Monday, August 27, 2012

All About Dinosaurs

As I've mentioned, we've been learning about dinosaurs the last few weeks. Along with checking out every book and movie we could find at the library, we bought and played Dinosaur Bingo, found fossils at a local State Park, (see my post about fossils), found a book with facts and games for my son's Leap Pad (pre-Ipad type of electronic book), and played again and again with his tiny plastic dinosaurs! Though not as bad as Legos, they still really hurt when stepped on!

I'm glad we at least found some fossils. I looked up local museums for dinosaurs and could only find the Natural History Museum in Santa Cruz, which has a small fossil dig exhibit or the San Fransisco Academy of Science, which has one dinosaur skeleton. We did go there last spring and we've been to the other many times (see pics and other great local field trips). I heard there's a small fossil museum in or near Fresno and if we travel through soon we will stop there, but I'm not driving all the way there just for that! Anyway, I was disappointed there is no museum all about dinosaurs nearby.

But, of course, we also did some fun art and craft projects!

Clay dinosaurs with pine cone spines. Okay, I thought pine cones would be easy to break pieces off of. Seems like they are always breaking apart on their own when I'm doing other craft projects with them! This one we used was a super cone! I used scissors, pliers, and ended up with many too smashed up to use at all, but finally got enough for a few rows on our dinos backs. What can I say, once I started, I was determined!

painting tip: I give the kids paper plates rather than cups for paint, so I can just toss it when done.

Homemade fossils! Rolled clay into a small ball and then pressed little shells into it to make our own fossil prints. My son also rolled out some long pieces of clay and just let them dry that way. He said they are dinosaur bones!

Scored this wooden stegosaurus kit at a dollar store and quickly realized why it ended up there! The directions were wrong! The pieces were numbered, but there were a few that were screwy! Like two pieces with the same number, so would have needed to fit it the same spot and some that fit in and then later another piece was supposed to go in that was already used somewhere else! We finally just guessed and put them how we thought they might fit, like real paleontologists! I think we had more fun than if it went together easily!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Teaching Art Classes this September!

I just mentioned this in my last post, but decided it was deserving of it's very own post.

I'll be teaching art classes next month: every Tues in Sept 2012 at 10:30am at the Discovery Learning Center in Santa Cruz, CA.

An introduction to working with different materials. I'm using up some supplies left over from the summer camps I taught and doing some of the same projects. (For photos see my post Art Camp 2)  The first two classes are geared toward ages 5-10, the second two more enjoyable for older kids as well. But all ages are welcome and can enjoy the time to be creative. They'll be free to experiment with the materials, ask questions, and not forced to do the project I'm introducing. I'll include some info and samples of different styles of art, common terms, etc, at each class. 
Class 1. Nature art: create beautiful art with natural materials found locally! We will be making owl masks with nut shells and leaves, hedgehogs with pine cones and clay, or create your own on paper.

Class 2. Intro to clay: Learning the basics of working with clay. We will make pinch pots and small animals with self drying clay. Come play and learn the basics of form, smoothing, scoring, and take your creation home to paint, if desired.

Class 3. Mask making: We'll be making plaster masks of your face with plaster wrap. This is a great keepsake! You can take home to dry, paint, and decorate! 7+ ages recommended, must be comfortable sitting still for 10 min and having plaster wrap applied to face. Come with hair up and
headbands to keep bangs out of face.

Class 4. Intro to drawing portraits: Learn to draw a face with the correct proportions, attention to details, bringing out your creativity and ideas for your own self portrait.
Please see the DLC website for more details.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another self-created headache; I shut down under stress

When I fist hear any important news, good or bad, I am usually in shock. People often wonder at how calm I seem. Then later, usually when I'm on my own and have had time for it to sink in, I freak out internally! I may still seem calm on the outside, but my mind is suddenly on overdrive, thinking, obsessively working out what to do, what to change, how to solve this problem, then I go into complete overload and either breakdown and cry, if the news was bad, or that's when I may finally start jumping for joy!

This delayed reaction has been a huge inconvenience that I've wished I could change many times! For example when someone was picking on me in school I would completely shut down and freeze, my mind a complete blank! I could not think of a response to save my life! Later that night I could easily  think of 20 great comebacks that I so wish I could have blurted out at that perfect moment, now long past! Or when my parents were asking me why I did something and again I shut down under pressure rather than answering honestly. I then find I'm in trouble when I should have been able to explain myself and that I really had good intentions for whatever it was I was doing. This shut down under pressure did not make for good test scores either!

