Monthly Archives: April 2013

I Want To Talk About This Blurry Picture And What It Is

I want to talk about this picture.

April 17, 2013

It is blurry, but I was trying to take the shot quickly. It doesn’t matter if it’s clear or not, because you can still get the point.

At one point this Wednesday, three of the kids in our homeschool/unschool field trip group – all either four or five years old  – were looking very intensely at what I assumed to be information about a particular exhibit. I thought Kai might be reading it out loud or something, because he has suddenly found much thrill in reading things out loud for other kids.

I decided to walk over and see what they were up to.

It turns out that it was NOT actually the exhibit that they were looking at. It was the map. They were discussing what animals were where, where they wanted to go next, and how to get there, discussing the merits of each path.

Learning does not always happen in a classroom. Sometimes, learning is as simple as three kids looking at a map while none of the adults are hovering over them.

This is learning. This is life.

A Little Direction Can Be Good (Or: What We Did At The Zoo)

Yesterday, Kai and I went to the Woodland Park Zoo. We’ve gone a lot (we have a membership and live about ten minutes away by car), so this wasn’t too unusual.

Very serious map-studying.

Kai, studying the map of the zoo.

We ended up not meeting up with anyone (typically, we go with other homeschoolers), so I decided to try a couple of new things: we checked out an “early childhood education” backpack and signed Kai up for the nature exchange program.

April 3, 2013

Inside Zoomazium

Kai picked up a map from the front entrance and we headed for Zoomazium. He doesn’t NEED the map. He knows where it is. But he likes USING the map and I think it’s good practice. Zoomazium is the indoor kids’ area. As far as Kai is concerned, the zoo is “Zoomazium, the carousel, and, oh yeah, I guess they have animals, too.” Zoomazium has a small stage, a nature exchange, an area for little kids, a big treehouse (pretend tree with slides in it), and an area for the bigger kids that has a slide and looks like natural rocks. (They’re not abd that’s good thing, too, because the way these kids play, they’d all wind up seriously injured.)

I let Kai play in Zoomazium for a bit before “Creature feature”. “Creature Feature” is a neat presentation for kids, generally in the form of a puppet show or a story with stuffed animals. Afterwards, the kids get to touch an animal that somehow relates to the story. Whenever we go to the zoo, we try to hit up “Creature Feature”. Today, the kids got to touch a baby corn snake (really, they got to touch two).

April 3, 2013

Touching a baby corn snake.

Afterwards, I wandered up to the desk in Zoomazium to ask about the backpacks I’d heard of people being able to check out AND the nature exchange, which I’d seen online.

zoomazium backpack

Zoomazium “Early Childhood Education” Backpack

They have a few backpacks to choose from. They call them “early childhood education” backpacks or something like that. They’re each themed – they remind me very much of a “mini unit study”. The backpack had some stuffed animals in it, asking questions and encouraging the kids to go find them, listing where the animal could be found in the zoo. It had a numbers puzzle that had different animals for each number, an activity the kids could do in the zoo (making tally marks to show what kind of animal covering the zoo animals had the most of – like feathers, scales, fur, etc), and a few other things. But Kai’s FAVORITE thing inside the backpack was the snake skin. We talked a lot about that. I made notes about what he said: “Feels soft. Looks like a beehive. Looks yellowish white. Doesn’t have colors like the snake. Shaped like a snake. Maybe the snake BODY has colors.” His actual favorite part of the backpack was the backpack itself – he kept wearing it and calling himself a “spiky turtle”.

The backpack was nice, though, because we tried to answer the questions on the animal cards. So, it gave meaning to seeing specific animals (he was very sad, though, that the red pandas, which were in the bag, were not on display).

Before we turned in the backpack, we had a bit of lunch and took a ride on the carousel.

April 3, 2013

On the carousel.

