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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

I’ve been into birdwatching (or “birding” as it is commonly called) for a little less than a year now, and this year the kids and I are participating in the GBBC—The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Basically, everyone in North America can count the birds wherever they go this long weekend (Friday through Monday)…whether it be on birding trips or hikes, or just on a trip to a local park or running errands to the grocery store.  Did you see 6 pigeons when you went to WalMart?  You can count that.  Were your kids playing at the park when a flock of 30 starlings flew by?  Check.  Did some adorable black-capped chickadees come visit your yard bird feeder this morning?  The GBBC people want to know. (Scientists use this information gathered every year to track bird trends, health and other things.)

Here’s the website with all the information you need to participate.  There’s also a section for kids with a birdsong quiz, puzzles, recipes for bird treats, and more.

We are having a blast watching the home page for the GBBC change constantly as it’s updated every 30 minutes or so with bird finds from across the country.  Yesterday morning, when it started, there were a few red dots marking submitted checklists in the west part of the U.S., with a large cluster of them on the East Coast.  Now the map is nearly full of red, with lots in Canada and Mexico, too.  We love to see the bird count and species count change.

You can also access lists for your state and even city.  We are following Utah (because we live here) and Wisconsin (my beautiful home state…I love that my hometown of Eagle River even had 1 checklist submitted! Thank you, unknown Eagle River birder).

Yesterday we watched our back and front yards for a while and counted 1 Black-Capped Chickadee, 1 Mountain Chickadee, 12 House Sparrows, 5 Starlings, 1 House Finch, 1 Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon variety) and a Spotted Towhee.  The Spotted Towhee was a thrilling find…we’d never seen one before, let alone had one visit our yard!  They’re beautiful birds.  The kids decided they have the head of a Junco, the tail of a Magpie, and the stomach of a Robin. 

Spotted Towhee (from Wikipedia)

Last night we went out to the International Center, near the airport, and saw a Great-Horned Owl.  He was more awake than the last time we’d seen him and the kids were so excited to see him wide awake and looking at them.  We tried to get some pictures but our cameras aren’t the best:

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Here’s the nest, which is a bundle of pine needles, sticks, and leaves, and the owl peering out of his nest

We also had a fun time feeding the ducks in a nearby pond, despite the bone-chilling wind.

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Nia thought it would be fun to pretend this bench was a bed

The kids were beyond excited to come home and enter their count on the GBBC checklists.  They loved the fact that we counted the only Great-Horned Owl and the only Killdeer (as of this morning) for Utah.

Note: In the half hour or so I’ve been composing this blog post, the national bird count has gone up by 4,000 birds.  We hope you’ll consider taking part in the fun!

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Since I homeschool my kids, I’m always looking for ways to make school more creative…more fun…more engaging…more enjoyable.  Sometimes I draw a blank, but I often manage to come up with some fun ideas that the kids love.

One favorite activity is as follows:

1.  The mom/teacher writes activities on slips of paper and folds them

2.  After the child completes a problem (or 5 problems, or a whole page) they get to choose one slip of paper and do the activity on the paper.

3.  Repeat step 2 until all work is done.

pick a slip bowl

If you come up with a large list of activities (many slips of paper), you can keep them in a jar or container and re-use them as often as needed.  Here’s some ideas (not all of these are pure “fun” activities, but they do give the kids a break from school):

* build a tower out of blocks

* do one math problem on the computer (or math game) for 2 minutes

* eat 1 chocolate chip

* do 5 somersaults

* play 1 song on the piano, harmonica, kazoo, or tin whistle

* put away 5 things in the living room

* draw a Star Wars character (customize this one to your child’s interests)

* send a text message (my kids love to text my sisters on my phone)

* send an e-mail (grandmas love getting e-mail from grandkids!)

* go outside and scatter some corn or birdseed for the birds

* bird watch for 1 minute (we have active and busy feeders outside out front window)

* put away 10 things in your bedroom

* jump 30 times with the jump rope

* eat at least 5 nuts or seeds

* drink 1 cup of water

* play a tic-tac-toe game with an imaginary opponent

* read 1 page in a book

And so on.  The possibilities are really endless.  Of course, the kids have to be watched so they don’t “abuse” the game (so they don’t take too long doing activities or decide they don’t want to do something, put it back, and choose a different one); if they don’t like the activity they chose, they “forfeit” that turn and do their next set of problems.  But for the most part they really love this game and it’s a great way to get them excited about finishing schoolwork quickly and well.

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Shooting Fun: Shotguns

Due to computer issues and a need for relaxation around the holidays, I have sadly neglected this blog.  I do have a lot of pictures and things to share that I’ve been saving up, though, so I hope to have more regular posts in the future.

