Thursday, November 11, 2010

Operation Christmas Child

Today several children and I packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We had a lot of fun choosing gifts and toys to put in each box. Next week I will take them to a collection center so that they can go to boys and girls all over the world.

Here's what Natasha said, "I thought it was great, cause other kids will get presents who don't get presents normally. Callie said, "I liked it because it was a lot of fun. Some kids out there don't even have shelter. It's sad and I just wanted to help." Chloe said, "All the kids don't all have money, and I just wanted to help them out, so I did!"

If you would still like to donate, bring your gifts to ITBS testing next week and I'll be sure that they get to the right place. Thanks!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

On Teachers Teaching Teachers

I had an interesting and somewhat nerve wracking experience yesterday. It was Wednesday, which means teacher professional development day. So, at promptly 2:30 I sat with my assigned small group consisting of 7 third through fifth grade teachers...and me. We have been using something called Authentic Intellectual Work. We read the manual, and learned how to score lessons, have discussions and try to make each other better teachers. You know, the old, "iron sharpens iron" sort of thing.

Well, it's been quite educational and I've learned a lot from my colleagues in a "hmmm, wonder if that would work with my job" way. Then came yesterday. It was my turn to present one of my lessons to my peers. I took chocolate to share. I took a strong cup of coffee. Our usual leader was sick, and we had a real professional looking lady from the AEA sit in our group. Ahhhhh! My pulse is starting to climb, my palms are sweating. I take a deep breath and start.

First, I have to explain what I do. What is a home school assistance program anyhow? What are my responsibilities and what do I teach? Once I got past that, I handed them my lesson to score. We had our meaningful discussion, and guess what? I lived through it! I also learned some important lessons.

A little nervousness never killed anyone. And people generally like chocolate.

Also, iron does sharpen iron. There are a lot of people out there who are very good at what they do, and I can learn a lot from them.

Next, in trying to explain what I do, I was reminded that a huge part of my job is being a resource to YOU. I love to teach children. They are delightful. BUT, in my job, I am not the primary teacher. You are. Everything I do with your children is just icing on the cake. Yet I wonder if there is more I can do for you. How can I sharpen you?

One suggestion that was made during our discussion yesterday was to really look at the questions we ask children. Are we asking them to merely spit back knowledge and reproduce it? Or can we spend more time on the questions that ask that ask them to use higher order thinking?

In the manual we use to score the tasks that we ask children to do, to get the highest score, we need to meet this criteria:

"The task's dominant expectation is for students to organize, interpret, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate information about (subject area) concepts, themes, theories, or issues rather than merely to reproduce information."

Granted, it's impossible for every lesson to be that in depth. Children need to learn basics like phonics and math facts. It's hard to take a lesson on words in the "at" family and go deeper. BUT, there are many days when our discussion and projects can go deeper. One of the things I love about my little small group of teachers is that they have so many ideas. We all get stuck in a rut and the things we do all of the time become brand new for someone else.

So, I have a challenge for you. Find a lesson that you have taught. Something that you'll likely have to teach again. Talk to someone about how you could make it better. How could you take it to a new level. Have a discussion with another home school mom. Bring something in and talk it over with me. Read some home school blogs. Get out of your comfort zone. Get away from the worksheets from time to time. Zone in on those questions in the teacher's manual that are higher order. And please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist you in your teaching. That's what I'm here for :-)

Have a fantastic day!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Almost October!

Yesterday I saw the most amazing sight! Can you figure out what the black specks are on the side of the dam, near Cody, Wyoming? Look carefully....

They are mountain goats! Is that not incredible! How many days do you feel like you are just barely hanging on? You would think there could be no way these goats could stand, yet not only are they standing and licking salt off the dam, they are climbing higher! Wow, there has to be some kind of object lesson in that. At the very least...hang in there!

So, we're already on the brink of October. We had fun in September celebrating some pretty wacky holidays (how's your piratese?) October has its own share of crazy holidays. Follow the link to find a complete list. Here are a few of my favorites...It's Popcorn Popping Month, Cookie Month & Pizza Month. (food, glorious food!) October 9th is both Fire Prevention Day and Moldy Cheese Day. October 11 shares Columbus Day and Take a Teddy Bear to Work Day. You'll want to hit the local coffee shops for Old Farmers Day on October 12, and then whip up something special for your family on October 14, National Dessert Day. October 16 might be a good day for a vocabulary lesson...Dictionary Day! Then on the next day, have fun with Wear Something Gaudy Day.

Here in the HSAP room, we'll be celebrating National Fire Prevention Week, the first week of the month. Don't forget the tour Genny set up at the local Fire Station on Tuesday the 5th at 2:00. We'll also remember Columbus Day.

One interesting holiday I would like to observe this year is Sweetest Day. Maybe some of you have heard about this, but it is new to me. Celebrated on the third Sunday in October, to many it is sort of a second Valentines Day. It was founded in 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio, by an employee of a local candy company. Some people observe the holiday by leaving notes and gifts for people who make their lives special while others choose to bless people who are often forgotten on other holidays. I think it would be neat to make little gifts and write some anonymous notes to leave all over town to brighten people's days. Let me know if you have any ideas of creative ways to commemorate this holiday!