When we turned the backpack in, he was able to register for the Nature Exchange. The program is pretty cool. He got 200 points for doing all the backpack activities and talking about them. He was able to “buy” a shark tooth worth 150 points. He LOVES the tooth and has excitedly been talking about going back to get more points (he can also bring things in, do reports, talk to the staff about things, etc. to earn points).

I’ve talked to a few people about these programs and most weren’t aware EITHER program existed. Kai had such a blast, it gave our trip a bit more “direction”, and he’s looking forward to returning – because of these programs. I just wish the zoo would advertise them a bit better so more people could use me.

But this has me thinking that in the future, I might set up some scavenger hunts or plan some other specific activities for Kai.

I’m curious… do any of you have memberships to zoo? If so, what do you do when you go to the zoo? I used to try to see everything every time we went. That left me QUITE exhausted… and Kai kind of cranky. Now, we just do whatever. And I like that. But having a bit of direction was nice, as well.

March 2013 Monthly Learning Summary

I’ve found that the more we do, the quicker the month flies by. Weird how that works. (And how is the first quarter of the year completely GONE already?!?) Every month I say the same thing: I don’t realize how much we actually do until I’m writing up my monthly summary. I’ve had this conversation with a few other homeschool parents who do weekly or monthly learning summaries and most of them tend to feel the same way, from what I can tell. It all really adds up to a lot of living, a lot of learning.

March 2013 Collage

Here’s a sampling of what we did in March 2013:

Out of the house

A huge part of what we did in March involved socializing –  getting out of the house and hanging out with other homeschooling families. The weather’s been quite a bit nicer and that seems to be getting more families out of the house.

In middle/the end of February, I sent out some inquiries to some of my homeschool groups, “Hey, we wanna do this… want to do it with us?” So we formed a small group that meets once a week, on Wednesdays, and alternates between the Woodland Park Zoo and the Pacific Science Center. It’s been nice seeing the same group of people once a week and the kids have gotten to know each other. This has worked out SO well that we’re going to do it again in April.

We’ve also started regularly doing the “big” homeschool park day on Tuesdays. Kai has LOVED this. It’s also encouraged him to stretch himself a bit – he tends to play with the older kids, but that means he needs to keep up.  So, I’ve watched him go onto pieces of playground equipment he otherwise would not have and play rough, something he rarely does at home. It’s good to see him take risks, as he can be quite hesitant about that.

We also visited Twirl Café, where Kai was able to play with a few kids.

Grocery shopping still lends itself to another opportunity for play with other kids – Kai still goes to Playland at Fred Meyer. I’m watching him grow taller, though, and eventually, he’ll “age out” of Playland. I remember when that happened to me – it was pretty heartbreaking. We’re letting him enjoy it while he can.

Kai also got to play at Seattle Gymnastics Academy’s Indoor Playground – we met up with good friends there.  He LOVES going across the long trampoline and swimming in the foam block pit.

I needed to go to my mother’s house to get something, so Joe and I took Kai with us and he got to visit with my mother and my stepfather.

Parks visited – some on our own, some for homeschool park day: Wallingford Playfield, Discovery Park, Ravenna Park, Big Howe, David Rogers Park, and Golden Gardens.

We visited the library several times, including doing a pajama story time with Joe. Kai got to make a construction paper crown – he ended up wearing it several times.

I let Kai pick out a toy at the dollar store. He thought it was neat that we could get “so many things” but then we talked about quality and how a lot of those things are “cheap”.

Kai got a new bed. He’d still been in his toddler bed and was growing taller, so it was time. Joe and I took him to IKEA and let him help pick out his bed.  On the way home, we let him pick out some bedding. Then he and Joe went to pick out a second set of bedding while I waited for the bed to be delivered. He helped Joe put the bed together and seems pretty happy with the whole thing.

At the beginning of the month, we took Kai to Blue Highway Games where he used some of his money to buy a couple of things.



At the beginning of the month, we set a tea bag on fire and talked about why it rises in the air.

