October 25, 2010


When I was a student at college, I always earned the best grades during summer semester and the worst grades during fall semester. The reason was obvious to me. During the summer, I hated being outside. MUCH TOO HOT. I liked the air conditioned buildings and the excuse to never leave them. During fall--my favorite time of year--the weather cooled off and I rejoiced that I had survived another miserable, hot, horrible summer. I went outside at every opportunity.

Not much has changed. If it feels like I disappeared from the homeschooling community over the past few weeks it is because the temp dropped and I gathered my brood and headed outdoors. For example, one week my hubby and I took the kids hiking on Monday and then that Thursday I went hiking with my sister, her kids, and my mother. That Saturday we spent the day outside at the Heritage Fall Festival in Logan, and riding horses at my parent's house. The other days we ran errands or played at the park.

The week before that the weather was so warm we spent one day swimming at the lake. There was almost no one else there. Perfect.

Last week I took the kids hiking on Monday and we had a glorious time. The leaves were amazing.

But this week. This week is rainy. I love the rain. I love all "weather"--in my lexicon "weather" is anything besides Utah's typical sunny days. But I can't take baby hiking in the rain.

At first I was a little bummed to be indoors, but then I remembered that I was a homeschool mom and decided to take advantage of the rainy days to actually teach something. Imagine.

Enter--Animal Classification 101. It is a science unit I've been thinking about doing for awhile. My children love animals and classifying is a useful skill. Besides, the whole unit is so simple to pull together that I didn't need a lot of prep time. Plus, in Utah, second grade science involves classifying rocks. Uh--I'm just not that excited about rocks. I thought I'd be half good and at least teach the classification part.

Step One: Force, ahem, ask your sweet hubby to make you a classification chart to hang on the wall. I hate making posters, displays, artwork, craftiness of any kind. But, my hubby is an artist, so he does it all for me. Hooray for my foresight and good planning in my choice of spouse!
There he is, being all fastidious and detail-oriented. Opposites attracting has so many positive benefits.
Step Two: Hang up the chart somewhere where your children will notice it and instantly want to do whatever it is that mom has planned that involves a large green chart.
Step Three: Have your children sit on the floor and figure out different ways they can group themselves based on a common characteristic. At first, Miriam grouped everyone by hair color, but that made Cowen feel bad because he was the only one at home without red hair. So then we grouped by gender, then who had on socks, who had on giraffe boots (Emeline), who was wearing blue, who was wearing purple, etc. They had lots of fun moving themselves into the different groupings.

Step Four: Fill a pillowcase with a random assortment of objects. To make it more fun, I forced myself to put things in without thinking about how it would work out in the end. That way we all had to work a little harder at grouping. In the end, it was easy to figure out commonalities. We had a metal vs. paper vs. plastic vs. wax classification (that one candle was always the odd ball). We had groups for things that could open and things that couldn't. Things that had to do with/or actually were money, and things that didn't/weren't. We spent about ten minutes grouping and regrouping and the kids loved it.

Step Five: Print off a picture of an animal that fits each category. Since my kids are little, I kept it simple and put six groups on the chart: invertebrate, mammal, bird, fish, amphibian, reptile. To make at least one grouping obvious, I picked an orange animal for all six groups. Yes, orange is my favorite color. So after the pillowcase exercise, I moved the children to the table. Then I handed Emeline the first animal and asked her to describe it. The animal was a tiger and she told us about the color and the tail and the four legs (with a little prompting). Then each of the children (including Eli, who was thrilled to be included and faithfully repeated everything I told him to say) described an animal. Then we grouped the six animals by different commonalities. The tiger and frog ended up together because they both had orange and black stripes. The fish was often a loner--poor gilled thing with no legs or tail. You can imagine how this went.

Step Six: Have the kids decide which animal should go into which column on the chart. I encouraged them to start with the obvious ones--so the little clownfish went into the fish column first. The bird was also obvious. Cowen, who cares a great deal about which animals lay eggs, explained to everyone that the tiger was a mammal because it "pushes its baby out instead of laying an egg." Excellent. Eventually, after some heated discussion about whether or not a frog is an amphibian, we got all the animals taped to the chart.

Step Seven: If your kids are like mine, they put the invertebrate up last as a process of elimination choice more than an informed choice. I used that to my advantage by asking them what an invertebrate was. Since they had no clue (and my understanding was vague at best), we retired to the couch to read two books on invertebrates. The children were puzzled and amazed that an octopus would be in the same category as a spider. We felt our bones, we bent our bodies to experience "backbone" and we looked at great pictures.

The end.

Well, the end of day one.

PS: The books used for day one came from the Davis County Library System. The Kingdoms of Life: Invertebrates by Dr. Alvin, Virginia, and Robert Silverstein. The book was too old for my kids but the pictures were helpful.

The other book we used, which we liked a lot more, has disappeared. Technically my children are not allowed to take library books out of the living room, but if they like one, they squirrel it away down in their rooms. Grr. When I find it, I'll post the title.

1 comment: