and look for signs of new life.
Pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
Learn a new prayer.
Fly a kite. Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit.
Learn about the fruits of the Holy Spirit and make a fruit salad.
Act out the Resurrection story.
Pray for moms and babies.
Learn to spell and write "Alleluia."
Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Discuss why Sunday is Holy. Plan a special Sunday dinner for this week.
Pray for those who have died.
Read "The Egg Tree."
Make a bell craft.
Make a Holy Spirit windsock.
Sidewalk Chalk!
Do a good deed for someone.
Pray the "Easter Symbol Prayer."
Pray the Litany of the Saints.
Make Resurrection rolls.
Do the "Bunny Hop."
Make a Rosary craft.
Make a Divine Mercy craft and Divine Mercy "sundae."
Go out for ice cream!
Make an "Alleluia" poster.
Gather some flowers for our table.
Enjoy a "LAMB" treat.
Have an Easter parade.
Sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today."
Draw a picture of the Risen Jesus.
Cascarones! (Confetti Eggs)
Make Easter snow globes. (From a kit I ordered through Oriental Trading)
Sing lots of "Alleluia's!"
Plan our Mary Garden.
Watch "The Three Trees" video and/or read the book.
Decorate and Easter Candle.
Make a butterfly craft.
Listen to CAT CHAT - Easter CD.
Have an Easter Egg Hunt!
Remember our Baptisms. (Look at pictures, light our candles.)
Listen to Handel's "Messiah."
Read the Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35) and go for a family walk.
Plant seeds.
Get Holy Water from Church.
Make a "Welcome" card for a Neophyte.
Make a card or gift for someone who is sick or lonely.
Make a rainbow craft.

I'd love to add any ideas you may have! Post a comment to share how your family celebrates the Easter Season!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jelly Bean Day

Did I forget to mention that we SURVIVED tax season? I am so proud of Jon and all of the hard work he did again this year. Last week he worked 91 billable hours! We are so glad to have him back with us. Honestly, the past few days have been a blur as we've celebrated the end of tax season and tried to get back to a "regular" schedule.

My dad and Mary came into town this week and will be visiting for the next few weeks. Yesterday they were "substitute teachers" for the day and I got the day off! I can't even tell you how nice it was just to do errands without the boys in tow. I really enjoyed it.... and so did they.

Dad, Mary, Ray, and Adam had JELLY BEAN DAY here at home.

They made jelly bean graphs:

 They wrote about jelly beans:

.... pretzels!
 When I got home they were hunting for Easter eggs all around the house. They also made really cute rhyming books that Mary had worked hard to prepare. (I'll try to post about that soon.) I think Mary was actually the teacher and Dad and the boys were her students. They all seemed to have a great day and I was so thankful for the break! I have now declared our homeschool to be on SPRING BREAK for the next week! Yeah!
Thanks Dad and Mary!

Easter gifts from Dad and Mary.... AWESOME gardening bags complete with seeds and gloves and tools! This will be perfect for next month's theme - plants! Thanks!

Weather Observation Day

We have been studying Weather this month... at home and in our Monday co-op. We picked a good month for it because we've had everything from very cold days with snow flurries to very warm and sunny days. We've had tons of rain. In the middle of last night we went to the basement as the tornado sirens wailed.

On Monday we wrapped up our co-op for the month by heading to a local park for a Weather Observation Day. We weren't sure if the rain would hold off or if the fields would be muddy, but it turned out to be a very nice - but windy - afternoon.

We began by painting some wind chime and thermometer suncatchers.

Next we prayed Saint Francis' Canticle of the Sun and we prayed for the recent tornado victims in the South.

Each child was given a Weather Observation booklet to complete.

The children also made wind vanes. Then, the real fun began. We took advantage of the blustery wind and had fun blowing bubbles and flying kites.

Adam was thrilled to have his first opportunity to fly a kite!

We ended our time together by awarding certificates and prizes and heading to the playground. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Praying and Crafting Our Way Through Holy Week

We've spent quite a bit of Holy Week reading the stories of Jesus and working on several craft projects and Holy Week observances.

Look at our Jesus Tree! We've got all but two ornaments on now.

We've also continued praying the Stations of the Cross using our books and kits. Tonight the boys took their kits to church while we went to Confession. They decorated their kit boxes and laid out their Stations in the vestibule while they waited for us. Yesterday we had a the great privilege of attending the Living Stations of the Cross presented by the 8th graders at our parish school. It was a very reverent and beautiful service.

Tomorrow we'll be re-reading and reflecting on the Last Supper. We love our Last Supper craft that we made using these great printables from Catholic Icing!

 I ordered these Holy Week activity booklets from Oriental Trading.  I am quite impressed with them. The boys worked on them during Palm Sunday Mass and have continued with them this week. I gave them to my Godchildren and some other friends as Easter gifts.

 Last week at Catechesis of the Good Shepherd several of the moms collaborated to put together this Holy Week banner for our families. The symbols are attached with velcro and can be added each day as the different events are commemorated. We got the idea here.

