Saturday, December 8, 2012


Part of our bedtime ritual for the past year has involved some form of spontaneous storytelling. Currently, our stories of choice are "bad day stories", during which we make up a fantastical bad day - aliens, monsters, dinosaurs, natural disasters, and so on. Following is a transcription of one of the boy's recent bad day stories:

I woke up in the middle of the night and heard tiny little footsteps. I opened my eyes and I saw a tiny little monster. It looked like it had wings and it was black. And it looked like it had wings like a bird. And then when it came up to me, it was [sister]! She was dressed up in a costume of a monster in the middle of the night, and I said, "[sister], why are you awake in a costume of a bird monster, awake in the middle of the night?" And then I said, "[sister], go back to bed," and she stayed awake all night long and I keeped seeing her. And one time I saw a big blue monster and when it came close, it was actually [brother] in blue pajamas. And then I looked out and I saw some real monsters, and [sister and brother] keeped saying, "there's monsters out there!" and then I was scared so I counted one, two, three, and I went into the hallway and jumped on them and then they ran away into the front door and fell down. The end.


Fine Arts: Drama
Language Arts: Speaking and Listening

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lego creations

Much of the boy's day is spent wrist-deep in Lego. Sometimes he recreates his various sets following the instructions, while the rest of the time he designs his own models.

Recent designs have included a family of ducks (parents and several babies), a giraffe, people, vehicles, a playground, and a Duplo vacuum. His first still life drawing attempt was based on one of his self-designed Lego vehicles.

Testing a "harbour" he designed to keep boats from being washed into the town by big waves.

A playground which he continued to add to over the next several days.

A beach house he built following the set's instructions.

Vacuuming the rug.

Drawn replica of his Lego vehicle.

He also enjoys playing a few rounds of Creationary whenever he can find willing participants, and loves to take many (many) pictures of his Lego creations.


Mathematics: Shape and space
Fine Arts: Visual arts (creativity, artistic design)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fun with accents

The subject of accents came up this weekend following an interesting discussion on world languages. The boy was interested in the idea that people could speak English in different ways (distinct pronunciations) and wanted to hear examples of this. YouTube was the ideal way to quickly explore a variety of regional accents, including Irish, Scottish, and Australian.

Since then, he can occasionally be overheard muttering phrases to himself in different accents as well as incorporating it into his play.

The British Library has an excellent resource for listening to UK-specific accents and dialects: Accents and Dialects of the UK.


Social Studies: Characteristics of different environments

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dancing raisins

Okay, now this was just cool.

I've heard about the dancing raisins experiment many times and often wondered how well it really worked. Well, I can now heartily say, along with the boy, that it works really well!

We filled our glass containers with carbonated water, dropped a raisin in, and sat back to watch. Sure enough, the bubbles soon gathered around the raisin and carried it to the top of the water. Once there, the bubbles popped and the raisin sank back to the bottom until enough bubbles had once again clung to it to begin moving it upward again.

The kids asked great questions. "What if we put more in?" "Does it work with other things?" "What if we filled the glass with raisins?" "Will it keep doing it forever?" We discovered that it does indeed work with other things, including lentils, dried cranberries, and even beans! The beans were particularly interesting because, being smooth and heavier, it took longer for a sufficient amount of bubbles to collect on them and carry them to the top.

Who knew raisins and carbonated water could be so engaging?


Science: Observation, description

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paper chromatography

We used coffee filters to do a basic chromatography experiment at a previous Science Club gathering, and the boy was so excited about it that he set up his own replica of the experiment at home. After colouring a picture with markers, he set it in a bowl of water and watched the ink separate as the water rose up the paper.


Science: Observation

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grape construction

This week's Science Club adventure was a simple combination of grapes and toothpicks. The kids used them to create various shapes and objects, including pyramids, houses, tiaras, and even sea urchins!

Little brother snacks while big brother begins creating.

Making a grape-kabob fence.

His final creation!

Bonus? Instant snack time afterwards!

We will definitely repeat this activity with a more focused look at both two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes in the future.

(Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration!)


Science: Observation
Mathematics: Shape and space

Friday, October 26, 2012


We went out to eat last week, a rare treat, and the boys were given magna doodles to play with while we waited for our food (thank you, child-friendly food establishment!). The boy wanted me to draw something, so I drew a pole, a few blank lines, and introduced him to the exciting game of hangman. It immediately became one of his favourite games, right up there with Uno and Lego Creationary.

