Friday, April 27, 2012

Science at the Zoo...classification

Today was another zoo day. We love to use the zoo as a resource for learning and this year it actually fits nicely with the Science that we are already studying.   On this trip, I decided to have the kids classify animals.

I found this great site for classifying animals with kids.  It gives a simple explanation of each group in kid friendly language.  We read and discussed these groups and then played this online game to test our knowledge before the trip to the zoo.

I created a page with the five categories for them to classify the animals.  There was a column for mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish.  Here is what it looked like.  This time I created each child their own page!  Haha.  I also decided to have the kids start keeping these pages in their MFW folders as part of their learning portfolio.  So, it makes more sense to have one for each child.

As we walked through the zoo, the kids would write down the names of animals under the correct category.  (I view this as a creative writing exercise so I don't worry about spelling...especially since I want to have  light, fun, creative learning experiences...and none of us love spelling...haha!)

Wesley really wanted to participate so I had him draw pictures of the animals under each category.  How cute is that! This one is going in his art file to keep.

We always practice some map skills while at the zoo.  This is one of their favorite parts.

Wesley was really serious about his "school" and wanted to take the time to draw his pictures well.

On the way out, the boys found a turtle that they enjoyed touching and were amazed watching it swim around.

 Just had to include this sweet little face.

Then at the end of the trip, when the desert heat had warmed us up, we stopped by a "splash pad" for the kids to cool off.

The boys found more turtles to watch in this area too.  They were all so amazed by these turtles.  Maybe it's time to invest in a tank and turtles...maybe...haha.

After we were back home, we tried this online game again to review what we had learned.  It was fun to see how scores improved after the day at the zoo.  So we had a great time laughing, researching, and learning together about classification of animals "hands-on" (which they are more likely to retain long-term), and never opened a book.

We will open books next week:)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Large Family Organization...the homeschool cabinet

Large families take an extraordinary amount of organization.  I feel like I am still in the early years of the large family and still learning the most efficient way to organize.  I thought I would do a series on the ways that I organize our large family.  Everyone is different in preferences on this sort of thing and there is no one right or wrong way to do it.  But this series will share some of the things that I do to make life easier around here. I will attempt to do a "Large Family Organization" post every Wednesday...we shall see...haha.

Today, I thought I would share how I organize all of the little things that we use on a daily basis for our homeschool.  I have tried so many different things over the years to organize but, it never seemed smooth and efficient until I did this.

A neighbor gave me this cabinet as they were preparing to throw it away.  It had no knobs, paint was scratched off in several areas, and the inside shelves were broken.  I invested in a little hardware and paint and refurbished this little unit for about $15.  It now sits in our kitchen eating area right by the table where the kids do their book work.  Easy access and doors that close were both essential for me.  Above is a picture of the outside and below is the inside.

On the top shelf, I put the workbooks and Teacher's manuals for individual work that we use daily along with a plastic box in which the kids place their completed work. This is mainly the Math and Language books.

On the middle shelf I placed several baskets (that I happen to already have from another organization project in another house).  I always try to utilize things that I already have in these types of projects...sometimes it works...sometimes it doesn't.  This time it worked...aahhh.  These baskets hold the crayons, pencils, colored pencils, glue, scissors, and paint.  There was even a place for the pencil sharpener (high enough to be out of the reach of the littles).  And, there was a media cut out in the back of the unit so I could plug in the pencil sharpener without having cords hanging out the front...icing on the cake!


On the bottom shelf are baskets holding white and colored paper and stencils, stamps, etc..  My kids do quite a bit of drawing/sketching...especially when I am reading aloud to them.

The three drawers on the bottom are where my three older kids can store their personal school items when they are not doing book work.


On top of the cabinet, I placed three more baskets with items that we use a little less frequently like Math manipulatives, extra art supplies, and larger bottles of paint.

Before, I had these things organized in our "homeschool closet" in a bedroom with all of the curriculum that we are not using this year but will need in future years.  The problem was that if someone broke a pencil, it took a trip to the other room to remedy the problem and chances of being distracted were high.  Now, everything that we need is right at our fingertips without having to leave the room. 

I am SO pleased with the result...especially for the price.