We may also spend some time learning about farming and the harvest season. I may touch on the costume part of Halloween, but I really don't like to put too much emphasis on that holiday.
And of course, there's always football...

So, drink some hot cider, take a crunchy walk through fall leaves and enjoy the new month!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hooray for Holidays!

Ready or not, here it comes! The new school year is upon us and I want to welcome you to a new year with the Atlantic Home School Assistance Program.

I am sure all of you are knee deep in planning and setting goals for the new year. I know it can be overwhelming, but taking the time to do some long range planning pays off in the long run. Let me know if I can be of any assistance to you in that process.

The theme I have picked for enrichment this year is "Hooray for Holidays!" I am looking forward to planning lessons with your children which revolve around this theme. However, my overall "Big Idea" for the year will be to have students use higher order thinking (HOT) in their learning. We will be busy organizing, interpreting, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating information instead of merely retrieving and reproducing knowledge. Holidays and celebrations will be our means to the end of thinking deeply.

So, I suppose you already know that September is National Piano Month, National Chicken Month and also National Honey Month! (just to name a few) Of course September 2 is a day you will all want to celebrate - National Blueberry Popsicle Day. You might have your children make plans for Make Your Bed Day on September 11, or National Punctuation Day on September 24. I personally think we should all celebrate on September 19; Talk Like a Pirate Day. A couple of other obscure holidays I found in September are National Chocolate Milk Shake Day on the 12th and Elephant Appreciation Day on the 22nd. (if you would like to see the many other celebrations in September, check out this link)

We are going to start the year out by creating our own original holidays. We will also take a look at Johnny Appleseed whose birthday is September 26 and have some fun with the poetry of Shel Silverstein, whose birthday is September 25. We may also read some books by Tiki and Ronde Barber about my favorite September sport....drumroll please....FOOTBALL!

Ready or's fall!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Enjoy Your Summer!!

As this year winds down, I want to wish you all a wonderful summer filled with lazy days, sunshine, lemonade and a good book. I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of a couple of books from Amazon that I can't wait to read. I enjoy the slower pace of summer and the opportunity to do a few things I don't get to do during the school year.

Thanks for a great year! You have terrific kids and I count it a blessing to be a part of your lives. In the next couple of days, I plan to clean the classroom, get my website updated for next year and get summer mailings ready to send out. Keep your eyes open for a packet from me mid July or so. Next year we will focus on holidays and other special occasions. If you have some you would like me to take a look at with your children, let me know. A few I am considering studying are the election process, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Dr. Seuss's birthday.

We will also have a few new additions to the HSAP classroom next fall. The technology is getting an update. The current desktop computers will be gone and they will be replaced with 2 new desktops and 2 MacBook laptops. I had fun last week sharing the new PhotoBooth program with some students. A few of those photos are above. It will be fun to integrate some new technology next fall as well.

If you have any questions about anything this summer, don't hesitate to call me.
Happy Trails....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eagle Web Cam

I usually don't post two days in a row, but this is too good not to share! Luther College biology students have a live video camera above an eagle's nest near Decorah, Iowa. You can go to their web page and watch the eagles live 24 hours a day. Every 15 minutes you have to refresh the page. It's a little addictive, I must admit.

Eagles mate for life, and this nest has a pair of adult eagles and several chicks. They didn't all hatch at the same time, so they vary in size. The web site also has lots of information on eagles and a page for teachers. Check it out, it's pretty cool!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This & That

This is a beautiful spring morning in Iowa. It almost makes up for the looonng winter we had...almost :-) With a son graduating in a few weeks, (WHERE has the time gone?!?) I have been spending a lot of time doing springy things like gardening & cleaning. I have also been spending time going through photos, reminiscing and shedding some happy tears now and again. It's such a good feeling to see a mostly mature and responsible young man before me and to have very few regrets about time invested in he and his brothers over the years.

I just want to encourage you today in what you do both as parents and as teachers. You are doing something very important each day, whether your day is one of those special ones that you take pictures to remember or just an ordinary day filled with laundry, cleaning up after meals and trying to mold the character of the little ones at your feet. It takes both kinds of days to raise a child, and the mundane days are packed with teachable moments and character building. Some days go just as you planned and others take delightful (or not so delightful) rabbit trails.
Embrace each day and keep your goals in mind. Ask yourself how the circumstances you are in will help you to reach the goals you have set for your family and your individual children.

This is a great time of year to revisit your goals. Sit down and write out 3-5 goals for your family for the next year. Then do the same for each child. You can think about character goals, educational goals and many other things. One thing is for certain, clarifying goals and writing them down is a great way to keep yourself on track. It's also a great thing to model to your children. Maybe you could have your kids write goals as well and then meet with each child to see how their own personal goals match up with the goals you have for them. For an older child you could have them write goals in categories; one month goals, one year goals, five year goals, ten year goals and lifetime goals. You may be surprised to see what your kids think about, especially if you have a child who doesn't share their thoughts easily.

Spring is also a great time to mix up the learning a little on purpose. Take your lessons outside. Plant a tree or a garden and learn about the growing zones. Do flash cards on the trampoline or swing set. Take a good book to the park. Do some service learning. Maybe find a new recipe and double it. Keep half and take half to a neighbor or friend. Help a neighbor clean up flower beds. Make some May baskets and deliver them to a nursing home or elderly friends. Find new ways to have your kids show their learning. Maybe a colorful poster, creating a board game, a family newsletter or blog, a song, a map, graph, cartoon, animation, podcast or powerpoint.

If you have some great ideas, share them here or jot them down and bring them to Mom's Day Out. I had about 50% of you say a day to share ideas with other moms would be meaningful, so I will plan on Mom's Day Out, Wednesday April 28 from 9:00-11:00 in my classroom. I will have a movie for kids to watch while moms share ideas and encourage each other. I will keep the kids from 11:00-12:00 for pizza and an activity so you can go out for lunch or just do errands. If your kids stay for lunch, just send $2 each to cover the cost of pizza.

That's all for now! Enjoy your day :-)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Our Medieval Castle Project


We have been working really hard to finish our castle, take photos of all of its parts and then to write about the middle ages. This movie is a compilation of all our hard work! Hope you enjoy it, (and that it works...) I am also working on posting our powerpoint presentation on the Home School Assistance website.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Castle Pictures

A view from inside the back wall.

These are stables and a couple of peasant homes.

This is the church, and next to it are the mew (where the falcons are kept)
and the kennel for the hunting dogs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Castle Pictures

This view shows the peasant cottages. Near the castle wall there is a field and some sheep.
We've added a flower garden with hedges and fruit trees in front of the keep.

This picture shows the arbor with climbing roses going into the flower garden.
The front of the keep.

Here is the front of the castle. Notice the working drawbridge, portcullis and the banners with the castle's crest. We will add a moat (with alligators) soon.
Here are a few pictures of our castle. It still needs some finishing touches, but thought you might enjoy seeing its progress.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Medieval Castles II

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Medieval Castles

I have been devouring books and web sites about Medieval castles here lately. It's so true, when you teach about something, you learn more than your students do! I am somewhat fascinated by the whole thing, and I'm not sure yet whether it would have been better to live the life of a lady or the life of a peasant...actually, to be the wife of a medieval craftsman may have been the best life at that time for a woman. Your house might have been more comfortable than a castle, and you didn't send your kids off to live with someone else for fear that they might be too spoiled if they stayed with you.

On another note, I don't think I approve of medieval bathing and bathroom habits, and I'm not too fond of rats and fleas. Some of their recipes look a little weird to me as well. I saw one with bone marrow being a major ingredient. I guess I'm pretty spoiled living in this century. I could probably entertain you with a lively melody from the recorder, but my weaving and needlework stink. And don't get me started on wearing those clothes and living in a drafty castle (or thatched shack) during this type of winter! I think I'll keep my geothermal heat pump, warm snow boots and thermal undies thank you very much!

The kids who have been coming to Thursday Brown Bag and Books are really enjoying Crispin and the Cross of Lead, by Avi. The tale takes place during the high middle ages, after many have suffered from the plague. Crispin is known only as son of Asta, till his mother dies and he finds he has a name and there may be more to his identity than he thought. Our first week reading, Crispin encountered a lot of heartache and some of the kids weren't sure, but as the story unfolds, they are making predictions about who he really is and why he has been proclaimed "a wolf's head". (ask your kids what that means) He has been taken in by a troubadour by the name of Bear and is learning to play the recorder and to juggle. You may enjoy reading this book yourself sometime!

Next week we are going to begin constructing a castle and the village surrounding it. If you have any old boxes or other odds and ends that might come in handy, let me know. The dioramas we have been making showing the social structure of feudalism are just about complete. I'll try to post some pictures soon. I'm hoping that they sparked our creative juices...I'm a firm believer that you can make just about anything out of cardboard, construction paper and tape if you use a little imagination!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What a Winter!!

Wow! I remember snowy, snowy winters from my childhood, but I don't ever remember a winter quite like this one! On my sister-in-law's blog about her African (exchange) sons, she says this winter is "showing off". I think we get the point! We are not in control of the weather. Now, can we move on?

Because of all the snow days and late starts, I feel a little disconnected from some of you. My lesson plans keep getting messed up, and I've had to renew a few books and other things from the AEA library :-) Right now I have some really neat medieval costumes checked out and a few of your children have had the fun of trying on some real chain mail and other cool stuff. I'm hoping I can keep it long enough for everyone to get a chance to look at it. We are also starting to construct some dioramas in the room that depict different parts of medieval culture. We'll eventually start building a castle! I guess if the weather slows down construction, well, it will just take a little longer. No problem.

I think I have finally gotten ITBS results back to all of you who tested. If any of you have questions on that, let me know.

One last thing. If you would like to schedule a conference time with me for any reason, I have time on Wednesday February 3 in the morning. I also have other times I could meet with you sprinkled throughout the month. Just give me a call or send me an email if you would like to set up a meeting.