Gotta love the classics!

His word was Fatburger. Don't judge. Their food is yummy.


Language Arts: Reading, writing

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fun with magnets

One of our most fun purchases recently has been a couple sets of strong magnets. We used them to test which objects were magnetic and which weren't, to make "temporary magnets" out of other objects, and to see how long of a magnetic chain of objects we could make.

We also had a lot of fun moving magnetic objects around containers of water. We placed paperclips, coins, and other objects inside a container of water, and then used the magnet on the outside of the container to move the objects within.

Using a magnet to lift a paperclip out of a glass of water.


Science: Observation, description

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Underwater Fireworks

This was one of those projects that was the perfect combination of low prep and high engagement. The kids watched the "underwater fireworks" for a long time, and then requested that we keep the remaining mixture in the vase "just to look at" for a couple more days.

(Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration!)


Food dye
Clear glass containers


We began by pouring about a half cup of oil into a glass, then added two drops of each colour of food dye to the oil. We noted that the food dye remained in small round balls at the bottom of the glass. For comparative purposes, we did the same thing with a glass of water and observed that the food dye mixed with the water instead of staying in little balls. How interesting!

We disposed of the water mixture and turned our attention back to the glass of oil. The boy used a fork to vigorously stir the oil.

Stirring complete, we noted that the food dye was now in many many smaller balls within the oil.

The boy then poured the glass of oil and food dye into a vase of water.

In she goes!

And now we watch.

It didn't take long for the show to begin. As the little balls of food dye sunk from the oil down into the water, they "popped" into colourful underwater fireworks.

Aren't they pretty?

This one was my favourite. That reddish clump on the right looked like a little fishy swimming in our water!

When all the dye balls had sunk down into the water, we were left with a dark mixture of water on the bottom and a layer of oil on the top. We talked a bit about the why's but mostly just enjoyed the observation process. Looking forward to similar experiments in the future!


Science: Observation, description

Monday, October 22, 2012

Around the house

In addition to developing his kitchen skills, we've been offering the boy greater responsibilities around the house as well.

His laundry responsibilities, in addition to putting his own dirty clothes into the hamper, had previously included bringing the dry clothes from the dryer in the garage into our house, as well as basic washcloth folding. Bringing in the dry clothes has now been passed on to his younger brother, while the boys' new responsibilities include putting away the clothes for the three kids (I had initially asked him to put away the clothes for him and his brother, but he insisted he could do his baby sister's clothes as well) and sorting the laundry. Next up, advanced folding!

Other current household responsibilities include assisting in unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming the living room, setting the table for the kids, clearing away his dishes after a meal, cleaning up his toys before bedtime, keeping his room tidy, and general assistance when requested. He also enjoys window washing, but that remains a skill-in-progress.

It has been interesting to observe the link between meaningful work and personal initiative/responsibility. The more (age-appropriate and reasonable) meaningful work we give him, the more he demonstrates awareness of household needs and a willingness to take them on himself. He has, for example, taken on the responsibility of undoing both of his little sibling's carseats when we arrive at our destination, in addition to other self-initiated responsibilities.


Social Studies: Responsibility

Friday, October 19, 2012

In the kitchen

The boy has been taking care of his own breakfast for a while now, often helping his little brother with his as well. He also washes fruit, peels vegetables, and makes toast with peanut butter.

Recently we've been working with him to increase his kitchen skills. Earlier this month he made us a delicious meal of fried egg & cheese sandwiches with a side salad. I sliced the cheese while he made the toast and fried the eggs (turning on the correct burner, buttering the pan, cracking the eggs into the pan, flipping the eggs, moving the cooked eggs onto the toast). We worked together on the salad and then everything was brought to the table for our meal. Delicious!

The next day, he saw me making fried mushrooms with toast for my own lunch. He doesn't usually eat mushrooms, but he thought my lunch smelled and looked yummy, so I told him there were more mushrooms in the fridge if he wanted to make his own. He turned on the correct burner, buttered the pan, sliced the mushrooms, stirred them around as they fried, made toast, then put it all on a plate when it was done.

Our next dinner was a simple spaghetti and pasta sauce meal, so I let him have at it again. He learned not to put an empty pot on a hot burner, but to put the water in first. He boiled the water, added the spaghetti, and warmed up the pre-made frozen pasta sauce in another pot. I began to set the table, but he promptly stopped me, insisting that he would take care of everything. He set the table for all of us, brought the jug of water over, and put the Parmesan cheese on the table. Simple skills, but a complete meal!