I keep all of our "unit study" books (Bible, Art, Music, History, Literature, Science, Geography, "read aloud", etc.) in a large crate next to the couch where we all lounge in the afternoons to learn while the babies are napping.  Here is a picture of this...not so lovely but what works at the time.

I then keep our school music cds in a little basket inside the entertainment center where they are handy and yet out of the reach of the littles.  Here is a picture of that.

Now, to organize the shoes and socks...haha!  Actually, that will be my next post in this series:)  Look for it next Wednesday!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Family Photos 2012

Tonight we took some family pictures.  I was really wanting to get some casual family photos that weren't "Christmas photos" in darker colors.  So, after getting everyone cleaned up and into white, we headed out to the park.  I took pictures of the kids and then had a dear friend (who gave up her Saturday evening, thank you Jamie!!) come take the shots of the whole these are a bit tricky for me to take and be in them at the same time...haha.  Here are some of the them!

The "princess"

I love the snaggle-toothed phase:)


The "big boys"




The "little boys"


 Three Amigos
I love how the personalities show up in the pictures!

The Parents

The whole gang
These are the hardest pictures to get with six kids.

Do we look a little pink?  It was 100 degrees outside at 6pm when we did the photo shoot!  This is the first time in a decade of living in the desert that I can remember hitting 100 in April.  It could be a long summer!

So glad that I finally was able to get one of these silhouette shots of my family.  I've been wanting one for months now:)

I love this one.  Totally looks like Sethy is showing his older brother who's boss...haha! 

After pictures we came home, had dinner, put the little boys to bed while Peter played Phase 10 with the older kids while I worked on this post:)

Thanks again to my friend Jamie for coming out and taking the family shots for us!

My Heart Rejoices

I was going through old posts that I never published recently to delete or do a final edit for posting.  As I did this, I found this blog post.  Oh how the emotions come right back.  I wrote this the day that it happened but it was too emotional for me to post right away.  Over time, I forgot about this post but here it is.  My heart rejoices!!...again!

Today we went on a hike in the Superstition Mountains with all the kids.  Peter had Seth in a backpack and I had Ransom.  

It was a beautiful day and we were ready to get out in God's creation and enjoy the time together.  Little did we know what was in store for us this day.

We started out just like any other hiking trip making sure that...everyone had appropriate clothing and shoes, we were taking enough water and a snack to enjoy at the destination, etc..  We walked along taking pictures and enjoying just being together.  

After this shot, we had to snap the backpack straps on Seth, but I couldn't resist the picture first:)  Such a little adventurer!

Here are the older three kids at the entrance to the trail.

Here you can see the mountains in the background and the older boys just ahead of us on the trail. 

It was a LONG hike for our family of six kids ten and under.  When we arrived at the destination we were tired but enjoyed the hieroglyphics on the rocks.  The older boys seemed to be rejuvenated by reaching our destination and found energy to explore with Peter.  I sat with the little ones and gave them a snack:)

 The view was just amazing...aside from the Phoenix smog...haha.

I started back down with the little ones first and left Peter and some of the older ones to explore for a while longer (because it takes the little ones so long to walk the trails and we don't want to get caught out after the sun goes down).  Peter and those with him eventually caught up to us and we all marched down the trail together.  

After the climb and mountainside trail, I was feeling relaxed that the danger was behind us.  We continued taking pictures and counting heads.  

Then when the parking lot was within site, some of the kids walked on ahead of us on the trail...something they have done dozens of times before on other trails.  As Peter and I arrived at the parking lot we realized that Wesley was nowhere in site.  Panic immediately struck and we began questioning the older boys to see if he was with them.  He wasn't.  At that moment, I noticed a car pulling out of the parking lot and my heart just sank.  We live so close to the border and it is always in the back of my mind.  We both (or all of us really) began screaming his name and praying that Jesus would return our precious little boy.  I immediately dialed 911 and prayed desperately for a signal.  I hadn't been able to get one for most of the hike.  

