Friday, September 24, 2010

Preschool - Food and Harvest, Week 1

Another two week subject.  We'll be talking about a different food group each day.

Day 1: Fruit

I gathered up a bunch of different fruit that we had around the house and put them all in a small bag.  Alex would stick his hand in and try to guess what the fruit was by feel.  He got them all except the citrus ones that all felt the same.  We used a banana, orange, grapefruit, lime, kiwi, apple, peach, and grapes.  I would have liked to have a strawberry and maybe blueberries or raspberries, but they are too expensive to buy for just one piece of fruit.  I used the books we had that had a picture of a strawberry and a blueberry on them instead.

Then we lined up all the fruit on the table and I printed out and cut apart pictures of a tree, a vine, and a bush. Here's it is in all its glory if you want it.  It's sideways.

Alex sorted the fruit according to what type of plant they grow on.  I had to help with the citrus again, but he got it right that a kiwi grows on a vine.  It must have been a good guess because I had to look it up before we started school.

Then we talked about how fruits are all different.  We looked at the little banana seeds, the orange peel, and we cut open an apple to look at the star in the middle.

Next we read the book How Do Apples Grow?

It goes into a bit of detail about stamens and pistils and ovaries and pollen and needing bees, etc, but each little section was short enough that Alex didn't lose interest.  I was honestly surprised.  I thought it would be over his head.  But it had good pictures, and that counts for a lot.

Then on to The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear.

This book made me laugh out loud.  It's totally cute.  It written as though the reader is talking to the mouse, and the mouse's facial expressions are a hoot.  Good fun.

The we read the classic Blueberries For Sal.

We've gotten this book from the library at least four times over the lifetime of my kids and they will still sit entranced while I read it.  Though they also think the main character is a boy.  This kind of book makes me nostalgic for the past.

But enough books.  It was time for fun.  We took our apple that was cut in half and we used it to make apple prints.  The goal was to try and get the star in the middle to show up, but no such luck.

I gave him red, yellow, and green paint in a paper plate, and he smeared them all around to make fun colored prints.  When he ran out of room on the small paper I gave him a piece of packing paper my mom found and let him go to town.  I wish I could have thought up a creative thing for him to do with the prints, but nothing came to mind.

While he was printing I read to him the story of Johnny Appleseed.

It was not a very kid friendly version of the story in my opinion.  It was in poem form and Alex just doesn't get the obscure descriptions and wordings sometimes used.  I had to stop after each page and describe what was going on, and then stop and make sure he wasn't getting paint where he shouldn't and then clean up the paint off the floor, and...  So maybe it wasn't the best time to read a book.

But the most exciting part of the day was yet to come.  We had our first field trip today!  There's an apple orchard and cider mill here in town and they do school tours.  If you live in the Salt Lake valley, check out Farnsworth Cider Mill.  They also do a Great Pumpkin Halloween festival that's fun and free.

We tagged along with a preschool group for our tour since our little school of one doesn't qualify for a personal tour.

There's Farmer Eric telling the kids the rules.  Their new apple orchard is in the background.  He showed the kids the vegetable garden and talked about different kinds of vegetables.  He showed the kids how to tell the difference between apple tree leaves, pear leaves, peach leaves, and nectarine leaves.

He told them the story of Johnny Appleseed and showed them their own 52 year old apple tree.

They got to see where they make the apple cider and how they do it.  Alex would have really liked to see them making it right then, but no such luck.

Then we all got a free cider sample to taste.  Good stuff.  

And the kids got a hay ride!  It just drives a lap around one of the orchards and you could see the peach trees on one side and the construction on the other.  I think Alex liked watching the construction trucks the best.

At the end we got to go into the orchard and pick and apple.

There's the chosen tree.

And the lucky apple.  It was eaten before we got home.  The kids also got a little coloring book about all the things they saw on the farm.  It was a good tour and only cost us $3.50.  Adults are free!

Fruit day was a success!

Day 2: Milk and Dairy

This was supposed to be Friday's school topic but Anton had to work Friday afternoon and wanted to go on our field trip with us, so just pretend like we talked about vegetables today and dairy on Friday, okay?  Okay.

We mixed things up today and started out by watching a movie.  Yes, a movie.  But it was a Reading Rainbow episode where they read the book The Milk Makers and talked all about where milk comes from and what it gets made into.