This morning we finished coloring and assembling this adorable Resurrection set from Lacy at Catholic Icing.  There is a Jesus to hang on the cross on Good Friday and then put in the tomb. The stone is attached to an empty Kleenex box with a brad and opens up to show the burial cloths inside. I can't say enough about the GREAT resources at Catholic Icing!

And... we've had a really good time crafting some fun stuff to give to our friends and families to celebrate the Great Feast of the Resurrection!

One more thing to share.... I'm sure many of you are familiar with Resurrection Eggs. They are a set of a dozen plastic Easter eggs, each filled with a symbol from the story of Jesus' Passion. You can order a set or make your own. There are many ideas for this on the web. We have not done Resurrection eggs this year, but I did come across a really great printable resource that I've filed to use in the future. Check it out here:
http://www.teachingheart.net/easterpage.html (Scroll down to the bottom of the page.)

There are so many awesome ways to help children learn about Jesus and His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. I am continually amazed by the depth of their questions and by their insightful comments and beautiful prayers. I am learning and growing in Faith right along with them.

Wishing you a holy commemoration of the Sacred Triduum!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aesop's Fables

The boys and I have just finished a fun study of Aesop's Fables. We read several fables and the boys illustrated them and wrote sentences about the story and/or the moral of the story.

Here's Adam's favorite, "The Lion and the Mouse" ---

Here's Ray's favorite, "The Tortoise and the Hare" ---

On Wednesday we wrapped up our fables unit by going on a field trip with several homeschool families (and approximately 67,397,235 school kids). We attended a dramatic presentation of several Aesop's Fables. It was well done and we really enjoyed it. My boys are developing a real love for theater!

Here's something you don't see every day ----

Homeschool kids standing in a line! (Believe it or not, this is something that many homeschool skeptics often bring up to homeschool parents.... "How will they learn to stand in line?" Funny, huh?) We gathered at the entrance of the huge auditorium and rows and rows and rows of school kids filed off buses and into the building. We had to line up and squeeze our way through. Adam was our line leader and (even though he looks crazy in this picture) he did a great job.

Here we are waiting for the show to begin ---

Ray's favorite part of the play was "The Ants and the Grasshoppers." Here the grasshoppers are doing a funny dance.

 My favorite part was the race between the tortoise and the hare. (In the middle you can see "Aesop" himself!)

It was really fun to study these timeless tales with the boys and experience them acted out on stage!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Money Bingo

Since Ray has finished already finished his Kindergarten Math text, we're spending some time working on telling time and counting money. Today we played "Money Bingo." (I adapted this idea from a similar game in What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know from the Core Knowledge Curriculum.)

Here's how it works:

Each player gathers 5 pennies, 5 nickels, 5 dimes, 5 quarters, and 5 dollar sign pieces. (We used milk lids with dollar sign stickers.) The caller has a container with various coins and one dollar bills inside. Each player has a "Money Bingo" card with five each of the following amounts printed on it: one cent, five cents, ten cents, twenty-five cents, and one dollar. (The children could certainly be given the task of  making the cards themselves. Hmmm. Maybe that will be next week's activity --- make your own bingo card.)

The caller pulls a coin or bill and places it on the table. The players have to find a coin or bill that matches. They need to say the name of that coin and the amount it's worth. Then they can find that amount on their card and place their coin (or $ token) on that space.

We played until we covered the entire card. (And that way we were all finished at the same time --- no winners/losers.)

This game is perfect for my boys right now. Both of them are struggling to keep the names and amounts of the coins straight. I think a few days of practicing with this game will help them get it mastered.

Geo Trax

When I loaded pictures from my camera onto my computer today, I found 34 pictures that I had not taken. They all looked something like this:

I didn't even need to ask who took these shots. They definitely give me a glimpse into the world as Ray sees it. He's our train enthusiast. We've had all kinds of trains in our house ever since he was about 17 months old. He never grows tired of them.

 As I looked at these pictures today, I was remembering his fourth birthday when we bought him his first little Geo Trax set. A friend of mine had recommended these Fisher Price trains as "the next step" as he was getting bored with his Thomas set. Ray loved them immediately and has been playing with them ever since.

I remember getting online with Ray and looking at all of the Geo Trax layouts. I remember being amazed and incredulous. Why would people allow their entire living rooms to be filled with these trains?  Little did I know that in just a few years my family room would look like this:

Ray has gotten really good at building elaborate layouts. Every few days I make him clean it all up so I can walk across the room and/or vacuum, but then he just builds an even bigger and better layout the next day.

I can't believe how much he still loves playing with these trains! They are sturdy and versatile. We've purchased several pieces from garage sales. They all work together well and hold up for a long time. So I guess this is a product endorsement. (Believe me, I'm not paid a dime!) When other children visit our house, they inevitably end up playing with the Geo Trax.

I spent my childhood playing with Fisher Price Little People sets, especially the school house. I have a feeling that these Geo Trax will be the toys we keep and end up passing down to grandchildren some day!