Next up: Pancakes from start to finish!


Health: Nutrition
Social Studies: Responsibility

Thursday, October 18, 2012

He's reading!

I'm sitting here at my computer, resting after a long day. The baby is sleeping on my lap and the boys are playing happily together. Soon we'll have supper but right now it's quiet.

And then - and then! - I hear a familiar sound. It's the sound of the boy carefully sounding words out. I look over and there he is, reading a book out loud to his little brother!

I love it.

And now he's done, back to his Lego. I'm so glad I caught that small moment, and I look forward to witnessing more of them as his reading skills continue to grow.


Language Arts: Reading

Monday, October 15, 2012


"How do you spell _____?" has become one of the boy's most commonly asked questions as of late. He generally attempts it first and then asks me for confirmation. If he's incorrect or if he hasn't yet attempted it, I guide him through the sounds to help him figure it out himself. In this way, spelling rules are gradually introduced as examples present themselves.

An interesting challenge has recently arisen with the boy's attempts at spelling. Because of his age-appropriate and yet incorrect pronunciation of certain sounds, he spells the words as they sound to his ears. When he asks if he has spelled it right, I enunciate the word correctly so he can hear the sounds. Only he doesn't believe me!

The first such controversial word was "truck". He had spelled it "chuc", which is phonetically correct according to his pronunciation. Somehow when he says it aloud, the difference isn't glaringly obvious, but a closer listen reveals that he does indeed replace the "tr" sound with "ch".

A similar conversation took place regarding the word "thing", which he pronounces as "sing". Again, it was a challenge for him to adjust his idea of the correct pronunciation of this word. This issue has led to interesting discussions on the concept of speaking clearly, the challenges of spelling words when they aren't pronounced correctly, and whether or not mom does in fact know how to spell.

The "tr" versus "ch" pronunciation came up again after he drew and labelled a picture of tarantulas ("chachalas"). I was impressed that he had tackled that word on his own. After telling him so, however, he asked if he had spelled it correctly. I told him it was close but the "ch" sound was actually "tar". Again, he had difficulty hearing the difference and remained convinced that he was indeed pronouncing it correctly.

I know the issue will resolve itself in time, as his speech sound acquisition progresses. In the meantime, it makes for a good reinforcement of careful enunciation as well as an interesting presentation of the challenges of phonetic spelling when speech sounds have not yet been fully acquired.


Language Arts: Reading & Viewing, Writing & Representing, Speaking & Listening

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gobble gobble!

Although Thanksgiving has come and gone (here in Canada, anyway), we decided to do a turkey handprint craft this week. I traced and cut out both the toddler's hand and the daycare toddler's hand, put glue on the fingers, and gave them some pre-cut feathers to stick onto their turkey.

The boy, however, was affronted at the idea of creating a turkey with feathers coming out the top of his back. Turkey feathers, he said, stuck out at the back rather than the top of the turkey. No way was he going to construct an incorrect turkey.

So marker in hand, he went to work drawing and cutting his own turkey. He then used tape (not glue!) to put the feathers in what he felt was the correct place. He added paper feet and used a marker to fill in the details. Satisfied with his turkey, he finished the project in his usual way, by printing his name on the back. Important detail, you know?

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!


Fine Arts: Visual arts

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Incorporating literature into imaginary play

The boys' bedtime story this summer was The Hobbit, which both of them enjoyed very much. (Thanks to The Hobbit, the word "thief" was introduced into their vocabulary, and has since become the go-to word for someone they're very angry with. Better than some of the alternatives, right?)

After The Hobbit, they began the Narnia series. So far they have completed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, followed by The Magician's Nephew, and are now working their way through The Horse and His Boy.

It has been particularly interesting to watch the boys incorporate the characters from these stories into their imaginative play. Queen Jadis (from Narnia) and Bilbo (from The Hobbit) are the most common characters used, while several others make occasional appearances.

The boys spent this afternoon outside, building an elaborate fort and then using it as their house for their imagined family. The boy was "Rose" from the book "The Golly Sisters Go West", while the toddler was "Primrose" from another recent favourite, "The Complete Brambly Hedge" (this beautiful book is currently ours on loan from the library, but will likely be purchased to become part of our own library to be read over and over).

We'll see what characters make imaginary appearances next!