I had actually planned to just read the book but it wasn't available at the library, and I'm glad, because watching the movie of it was more fun.  A lot more info than just the book alone.

We sang the song "This is the way we milk the cows," then we went over to the fridge and I had Alex pick out all the things that were made with milk.

We found milk, yogurt, sour cream, half and half, cheese, cream cheese, and more.  And of course we opened the freezer to find the ice cream.

This book reminded me how much I hate Curious George.  He is always doing naughty things and never gets in trouble for them.  Everyone laughs them off and blames it on him being a curious monkey.  There is no accountability and it makes me mad.  In this book he messes up the ice cream man's big order that he was making and then in the end it was all okay because he brought in other customers.  Not okay in my book.  oh well.

Now time for fun!  I bought a pint of whipping cream and we tossed it into the blender according to the instructions found here and we made butter!

Here we're washing the butter to get all the excess buttermilk out of it.  This was so fun.  I'd only ever made butter in a baby food jar before, the labor intensive shaking kind, so this was a new experience for me too!  Alex drank up the leftover buttermilk and we ate some bread with butter on it.  Yum!

And today we had a science experiment.  We poured some milk into a pie pan and dropped food coloring around the edges.  It stays put until you drip a drop of liquid soap into the middle and then the colors swirl all over the place.

He also dipped a toothpick into some soap and dipped it into the milk to make the colors swirl more.  Then we dumped it all out and tried it in reverse.  We put the soap in the milk first and then the colors.  The colors swirled slower but still made neat patters.  This all has to do with surface tension and the explanation was way over Alex's head, but it was fun to do!

And then it was field trip time, again.  We went out to Wheeler Farm where everyday at 5 pm you can help them milk the cows!  It's only 50 cents per person.  And I'm so mad that I forgot the camera, but I did.  No pictures.  :(  Alex jumped right up to be the first volunteer to milk the cow.  His hands weren't big enough so I had to help him, but he got it right away.  Ella was able to do it by herself and Anton and I both took turns.  It was easier than I thought it would be, but not something I would want to do everyday of my life!  None of us had ever milked a cow before.  I thought it was great fun.  We also walked around the farm to look at the different animals before having to make a mad dash to the car because of the rain.  Dairy day = FUN!!

Day 3: Vegetables

We played another guessing game today.  Alex likes them so I'll just keep right on doing them.  We played guess the vegetable.  I cut up a bunch of different kinds of vegetables and put them on a plate.

(Carrot, peas, green beans, potato, green pepper, tomato, cauliflower, onion, broccoli, spinach, yellow squash.)

Then I fed them to Alex while he closed his eyes.

He got about half of them right.  Not bad since some of them he's only had mixed into other things.

We read the book Growing Vegetable Soup.

It talks about planting vegetables in the garden, so we headed on out to the garden to check things out.

He's actually out in the garden a lot so there really wasn't anything new to see out there.  But we needed a couple of carrots for the experiment we were going to do, so we picked a few.

This one was out-of-control HUGE!  Our experiment was to see if we can make carrot tops grow.  We cut off the leaves and the carrot below them step then put them in a pie pan with dirt in it.  We watered it and now we have to wait a few days to see if they'll grow.

Alex keeps checking on them to see if they've started growing yet.  (UPDATE: A week later they were all showing new growth and some growth showed up just a couple days after planting.  Experiment=success!)

Next we read The Carrot Seed to follow up on the carrot theme.

Then we read Tops and Bottoms.

And that finished off our day.  We were going to make vegetable soup using the recipe in the back of the Growing Vegetable Soup book, but we didn't get around to school until after lunch, so maybe another time!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Preschool - Houses

This week's theme was supposed to be spread over two weeks, but I didn't think we needed to spend that much time talking about houses.  However, there were four distinct themes I did want to cover, so this week has four days of school rather than three.

Day 1: Parts of a House

We started out the day with a basic line drawing of a house.  I asked him to name the different parts (walls, floor, ceiling, roof, windows, door, chimney, etc.) while I pointed at them.  This lasted about two seconds since he knew them all.  I was going to show him pictures of different kinds of houses that people live in around here (apartments, trailer, house) but I was too lazy to pull them up on the internet.  Yeah, it was one of those days.

Then we played a little game where I would describe a room in the house and he had to guess what it was.  I had to be pretty obscure so he didn't guess them right away.  Like for a bedroom I said that the room had blankets rather than saying it had a bed, and so on.