I have lived in Phoenix for a decade now and Peter was raised in Arizona.  We know just how unforgiving the desert can be...the sun was going down...and I had seen that car pulling out of the parking lot.  Even though the older kids said that Wesley did not get in that car, I was not ruling out the possibility. 
Peter began running back up the trail yelling Wesley's name with one of our older boys and I continued to explain to the 911 operator just exactly where we were.  
A couple coming down the trail behind us joined in the search.  

Time really just stood still.  

I saw Peter and the man helping us look for Wesley disappear over a hill.  Some of the kids were huddled together waiting by Seth, who was still in the backpack that had been set down.  I was at the entrance of the parking lot where I had run to read the sign to the 911 operator.  If ever a moment of my life has lasted for an eternity...that was the moment.  I was looking back and forth from the hill which Peter just disappeared my sweet babies huddled together at the base of the the sign that I was the road that just carried away a vehicle.  Every worst case scenario was playing through my mind.  How could he be gone so fast.  I had just seen him...and yet...he was gone.  As I roboticly answered questions, I tried to stop my mind from going places that would not be helpful.

Finally, I saw Peter come back over the hill with a sobbing Wesley in his arms...almost as good as having him in my arms...almost.  The peace of that moment, I will never forget...the gratefulness...the smiles and tears of our other children. 

It seems that the poor little guy sat down to rest for a few seconds and then got up to follow the big boys but was confused and followed the wrong trail.  Realizing that he was on the wrong trail, he ventured off the trail to try to return to where we were.  

He was all alone.  

He was just a few feet away from us but because of the wind noise he never heard us calling his name and we never heard him crying.  The man that was helping us look heard a faint crying and led Peter down to find him.  

But now he was safe.  

There are no words to adequately describe the range of emotion that I felt as I saw Peter come over that hill with Wesley and I explained to the 911 operator that Wesley was found and alright.  

My heart rejoiced!  

I needed to just hold him in my arms to shew away the emotions that had consumed me over the last moments...which were an eternity...but actually only 10-15 minutes.

As we loaded the van, I realized that it had been a long time since we had talked to the kids about what to do if they are ever separated from us on a hike.  We had become a little too comfortable with hiking and our desert surroundings.  
We had that talk right then and there and then Peter and I began to discuss what we could have done to be better prepared for such an incident.  Here are the things that we do to prepare for a hike plus the changes that we are making.  If you take kids hiking or camping, please consider these precautions.

1. Buy a whistle for each child only to be used in an emergency and for each adult to signal kids to stop and wait.
2. No one goes ahead...out of sight of the adults on a can happen quickly if one little one needs to stop and those ahead don't know, so, put the slowest hiker in front and pace the group to that hiker...don't let older kids go ahead.
3. Review rules and what to do in different emergency situations before EVERY hike or camping trip.  Each trail and terrain is a little different.
4. Carry a first aid kit with you in a backpack along with more than enough water for the number of people in your group.
5. Make sure that everyone is dressed in bright colors.  In our case, Wesley was wearing a red sweatshirt that I put on him at the last minute and that aided in his rescue.
6. Take frequent water breaks and check that everyone is still with your group.
7. Have a cell phone (or two) in your group.
8. Know your hiking trail/area and where the nearest emergency facility is located.

For the rest of the evening I found myself just staring at Wesley...amazed at how quickly he was gone...amazed that while he was out of my sight, he was never out of the hands of our loving Heavenly Father.  My heart is still rejoicing that my lost little one is found...tucked into his bed sleeping peacefully!

After dinner and baths we gathered together in the family room and thanked Jesus for protecting Wesley and bringing him safely back to us.  Peter read the parable of the lost sheep and how the shepherd left the 99 and went to look for the 1.  What a picture my kids had in their heads as they remembered the way that Peter left everyone and ran to look for our little lost Wesley.  They experienced the rejoicing when he was found.  What a picture of how our Heavenly Father runs after us when we are lost in our sin.  How He wants so desperately to "find" us and how He rejoices when we choose to turn to Him. While I would never choose to go through that (or any tough situation really...haha) for the lesson, I am grateful that we can learn from every situation.

I don't think any of us will soon forget the events of this day.  But I think we may take a break from hiking for a while...maybe 20 years or so! 

I think I will go sit by his bedside for a while and watch him heart rejoices:)