Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Learning at the Spring Fair

On Friday, we took a trip with Grandma and Grandpa to the local Spring Fair. Friday is normally one of our homeschool days, and the fair had lots of learning opportunities for little people, especially in the agricultural/homesteading department. So you know, it was just our style.

There were lots of animals to see. Bee is checking out the alpaca and a turkey (yes, that's what the gray blob in the corner is). I'll admit that seeing all the animals gave me a pang of nostalgia for the good old days of critter ranching. This most recent incarnation of the Flapjack Homestead has but a few fowl. That time will come again though, I'm sure. Now that Bee is older, I'm thinking that it's actually quite near. Raising livestock is a life skill after all, it's central to the kids' education. 

Oh my, that was a bit of a tangent. Back to the fair...

 What could be more fun than stomping around in a sandbox full of corn. Plus, dump trucks! I suppose the educational sign on the wall behind the exhibit that explained all the diverse uses of corn in industry made it feel more like school, but hey, this is how the littlest learners get started.

Chobie had a chance to brush a (pretend) horse. Earlier in the week, we read a great Gail Gibbons book about horses that talked about their grooming needs. This was a great hands on application. 

Then there was the milking cow. The udders are latex and it's filled with water, so the kids actually got to squeeze the "milk" out into the bucket below. While this is different that acutal milking, since any squeeze technique would work, it was still fun. 

 Pedal powered mini-tractors to ride? Yes please. Both little guys loved this!

And of course, there were lots of rides to enjoy. Grandma is a big ride enthusiast, so we actually spent a lot of the day on the rides. I just didn't have as many good pictures of these.

That was our day at the fair.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Our Trip to the Zoo

We're finishing up with our animal theme, and decided to take a trip to the zoo to see the animals up close in real life.

It was a bit of a tough call, because let's be honest, "zoo" is code for animal jail. But today, the reality of it is that animals are not being plucked from the wild and stuffed into tiny cages. Instead, most of the animals were bred in captivity and cannot survive in the wild, and many zoos are participating in conservation efforts for wild animals and even recovery programs, like this one at one of our local zoos.

Then there's the fact that animals are constantly, um...cartoonized in books. I believe in the value of having concrete experiences at a young age. Seeing a real elephant instead of Horton or Gerald (we do love Mo Willems' Piggy and Gerald series!) is important.

So with that rationale behind us, we set off for the zoo.

The kids had a good time, although Seattle's zoo is so big that it was a bit much for those two. We went with the family though and Grandma was clever enough to bring a wagon for the kiddos to ride along in. It saved the day.

Bee did have enough energy to ride this hippo though.

We'll be studying bodies, bugs and our typical seasonal goodness next, so stop in soon for updates!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Our Play Bakery

Hello folks and welcome back to Lydia's Handmade Life. As I mentioned in my most recent post, there has been a lot shifting for me, especially in my work/professional life. During my long winter hibernation from blogging, things have shifted a lot in our home school life as well.

The Worksheet Wars of 2015
As you already are aware, I like to take a laid back approach to homeschooling with a lot of room for creativity, self-directed play, and art. Leaving the traditional type academics to be taught as my children begin to show interest. Well, that was until I started reading the common core standards.

It was innocent enough, when I began my initial Google searches. I just wanted to get an idea of where a kindergartener would be mid year in a public school. But then, well learning all the math and science concepts seemed like great ideas. Not to mention all of the cute little worksheets I could get from Teachers Pay Teachers! And how about these ones from 3Dinosaurs to go along with our Bob Books?

I have fond memories of dot-to-dot worksheets. I felt so grown-up filling in all my letters on the railroad paper in kindergarten. Worksheets are fun! Right?

Three reams of printer paper later, I found out that Chobie really doesn't think so.  

Maybe he just needs to get into it, I thought. Maybe it's okay to struggle a little to reach a worthwhile goal. Learning to read, do arithmetic or write legibly, like anything else we might learn, isn't always easy. So I got pushy with the worksheets. I even rigged up this whole sticker reward system as an elaborate form of bribery.

I think I was so excited for him to get excited about worksheets and earning stickers, like I had been (coerced to) as a child that I was missing his cues during our homeschool time. You know when your kid gets to that point where they are mentally spent? They can't focus any more so they start to wiggle (writhing on the floor is Chobie's preferred method) or find something to fidget with? Yeah, normally I know to stop or switch it up at that point. It was just that the worksheet wasn't done. We couldn't stop then!

In the end, after several wasted hours of frustration and exhaustion, I surrendered. I switched the focus back to imaginative learning and play.

The Homemade Bakery
In the last few days we've been working on a play bakery. I initiated the project, and Chobie has been enthusiastic from the beginning. We printed out some play money from Donna Young and whipped up a batch of salt dough to make our baked goods from.

Here are the kiddos "frosting" the goodies they made with paint.

As usual, I got over-involved and created my own little tray of salt dough treats.

Chobie, always interested in mechanics and "inventing" as he refers to the process of creating anything (as in "Look at this sign I invented!"), used some cardstock and a box to make an oven for our bakery. I love that Chobie invests himself in these kind of projects and adds his own ideas. It feels so much better than worksheet bribery. And he is still learning. Right now, our focus in math is on learning addition and how to recognize and count money. As we place orders and total up the amount owed, then count out money to pay for it, he is learning all of these.

What kind of homeschooling activities have you been doing lately? Feel free to leave a comment or link below, I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Brief Status Update

Hello friends, casual readers, and passersby.

I just wanted to leave a quick update here, as it's been several months and I see that some folks are still dropping in. Without fully intending to do so, I have put this blog on the back burner (on my stove that is about 24,000 burners deep). Somewhere in the holiday rush...amid launching the Etsy shop I dreamed of for years and hand-making all of my sons' holiday gifts, I got out of the habit of posting. I hate to blog about blogging and I especially hate to blog about how I haven't been blogging, but I do feel I owe it to my loyal readers to offer some form of explanation for my absence.

That said, I am hoping to keep Handmade Life going, though perhaps at a slower pace than before, skimming just the cream of our homeschooling, homemaking, and homesteading endeavors to share, instead of trying to publish each project.

I am also going through some big professional shifts in my work from home life, moving into areas I'm more passionate about than my current work and focusing more on writing. I'm incubating the possibility of starting a side project blog that features more of my writing and interests outside of the (wonderful) realm of hard-core housewifing. Don't get me wrong, I love and deeply value that work and would do it full time, but unfortunately no one is paying me to be awesome at it and with the standard of living these days based on a two income household...blah blah blah, I have to pay the bills, so my professional life is getting a bit more attention and overshadowing my blogging life.

So stay tuned for periodic domestic updates, and news of any new directions and new blogs. And if you're feeling really nice, wish me a little luck as I set of on my new career ventures.