Next I had put different pieces of doll house furniture into a bag.  He had to reach in a pick one up and guess what it was by feel.  Then he had to tell me what room in the house that piece of furniture would go.  With a girl I probably would have spent time putting the furniture into a doll house, but Alex isn't a girl, and we don't have a good doll house.

Next we read In A People House.

This book is fantastic!  The illustrations make me want to look at them for hours.  The story covers different houses people live in and animal houses and nonsense houses too, like a glove is a house for a hand.  This book actually would have made a good summary book at the end of the week since we'll be talking about all these different houses throughout the week, but I didn't want to wait.  Maybe we'll read it again at the end.

I was going to read Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but I'm beginning to learn that Alex has a two book at a time limit, so we skipped it.  He knows the story so it was no big deal.

Next we played a game where we pretended to be furniture.  I had to show him an example or two before he really got into it, but he really enjoyed this.  We used our bodies to make chairs and tables and beds and couches and lamps and more!  A good moving game for a crazy little boy.

And then to finish up our day, I made a little house book ahead of time and had a page for each room of the house where Alex drew in the furniture for the room.  I gave him the option to cut the furniture out of an IKEA catalog, but he chose to draw.  When Ella got home from school and insisted on doing one too, she chose to use the magazine.  Here's what they looked like:

It's just three pieces of computer paper folded in half with a house drawn on the front and then cut to shape.  I poked two holes in the fold with a screw (because that's what I had on hand) and then threaded a string through the holes and tied it on top.  I labeled each page with a different room, and that's it.

Day 2: How a House is Built

We started by talking about all the different things houses can be built with--wood, brick, rock, cement.  If I was supermom I would have pieces of each of them for him to feel and see, but see above excuse about being lazy.

Instead of trying to explain myself how to build a house, I chose two books to do it for me.  We read At a Construction Site:

And Building a House:
If your kid is really into trucks and construction, than the top book is excellent.  Lots of detail and all the trucks are named and labeled.  It talks about building a community center, not a house, but the idea is the same.

If your kid is fine with a general overview, the second book is fine.  We didn't need to read both, and I think Building a House would have been plenty.  He liked the pictures in it better because they were simpler.  He could tell easier what was going on in the pictures.

Then we sang The Wise Man and The Foolish Man.  Since we had just talked about what a foundation was from the book and pointed it out on our house, he totally got what the song was about.

Then for fun we read This Is The House That Jack Built:

It has nothing to do with building a house, but it was a fun read.

I had really looked forward to our activity for the day.  I thought Alex would love it.  I got a cardboard box and a box of nails and screws and gave him a screwdriver and a play hammer (I didn't trust him with a real one and the play one was plenty sturdy to hammer into a box) and showed him how to hammer and screw.

He basically was like, This is it mom?  We're not building a house?

He was disappointed that there was no purpose to his hammering and screwing.  He was more concerned with what was inside the box (nothing) than hammering.  I finally relented and untaped the box which I had taped shut to keep the flaps out of the way.  Once he could see the nails and screws sticking out inside the box he had a bit more fun, but my guess is he only stuck with this for ten minutes maybe.  I think Ella would have had a blast with this and I'm sure other kids will too.  I think maybe I'll try it again another day and see if it interests him more.

I had thought about building graham cracker houses, but since we would be building a food based house the next day, I decided not to.  But once I saw how disappointed he was with the box, I wish I had made up some frosting and let him build a "real" house.  Oh well.

Day 3:  Other Kinds of Houses

We started our discussion today by reading Houses And Homes.

This book does a good job of showing different types of houses that people live in and discussing the different materials they are built with.  Alex was entranced by the idea of people living in a house made of mud.  The book only shows houses that people live in currently, so tipis and igloos aren't covered.  We talked about how it would be hard to not have the money to live in a house like ours and to have to like in a hut made of scraps.  And we talked about how we would dress different depending on the type of house we lived in.

Next we read the book Storm Maker's Tipi.

It talks in detail about how to build a tipi, and then it talks about a legend behind why the Blackfoot Nation paints their tipi's a certain way.  So it's both a nonfiction type book with a story, a nice blend.  And in the back of the book is a page you can copy to make your own paper tipi.  So we did just that.

Alex colored the tipi the way he wanted it to look, then I cut it all out and he helped glue it together.

