(You know, I have to first apologize if I came off a little whiny in my weekly review two weeks ago; when I said I'd decided to keep writing these reviews "even if nobody reads them", I wasn't fishing for comments, honest! LOL And I'm sorry if I sounded a bit cranky. I am very grateful for everyone who reads this blog, and for all the comments you leave. Sometimes I just have to justify the way I spend my time to myself, if you know what I mean.)
As I attempt to get the house cleaned up in preparation for Thanksgiving, I'm also working on our learning spaces. We don't have an entire room dedicated to school; instead we use parts of the dining room, family room, and living room. This presents some challenges, especially in the dining room which also houses the wood stove and is where we eat at least twice a day.
Our nature area, which I've designated the top of a sideboard in the dining room, had collected some clutter and the display was a little out of date. I cleared it all off Monday night, and Tuesday morning I started adding things back. Katydid and Gareth got into the act and brought out a few pieces of their personal collections for us to display. This was nice because it meant I didn't have to twist anybody's arm. One of the problems I am attempting to solve is one of effective display: the artwork gets buried in my files and nobody ever sees it; the rocks and feathers and bones all get secreted away in the bedrooms, never to be seen again.
So far, the new and improved nature area has been the cause of much excitement. I'm pleased, because so many of my ideas fall completely flat. (That book display in the Halloween post, for instance? I originally got it to go in the boys' room, because they were demolishing their books. But after I got totally fed up and removed every single book from their room instead, I decided to put it in the family room. As soon as I got it where I wanted it, Chipmunk walked up, studied it a moment, then proceeded to climb it like stairs. My husband then had the audacity to laugh.)
A few photos of the new nature area:
From left to right:
- Chipmunk, about to throw a whole bunch of puzzle pieces on the floor
- rocks and fossils tray
- 30x portable microscope
- tufted titmouse nest, turkey feather, and ruffed grouse feather
- leaf basket (parts of a leaf cards, parts of a plant cards, rubbing plates, leaves)
- botany puzzles
- drawings of leaves by Pip and Pop
- basket of pine cones, bark, seed pods
- amaryllis and sumac in pots
- clay statues by Farmerboy
- wooly bears in plastic container "habitats"
Since I took the picture I've added a jar of Lyra skin-tone pencils for drawing November-ish landscapes and a bowl of Plastilina for making molds of shells, etc. to simulate fossils. On another shelf (because it wouldn't fit here) is a leaf tray:
... which is very popular with Pip.
... who started working as soon as he woke up many days this week.
Here is a collection of the work he was doing at around 7:30 AM one morning: using the Lyra pencils to draw leaves, doing the earth element puzzle, observing his wooly bear caterpillar with a magnifying glass.
Most of the kids seemed most interested in the rocks and fossils tray, however, and once I brought it out, it trumped everything else in the display. Actually, I started out with one rock, then mentioned to Katydid that I was changing the display and asked her if I could put out one of the really amazing fossils she has, and the tray grew from there.
The small wooden box (mostly) holds those sorts of things which often become fossils: seashells, snail shells, shark teeth, a bone (discovered in our garden). The two big rocks are the best fossils; Gareth and Katydid found these at the farmhouse we rented when we first moved here. They are like chunks of the sea floor and contain probably hundreds of small fossils. A while back Katydid rediscovered hers underneath her bed (don't ask) and brought it out to see if I knew how old it was. After a little research, we discovered that the rocks in our area are from the Devonian period -- the Age of Fish -- when New York was covered by sea. We spent most of Gareth's second grade year and Katydid's kindergarten year studying dinosaurs -- dinosaurs were sort of like a freight train in our house -- but considering the fact that Katydid is now 9, she thought she might want to learn more about rocks and fossils. I got some books around that time, but they seemed to fall flat. Since I put together the tray, however, the interest has bloomed afresh. She and Farmerboy spent a fair amount of time this week looking at all the rocks with microscope and magnifying glass, pressing various materials into Plastilina to make casts and molds, and digging around for more fossils out in the garden. Gareth, who is reading about prehistoric mammals right now, joined them for some model fossil making and some fossil hunting, but mostly he's been reading.
I think I will probably take down the leaf basket and the botany puzzles, because no one seems very interested in them, and make more room for rock-related work. Gareth and Katydid set up some notebooks for their various projects -- Birds of the World, Missionary Orders, and Rocks and Fossils for Katydid, and Prehistoric Mammals for Gareth. (I'll try and put our rock/paleontology books in the sidebar some time this week.)
The little boys also worked with some Montessori materials this week. Pip, Pop, and Katydid made some insets:
And Farmerboy was intrigued by the hundred chain when I got out the short bead chains and squares to help Katydid with squares and square roots. Katydid regaled him with tales of the thousand chain, and so then he wanted to get that out, and we did, and he was properly impressed. He and Katydid counted it by tens. The fraction skittles have also had a bit of a workout -- or at least they seem to be moved every time I walk by. I also put out the Geoboard for Farmerboy to build on his marshmellow work (ahhh... no pun intended...), but he left it out on the table and it seems as if every time I walk by that it has a new design on it done by one of the big kids.
And we have also been reading a lot of Thanksgiving books. Which I will hopefully add to my sidebar before Thanksgiving as well.