We had several days where we worked with the calendar.  Kai would write out the date, underline the day of the week, circle the month, circle the weather, and we’d work with the number of the day each day, using tally marks, showing it as coins, writing it in the proper place value columns, number sentences, we’d talk about what day was the day before and the day after, etc.

We played a place value game that he seemed to really enjoy.

We worked quite a bit with addition. We used five frames, ten frames, file folder games, and did more traditional math activities as well.

We did cardboard weaving.

He did some activities in his LEGO city stickerbook.

We did an experiment with celery where you put it in water that has food coloring.

He helped cook and bake several times.

When we go to the Woodland Park Zoo, we do the creature feature, which means Kai gets to touch an animal.


Kai used some of his money to buy expansions for Rory’s Story Cubes and we did things with them several times.


Various phone games

File folder games

Hey, That’s My Fish!



Legend of Dungeon

Magician’s Kitchen

Play-Doh Toy Time Race Game


Get Bit!

He spends a lot of time pretending to be superheroes.

He plays with his cars, trains, and planes. He and Joe set up his Polar Express train and he puts on his conductor hat to play with it.


Websites visited


Google Maps/Google Street View – He enjoyed playing around on here, “walking” to a lake, “visiting” various places on the globe

Joe found a post with pictures taken of the pyramids in Egypt. Kai LOVES things about Egypt, so he very much enjoyed looking at this.


Rock N Learn Physical Science

Wild Kratts

Ready for Science and Geography

Various YouTube videos, including several Minecraft ones

A few Thomas DVDs – He’s starting to move past these but every now and then, he’ll get on a Thomas kick.

Human Life Cycle DVD

Curious George

Tron: Legacy

Wizard of Oz

We did the “Preschool Trip to the Moon” a couple of times in the planetarium.


Bette Middler – one of her greatest hits albums, I believe

Podcast about Egypt

Four Magic TreeHouse audiobooks – all of them were “Merlin Missions”. He LOVES these audiobooks and has asked for me to check out more from the library.

Lion King (The Musical) Soundtrack

Cipher Prime

Minecraft Soundtrack

Tron: Legacy Soundtrack

Brian John Appleby

Head and the Heart

The Not-Its

Stuff You Should Know Podcast:  “What would happen if the world stopped spinning?”, ” How Garbage-powered Cars Could Work”, and “How Bees Work.”


We talked quite a bit about cats, large and small, particularly housecats and lions (one of the lions at our zoo recently had cubs and we got to see them – we talked quite a bit about them before and after our visit).

Since we do not religiously observe Easter, but do so culturally/secularly, we talked about some of the stories behind Easter and read some books relating to Easter. This led to conversations about respecting other peoples’ beliefs and how we can disagree without being rude. It also lead to talks of fantasy creatures and how a lot of kids believe in things like the Easter Bunny. We discussed how to respect that and say things like, “Well, I don’t believe that, but it’s okay if you do. I don’t know everything and I could be wrong.”  (For the record, he doesn’t believe in the Easter Bunny because the Easter Bunny, he says, is a “fake animal that nobody has seen”. But he DOES believe in Santa because, “Santa is a person. You can see him. And somebody told me he was real. And lots of people think so.”

We’ve talked a bit about our address. I was able to put our address to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” He sang that probably a hundred times, trying to memorize it.

We talked about fortune telling during/after watching Wizard of Oz. We talked about how people can make educated guesses or general guesses that make it SEEM like they’re fortune telling, pointing out how the fortune-teller looked through Dorothy’s purse.

At the park, Joe and Kai talked about sand and how it looks when it is wet or dry. Later in the month, this came up when he and I were at Golden Gardens. We were walking on the beach, collecting seashells and rocks, and Kai pointed out wet sand and dry sand and told me all about the differing colors.