It also fits perfectly on your head like a party hat.  Not that we know or anything.

Then on to more building fun.  I got the book Building an Igloo.

It goes through step by step with pictures on how to build an igloo.  We got sugar cubes and followed each step to build our own igloo.  Alex loved this.

We glued it all together with royal icing like you'd use for gingerbread houses.  I helped with the icing, but he did most of the rest.

He ate far too many sugar cubes while building.  And of course Ella had to come home from school and build one too.  And then she took the box and nails from yesterday outside and nailed away forever, just like I said she would.

Day 4: Animal Homes

Ella was home to play with us today.  We started by reading the book Animal Homes.

It's a great overview of different animals and their homes.  I think there could have been a little more variety in the types of homes, there were a lot of dens and burrows and not so many caves or other such things, but the information given is good and the kids liked lifting the flaps.  We talked about what it would be like to be the different animals and live in the different types of homes.  We spread a sheet over the space between the couch and the coffee table and all crawled underneath and talked about living in a den or a burrow.  While we were under there we looked at the book My First Book of Animal Homes.

It's a toddler board book, but each page is divided in half with an animal home on top and and animal on the bottom and you have to match them up.  We used it sort of like a game.  There were a lot more different types of animal homes in this book than the previous one, like caves, water, tree, dog house, barn, etc.

Then for fun we read The Biggest House in the World.

The snail dies in the end of the book, which the kids had to stop and ask about, but it has a good moral of not wanting more than you need.

Then it was art time!  I made homemade playdough, with a recipe I found online and didn't save the link to, and then I helped the kids build animal homes.

We built birds' nests with lots of eggs, snail shells, beehives, ice burgs, and more!

And that brings our Homes week to an end!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Preschool - Family

I wasn't going to do this theme at all, but I had an extra short week that needed filled so I used it.  But because it was Labor Day, we only have two days of school this week.  It ended up being a lazy week, so not much content!

Day 1:  My Family

We started with a guessing game where I described people in the family and had him guess who I was talking about.  We did a similar activity in week one, but he didn't seem to mind the repeat.

Then we looked through a magazine and pointed out people who could be moms or dads or brothers or sisters. We talked about how not all families have a mom and a dad and how all families are different.  We read The Family Book to tie into this.

This book does a great job of describing different kinds of families, but be warned, it talks about families with two moms or two dads.  Alex thought it meant two as in one mom and one dad equals two people, so I didn't bother expounding.  I didn't want to end up in a huge discussion about being gay, etc.

We followed that by reading All Kinds of Families.

I LOVE the illustrations in this book, though it jumps back and forth from people families to grouping of item families.

Then Are You My Mother?

I felt like I had one book to many because Alex was sighing by book number three.

Next we made stick puppets of our family.  I printed off just the heads of each person in the family and glued them to popsicle sticks and then found bodies for them in a magazine.

Then I had Alex put on a puppet show for me.  The people just danced around and made funny noises.  He didn't get it.

So I put on a puppet show for him about our family.

In hindsight, this activity was too similar to the paper doll clothes activity last week.  Alex didn't get that we were looking for whole bodies and not just clothes and he seemed impatient to be done with it.  I would have skipped this altogether had I realized or found some other way to do it that didn't involve cutting from magazines.  Maybe just having him draw the family would have been better.

For our "snack" we made marshmallow people.  Basically just big and little marshmallows and toothpicks stuck together.  I happen to have edible markers, so we used those to decorate them.

I made Alex and Ella on the left, and Alex made Mommy and Daddy on the right.  And lots of marshmallows were consumed.  Ugh.

Day 2: Relatives

We started by looking at pictures of Grandma and Grandpa, the ones we aren't living with.  They see enough of them.  It was actually kind of sad because I showed Alex a picture of Anton's dad who died almost two years and he didn't know who he was.  So I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of him and talking about him.  Then we talked about aunts and uncles and so on.

We read the book Grandma, Grandpa and Me by Mercer Mayer.

Then we read What Aunt's Do Best/What Uncles Do Best by Laura Numeroff.


It's a reversable book with the same story from front and back but about aunts one way and uncles the other.

And the last book was The Relatives Came.

We had to talk about what the word "relatives" meant since we just call our family "family."

And then to finish off our short and simple day Alex wrote a letter to Grandma and drew a picture which we will send once Ella gets a chance to write one too.  

And that's the end of family week!