Fine Arts: Drama
Language Arts: Reading & Viewing, Speaking & Listening

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Recent drawings

The boy spends hours each day with his crayons, scissors, tape, and paper. He says glue takes too long to dry, but he loves the mini-stapler that I bought for him after he kept borrowing mine. He enjoys his smelly markers (Mr. Sketch) and my highlighters. In short, this guy loves his paper crafts.

I was amused by this recent creation, where he combined tape and crayons to make a stand for a dump truck he had drawn. How innovative of him!

He loves Magic School Bus books. I'm quite fond of the old-style ones myself, while the new ones seem to be lacking a certain depth that the original ones had. Despite my feelings for the newer ones, several have made their way into our library, including one on bats. It was from that book that this drawing was inspired.

Although we have done leaf rubbings and coin rubbings in the past, the boy was excited to discover that the same idea worked with stickers. These shapes were created by colouring over stickers placed under the paper; the outlines were impressively clear.

This little zebra is my personal favourite. He's in a cage in a (well-labelled) zoo. On the right-hand side, you can see the boy's initial attempt at spelling "zebra". After asking me if he had spelled it right, I helped him sound it out slowly so that he could determine the correct letters. He was able to figure it out without difficulty and wrote it at the bottom of the page.

The boy has several similar versions of this self-invented doorknob hanger, most of them hanging together on his bedroom door. I love the line of cheering people on the basketball side, and I was pleased to see the 'J' in his name facing the correct way on the soccer side. He usually draws it backwards, so it was good to see self-correction in action.

Other current favoured drawings right now include dinosaurs, construction vehicles, trains, houses, and birds.


Language Arts: Writing
Fine Arts: Visual arts

Friday, October 5, 2012

Letters everywhere

The boy's list of sight words is rapidly growing, and his ability to sound out words is improving daily as well.

At home, he uses letter magnets to make words on the fridge. He also labels many of his drawings and frequently comes to ask me if he's spelled a word correctly.

Some of the boy's current fridge-words.

As we drive, he reads street signs, billboards, and words on stores and vehicles. Sometimes he sounds them out himself, while other times he asks me what (for example) "T-R-A-N-S-I-T" says.

Because he doesn't yet have the ease of reading nor the stamina for reading long portions at once, we take turns when we're reading early reader books (Dr. Seuss books are a favourite of ours for this alternating-pages style of reading).

During a playtime with some friends, he spent some time with one of his friend's mom doing a reading and writing game. I love that everyone we meet has that potential to be a teacher-figure in our lives, whether by introducing us to new games, discussing new ideas, facilitating a learning experience, or sharing a skill!


Language Arts: Reading, writing

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Car Talk

Thursdays are our busy out-and-about days, with lots of time spent driving back and forth - to science club and back, to Bible study and back, to evening activities and back. All this driving leads to numerous opportunities for discussions. I don't know what it is about the car, but our best conversations always seem to happen there.

Today's lunch was a rare fast-food stop at A&W. From this we discussed the concept of healthy versus unhealthy food, why fast-food places exist (convenience for consumer, profit for company), and why fast-food places usually sell food that isn't very good for our bodies (cost, convenience). We talked about how a steak, potatoes, and salad would make a reasonably nutritious meal, but when you fry the potatoes in an unhealthy oil, put the steak and salad inside of a bun, cover it all in salt, and drink it with a sugar-filled soda, it becomes significantly less healthy.

After discussing nutrition, we ended up on the topic of careers. The boy's dad is currently an electrical engineering student in his final year, which means next year he'll begin full-time work in his field. The boy asked why people go to school, which led to a discussion on learning skills and working conscientiously, as people who either don't know what they are doing or don't do their jobs responsibly end up being told they can't work there anymore. The boy then asked what jobs you didn't have to go to school for. After I listed some examples, he suggested painting, which then led to a discussion on the concept of self-employment. Very interesting conversation all around!

Our final discussion centered around the idea of twins, as the boy has recently befriended a set of boy/girl twins as our weekly science group. Because the twins are different genders, the boy rightly observed that they didn't look alike. I explained the two different ways twins are formed and how that relates to whether or not they will look identical. After discussing those ideas back and forth, he then asked how a mommy's tummy would look if she was pregnant with twins. We talked about babies coming early or being born smaller, what that meant for the infants' development (primarily centering on lungs), and what might have to be done to keep everyone healthy (bedrest, respiratory assistance for premature babies, etc).

It's always fun to hear the boy's thought processes through his questions and observations!


Health: Nutrition, careers
Science: Observation, discussion

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baking soda and vinegar trays

The boys both have colds this week, so being cooped up to avoid sharing their illness has left them a little bit squirrely. Fortunately, I've had a rainy-day project tucked away in the back of my mind for a while, and today was the perfect day to pull it out.

(Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration! If anyone knows the original source of the pinned image, please do let me know so that I can credit the owner properly.)


Food dye
Baking soda
Baking pans
Medicine droppers


I gave each boy three re-purposed applesauce cups filled with food-dyed vinegar, a tray filled with half a box of baking soda, and a medicine dropper. A muffin tin is another option for holding the coloured vinegar.

Fill up dropper with vinegar and squirt it into the tray! Simple yet fascinating.

After watching the initial fizzes several times, the boy moved on to experimenting. He put the dropper underneath the baking soda before squirting the vinegar out. He built little baking soda volcanoes and squirted the vinegar inside ("It runs down the sides just like a real volcano!") He mixed colours, made rainbows, squirted vinegar on top of already wet areas, and more.

The biggest challenge for them was figuring out how to use the droppers most efficiently and effectively. The toddler never did quite get the hang of filling it up well, but it was great fine-motor practice anyway. Fortunately, big brother was happy to help (and Mommy helped too, of course!).

Then again, if all else fails, just pour it in directly!

Naturally, it didn't take long for the fingers to start poking around in there, touching, mixing, and squeezing the mixture. This made it an excellent sensory experience in addition to the scientific observation of watching the vinegar interact with the baking soda.

He was impressed with how hard and crumbly it got once it was full of vinegar.

A definite success! The boys played with the trays for a full hour and would have played longer had we not had to stop for something else. Clean up was quick and easy!


Science: Observation, description, sensorial experience
Fine arts: Visual arts (creativity, artistic design)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lego Maze

I had casually mentioned the idea of making a Lego maze to the boy several weeks ago. He thought it sounded interesting at the time, but he was focused on something else and so nothing came of it.

Today he came to me and asked if I remembered when I told him about making a Lego maze. I sure did, so he asked if I'd make one with him. The two of us made ourselves comfortable on the floor and began work on this creation.

He quickly took the lead, adding all sorts of extra things that I wouldn't have thought of. Once it was finished, we took turns carefully tilting the maze to roll the rubber ball from beginning to end. It was a fun challenge!

He continued to add to and modify his maze throughout the week, until at last it succumbed to the usual Lego creation fate: his little brother got hold of it.

Good-bye, maze. You were fun while you lasted.

(Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration!)


Mathematics: Shape and space
Fine Arts: Visual arts (creativity, artistic design)

Thank you, Oma!

The boys' Opa brought them some stickers and a letter from their Oma on a recent trip to the city. They were very excited and immediately began creating pictures with the stickers.

Today the boy came to me and asked how to spell "Oma" and "stickers". He wanted to write a thank you letter to his Oma. I helped him figure out how to spell the words, and he took on the rest of the project himself.

He then asked me for an envelope. After finding one that fit his letter, he addressed the envelope with a very large "TO OMA FROM JACOB", then brought it to me and asked me to write the rest of the mailing address on it for him. With the address now complete, he went to the drawer, found a stamp, and stuck it on the corner. Then he placed the envelope on the front table and asked us to mail it for him, which we did soon after.

(Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of this one!)


Language Arts: Writing

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crumbled leaf tree craft

Welcome, Autumn!

Part of our First Day of Fall celebration included a crumbled leaf craft, taking advantage of the many dead leaves in our front yard.


1 sheet of construction paper, brown
1 sheet of construction paper, any colour
Dry leaves
Markers (optional)
Stickers (optional)


Draw a tree on the brown construction paper. Cut it out.

(Because I was doing this activity with multiple children, including toddlers, I cut out the trees myself in one stacked go. Normally I'd have left it up to the boy to draw and cut out the tree himself.)

Glue the tree onto the second sheet of construction paper.

Crumble the dead leaves. (This part is absolutely thrilling when you're five, by the way.)

Put glue onto the tree branches. Sprinkle the leaf crumbs onto the glue; shake off the excess. Repeat until the tree is sufficiently covered.

Optional: Decorate with markers and/or stickers. (The boy carefully sounded out each and every sticker as he placed it on his paper; great life-based child-led reading practice!)

VoilĂ ! Tree complete.

(Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration!)


Fine Arts: Visual arts (mixed media, artistic design)
Language Arts: Reading