Kai and I had a very difficult conversation after our time at Golden Gardens because there was a little girl there who was quite mean to him but still wanted to use his stuff. Kai cried most of the way home because, “I just wanted to be her friend and she was mean.” I encouraged him to stand up for himself, gently, by telling her that what she was doing was mean (and it really was), that it hurt his feelings, and that he wasn’t going to play with her because she was mean. We discussed how some people just aren’t nice – she acknowledged that she was being mean but didn’t change what she was doing. I suggested that maybe she was struggling with something or had other reasons for acting that way, but that sometimes, people don’t care about being nice. Kai pretty much never is trying to be mean and he doesn’t understand the impulse. Sometimes, he’s a bit blunt, but he’s never MEANING to be mean. The idea that someone would PURPOSEFULLY be mean was quite a foreign concept to him. Very hard lesson there.

We talked a fair bit about bees, their jobs, how they help the environment, etc.

We talked about parts of a flower.

Kai wanted to know how tattoos “happen”. We talked about them and he watched a video about tattoo guns.

Kai asked me about breastfeeding. He wanted to know why all women didn’t just leak milk all over the place all the time.


Lego Club Jr. magazines

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I read this to him and every time I’d stop, he’d ask for more. We talked about the differences between the book and the movie.

Kai is reading some chapter books to himself and occasionally to me or me and Joe.

Kai sees signs and asks about them. If we don’t know, we look them up. He saw a sign that said, “Domestic Hot Water”. I had an idea what that could mean, but wasn’t completely sure. We talked to Joe about it and we looked it up online.

Because Kai IS able to read more, he’s developed this sense of “There are things I didn’t know before.” It’s kind of tricky to convey what I mean here, but the best example I have is when he suddenly got very upset at me at the zoo. “You never told me they have smoothies. Why have I never had a smoothie here? Why didn’t you tell me they have them?!?”  He’s realizing that reading enables him to do more things and know more about the world around him.

There’s a book list for this month at the end of this.



He wrote in a lined book a couple of times.

Every now and then, he’ll pull out the whiteboard and we’ll do stuff on there.

He did a few fun worksheets this month and the calendar stuff.

Kai’s writing is coming along – he still flips letters and numbers sometimes, but he usually gets the basic shapes down well. And the flipping generally happens with similar letters/numbers, which is fairly age appropriate.

Book List

Aardema, Verna, and Lisa Desimini. Anansi Does the Impossible!: An Ashanti Tale. New York: Atheneum  for Young Readers, 1997. Print.

Ashburn, Boni, and Giorgi Sergio De. Builder Goose: It’s Construction Rhyme Time! New York: Sterling, 2012. Print.

Auch, Mary Jane. The Easter Egg Farm. New York: Holiday House, 1992. Print.

Averbeck, Jim. The Market Bowl. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2013. Print.

Base, Graeme. Little Elephants. New York: Abrams  for Young Readers, 2012. Print.

Bunting, Eve, and Greg Shed. Dandelions. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1995. Print.

Chick & Friends: Handy, Off The Hook! N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Cottin, Menena, Rosana Faría, and Elisa Amado. The Black Book of Colors. Toronto: Groundwood, 2008. Print.

Dahl, Roald, and Quentin Blake. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. New York: Puffin, 2004. Print.

Dahl, Roald, and Quentin Blake. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. New York: Puffin, 2005. Print.

Davis, Jim. Garfield Takes the Cake. New York: Ballantine, 2003. Print.

Fleming, Denise. Underground. New York: Beach Lane, 2012. Print.

Goodman, Susan E., and Timothy Bush. All in Just One Cookie. New York: Greenwillow, 2006. Print.

Goodwin-Sturges, Judy Sue., and Shari Halpern. Construction Kitties. New York: Henry Holt, 2013. Print.

Jenkins, Martin, and Jane Chapman. The Emperor’s Egg. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 1999. Print.

Jenkins, Steve. Living Color. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print.

Kalman, Maira. Looking at Lincoln. New York: Nancy Paulsen, 2012. Print.

Ketteman, Helen, and Will Terry. Armadilly Chili. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman &, 2004. Print.

Kirk, David. Oh So Tiny Bunny. New York, NY: Feiwel and Friends, 2013. Print.

Kirk, David. Oh So Tiny Bunny. New York, NY: Feiwel and Friends, 2013. Print.

Landau, Elaine. Big Cats: Hunters of the Night. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Elementary, 2008. Print.

Larsen, Kirsten, and Steven Savitsky. Dora’s Rainbow Egg Hunt. New York: Simon Spotlight/Nick Jr., 2006. Print.

Larsen, Kirsten, and Steven Savitsky. Dora’s Rainbow Egg Hunt. New York: Simon Spotlight/Nick Jr., 2006. Print.

Lester, Alison. Noni the Pony. New York: Beach Lane, 2012. Print.

London, Jonathan, and Frank Remkiewicz. Froggy Goes to Bed. New York: Viking, 2000. Print.

MacAulay, David, and Sheila Keenan. Castle. ; How It Works. N.p.: Roaring Brook, 2012. Print.

Meng, Cece, and Aurélie Neyret. Bedtime Is Canceled. Boston: Clarion, 2012. Print.

Messner, Kate, and Christopher Silas. Neal. Over and under the Snow. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2011. Print.

Milhous, Katherine, and Katherine Milhous. The Egg Tree. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950. Print.

Munro, Roxie. Busy Builders. New York: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2012. Print.

Olson, Nathan. Spheres. Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2008. Print.

Osborne, Mary Pope. Magic Tree House Collection, Books 29-32 [sound Recording]. N.p.: Listening Library, 2001. Print.

Polacco, Patricia, and Nanette Stevenson. Rechenka’s Eggs. New York: Philomel, 1988. Print.

Rader, Mark. Woody’s Big Dance. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Redeker, Kent, and Bob Staake. Don’t Squish the Sasquatch! New York: Disney/Hyperion, 2012. Print.

Riggs, Kate. Lions. New York: Creative Education, 2012. Print.

Riggs, Kate. Lions. New York: Creative Education, 2012. Print.

Ross, Tony. I Want Two Birthdays! Minneapolis: Andersen USA, 2010. Print.

Salley, Coleen, and Janet Stevens. Epossumondas. San Diego: Harcourt, 2002. Print.

Salley, Coleen, and Janet Stevens. Epossumondas. San Diego: Harcourt, 2002. Print.

Sayre, April Pulley., and Steve Jenkins. Vulture View. New York: Henry Holt, 2007. Print.

Scanlon, Elizabeth Garton., and Vanessa Newton. Think Big. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. Print.

Shannon, David. Jangles: A Big Fish Story. New York: Blue Sky, 2012. Print.

Shulman, Lisa, and Rosanne Litzinger. The Matzo Ball Boy. New York: Dutton Children’s, 2005. Print.

Sidman, Joyce, and Michelle Berg. Meow Ruff. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print.

Smith, Danna, and Valeria Petrone. Pirate Nap: A Book of Colors. Boston: Clarion, 2011. Print.

Steer, Dugald. Knight: A Noble Guide for Young Squires. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2006. Print.

Stone, Jon, and Michael Smollin. Please Do Not Open This Book! New York: Random House, 2006. Print.

Thomas, Jan. A Birthday for Cow! Orlando [Fla.: Harcourt, 2008. Print.

Tingle, Tim, and Stacey Schuett. When Turtle Grew Feathers: A Folktale from the Choctaw Nation. Atlanta, GA: August House LittleFolk, 2007. Print.

Tingle, Tim, and Stacey Schuett. When Turtle Grew Feathers: A Folktale from the Choctaw Nation. Atlanta, GA: August House LittleFolk, 2007. Print.

Torres, Melissa. Dora’s Potty Book. New York: Simon Spotlight/Nick Jr., 2005. Print.

Willems, Mo. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! London: Walker, 2005. Print.

Woods, Geraldine. Science in Ancient Egypt. New York: Franklin Watts, 1998. Print.

Woody’s Big Dance. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Zuchora-Walske, Christine. Peeking Prairie Dogs. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1999. Print.