I don't know how to break this cycle or if it's just the way I'm wired and it's about time I accept it. But it's come to my attention yet again because I just found out that the school I was very excited for my son to start attending once a week has moved to a location that is just too far for us. First I am fine, I think okay, I will figure something else out. Then, as it sinks in, I am beginning to Freak Out inside my head! The wheels start turning faster and faster and I can't stop the internal dialog as I banter with myself over what to do! I'm surprised no one can see the smoke coming out of my ears! I had the year all planned out! I wouldn't have left the last school if I knew this one was not an option! Then some anger kicks in, I knew they were looking for a new building, but why didn't they warn us it would possibly be in another town?!! I frantically start researching online, asking friends about other programs, checking my email for answers every 10 seconds. Why aren't people answering right away?! Don't they know this is an emergency! I won't be able to rest till I have this settled. Again! Didn't I just go through this when trying to decide whether to leave the last school? Why do I have to do it all over again?!!

This is where a nice big glass of wine comes in very handy! I still can't sleep, but at least I'm starting to relax. Soon there's room for optimism and productive thinking. Maybe it's a good thing that he can't go to this school. There must be some reason. It will free up some time in our very busy schedules. My obsessive searching has not ceased, but now I'm seeing all these other classes, field trips, opportunities that we can now be a part of. I have to reign myself in so I don't get overwhelmed by the possibilities. I can sleep soundly knowing there are more than enough ways for my son, and my whole family to get a full life, education, great experiences and more out of this one day a week that I was so worried about! A day later, I'm now at ease wondering why I was so stressed out about it! And even excited about the new possibilities! Of course we'll be fine. We always are. If I have to create my own class, that's what I'll do!

And that's somewhat what I did. I'm now planning an art class for the month of September at the Discovery Learning Center, every Tues at 10:30am. And we may stay for other classes the rest of that day to get a "school experience" sort of day. I may come up with some other classes to do there in the future if works out well for us. I am now extremely glad I don't have to rush the kids off early on Monday mornings. Monday's are a good day to stay home, clean the house, work on projects... the rest of the week always ends up busy, running here and there to this great class, that fabulous field trip.. We're going to need our Mondays! What was I freaking out about? I can hardly remember, but I still have a bit of a headache leftover from the tension in my shoulders. I need a massage!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fossils (practically) in our back yard!

Yesterday we took a break from learning about dinosaurs, which has been the focus of everything for the past week!  We went for a hike at Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos and found our way down to a creek where almost every rock had fossils of shells in them! Back to talking all about dinosaurs and how fossils are formed, found, etc! It was awesome!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Right after blogging about my son's beautiful hair, he decides it's time to cut it! Waaa! He didn't like being mistaken for a girl at summer camp. The kids were not teasing him, but some kept mistaking him for a girl. I had a talk with him to make sure it was what he really wanted rather than because it's what he thought others wanted him to do. This is him with short hair. Still so handsome! But I do miss running my fingers through his long curls!

Also, I french braided my hair the other day and my daughter wanted hers done, too. She threw a total fit after I tried to convince her that her hair wasn't yet long enough for one! Again, she proves me wrong! I got it wet and could just barely get it into a braid. I had to hold it really tight and she sat so still it was scary! It ended up on the side of her head, but hey, I did it and she was thrilled! It held up for a couple hours, too.

Such a girly girl!

Reward Chart

Lately my son has been having more of an attitude, being defiant, not listening, and whining much more! Maybe it's a 5 and 1/2 phase (I keep hoping), but I can't take it anymore! Especially since my youngest is Very good at being 2! I can't deal with both of them being out of control! So I decided to try the reward chart again. Only for the oldest for now.

We did this for a while last year and it worked well, but we fell out of the habit of it. I remembered that it's important for parents and child to be clear what is expected of them. I was often confused with changing rules and unfair expectations growing up and it led to anger and frustration for everyone! I don't want that happening now, so this is what mine looks like (above).

The top white board shows a list of my son's responsibilities every day, with a pic so he can remember them (he came up with most of the list): 

Brush hair & teeth
Get dressed
Make bed
Feed fish
Learn (as a homeschooler, this covers any school work we do that day, you could put homework instead)
Help (this means go out of your way to be helpful to someone during the day as well as being helpful in general, such as cleaning up after yourself)
Attitude (includes having a good attitude about dinner, school work, and in general)

The bottom white board is a calendar where I put a star each evening if I feel each of his responsibilities was satisfied. I used to fill in the numbers of days each month, but it became too time consuming. Might be a good project for my son to practice writing his numbers and learning the calendar, though! There is a possibility of losing the star if he doesn't cooperate with bedtime. I try to keep it positive though, "don't you want to keep the star you worked so hard to earn today?" rather than threatening to take it away.

If he earns all his stars for the week he gets to do something special, such as a field trip! Of course it's usually something I already had planned on going to, but he doesn't need to know that! Shh!

We've been at it for two weeks now and so far it's improved all of our attitudes, since I have to be the example and make sure I have a good attitude and go out of my way to help someone, too.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Prepairing for a productive, fun, homeschool year

Today was my son's official first day of school! As we're homeschooler's this didn't affect us too drastically. Though I did start organizing over the last few weeks. I now realize I should have included a before photo so you can see that this really is organized!

We live in a tiny townhouse and this is the only space we have for all homeschooling stuff! Which if you're a veteran, you know can accumulate quickly! I'm only in by half a year, we officially started in January! Though I basically homeschooled through preschool. Anywho, this is what I did to prepare for a smooth, productive, fun year!
1. I took down all the art on our art wall, either tossing it or putting it in a portfolio. Same for our work folders from all the great work over the last year.

2. Went through all our supplies to make sure we had the essentials; sharpened pencils, erasers, paper, etc. And made sure everything is easy to get to; moved the books to another book case (our supplies have outgrown our space already!) Added more shoe boxes to group together office supplies, art supplies, scratch paper, etc. Tossed a bunch of recyclables I had saved for art projects. We were running out of room! I don't really want my dining room to look like a recycle bin and I have no where else to keep it! I did save some of it, but as an artist, I see project potential in almost everything! Our school book case looks so nice and tidy now! Well, to me it does! I even thought about covering the boxes with pretty paper and labeling them! But then I knew for sure I'd end up reorganizing everything and have to change all the labels. I'll wait and see what this year brings.

Perhaps you're thinking how awfully cluttered this space looks, plus the fact that it's in the middle of my home and everyone has to see it, and I could have at least used matching bins instead of shoe boxes! Well, I change things so frequently, I did not want to spend on organizational supplies that would only work for a short time. And I do cover the shelf and desk with a curtain and tablecloth on the rare occasion I have dinner guests. Hopefully, you're just thinking, thank goodness I'm not the only one with school supplies up to my eye balls! And I don't have to be Martha Stuart to be organized! As long as it's functional, I'm happy! Okay, back to my list:

3. I made a list of things I would like my son to learn and planned out, with my son, a list of subjects he'd like to cover, such as dinosaurs, arctic animals, oceans, how the body works, and forest animals (can you tell he likes animals?!). If you use a curriculum, this is where I would say get your curriculum and workbooks, but so far we're mainly unschoolers, so I haven't needed them yet. I like to do unit studies, where I include all subjects in one topic. We usually stick to one subject for about two weeks, more if he wants to delve into it deeper. We went to the library and stocked up on dinosaur books, DVD's, music, and have already started reading, watching, doing some games, mazes, and art projects that are all dinosaur related. It's been so fun to get back into the learing groove! We all missed it!

4. I've started thinking about what subscriptions or memberships, if any we want this year. I got one for the Discovery Learning Center,, here in Santa Cruz so I can use their resource library. I plan to get a state park pass and I signed up for a free trial with My son played it last spring for a while and Loved it! I couldn't get him off of it at first, but when it got harder, he was no longer interested. But it's awesome for teaching beginning readers. He went from only knowing his letters & sounds, to being able to read short sentences in a couple weeks! I may break down and buy the subscription if he keeps playing it, which I hope he does! I want a membership to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it's pricey, so I may have to wait on that one. Definitely going to homeschool day, though! There are so many great subscriptions, books, etc, I've come across and I have to remind myself that he's only a kindergartener, we don't need all the fancy stuff to teach the basics!

5. The next thing I got ready is my calendar. I have a big one where I write down everything I would love to go to, and I mean everything! I also have my pocket one with the important dates I can't miss. I still write it all down! I've tried digital calendars, but I just like to be able to open it and see everything for the whole month, no logging in, no charging batteries! I made sure it was up to date with field trips, classes, library story times, museum and other homeschool days or free days, state park programs, cultural, music, and art festivals, county fairs, etc. These are some local calendars worth checking so you don't miss anything great: (must be a member)

6. The last thing, which I'm ever working on, is finding great ideas, from other blogs, friends, websites, of projects, science experiments, worksheets, places to go, etc that I would like to use either now or in the future, so I always have a wide range of things for us to do, learn, experiment with, go to, etc, at the ready!

Oh and if your brand new, the very first must do is to get involved with other homeschool families. Join online groups such as facebook or yahoo groups for a start!  Supportive friends are an absolute must! Have a great start to your homeschool year!
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