First up: some friends and I have organized a homeschool 4-H club.  I was in 4-H as a kid and dearly loved it (some of my childhood projects included: karate, gardening, cooking, cross-stitch, dogs, hamsters, and cats).  I wanted my kids to have fun 4-H experiences, too.

One of the first things we did in the 2010-2011 4-H year was shooting at the Lee Kay shooting range.  We began in October and the first day we did shotguns.

I was surprised they started with this…the guns were quite heavy and some of the smallest kids (Nia included) needed help even holding them up.  The kids also had some trouble holding the guns tightly enough to avoid bruising on the kick-back after the shot was fired.

But the wonderful people at Lee Kay were GREAT with the kids, and so patient and helpful.  The kids had a great time shooting clay targets.

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Bran and Ciara receive some help with shotguns

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Nia getting shotgun instruction

 

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Doing her best to hold the heavy gun, with help

 

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Taking aim

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Waiting his turn with the gun pointed safely down and away

Even though shotgun shooting wasn’t their favorite kind of shooting, it was a good experience…I can’t say enough positive things about the great staff at Lee Kay and how wonderful they were with the kids. 

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My wonderful husband said I could order from KnitPicks again, so I did, and haunted the FedEx website daily to track the progress of the package.   My needles arrived on Wednesday!!  I ordered some of these:

 

They’re perfect for making smaller things in circles, like hats!  I am so excited to make a bunch of hats for the kids for Christmas. 

Bran wants a stocking hat:

Clicking the picture will take you to the pattern.

I’m thinking white, burgundy, and darkish blue.

Ciara and Nia haven’t decided yet, but I think they’d look cute in one of these:

by Katie Ahlquist on Ravelry.com

by Postscriptlove on Ravelry.com

by ilikelemons on Ravelry.com

by minhers on Ravelry.com

by Kirsten Kapur on Ravelry.com

by crankyalyson on Ravelry.com

When I learn to do colorwork really well, I’ve GOT to make this one for Bran:

by myjewelthief on Ravelry.com

Would he not just die of happiness??

If John would wear it, I would make him this:

Seaman’s cap by helloyarn on Ravelry.com

And as for me, am I a hat person?  I really have no idea.  I’d like to be!  I’ve never worn one in my life, really.  But I would love to have a massive collection of hand-knit hats and I hope when I make one for myself, it looks decent!  Here’s some of my favorites from Ravelry.com:

cool ponytail hat by Blake Ehrlich

slouchy hat by turtlegirl76

“Gretel” by Ysolda Teague

Newsboy cap by raschi

flower cloche by Mac7

beautiful entrelac hat by myyarns

Well, I could go on for days.  We haven’t even covered adorable baby hats yet.  But this post is getting really long.  Let me just take a second to say that Ravelry.com is THE best website on the planet for anyone who loves knitting, crocheting, spinning, or just loves to drool over patterns, yarn, and beautiful designs.  It’s free to join and SO much fun.  There’s thousands of free patterns on there and about 500,000 nice folks in this gigantic fiber-lovin’ community.

So, to sum up: I have needles now that are perfect for hats!  Yay!  I hope I can get at least one for each of my children done for Christmas or sooner.  We’re going to try to make nearly all of the Christmas/birthday presents this year.

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I always do school with the kids year-round, but this summer we’re going to add something that will make school REALLY fun and get the kids very excited about learning.  A friend at our homeschool co-op got the ball rolling, and some others have joined in, making this a truly fun and awesome adventure (thanks Monica, Rebecca, and Tricia!).

What we’re doing: a term at Hogwarts correspondence school, with letters, lessons, and supplies arriving through Owl Post! 

How it works: I prepared acceptance letters for each child, and addressed them in true Potter style, such as:

Miss Ciara Hellewell

Large Pink Room, upstairs

[address]

The letters mysteriously arrive in the night and the kids find them the next morning.  Thursday night I left mine on a chair in the hall, complete with a little stuffed owl sitting on top:

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Owl Post

They were excited (and a little confused) when they got their letters.  I had told them nothing beforehand except that “school this summer is going to be different and exciting.”  (Bran said: “School’s boring! How can it be exciting?”  I guess we’ve been spending a little too much time on worksheets and books.  My goal is to change his mind. :))  Once I explained a little about attending Hogwarts by mail, since we live in America, they started to get really excited.

“Do you mean owls will bring us stuff lots of days?”

“Will we even get WANDS?”

“What classes are we going to have?!”

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The first letters: Acceptance to Hogwarts and Sorting Hat quiz

They do realize, underneath it all, that of course I’m the one doing it, but we are all having a lot of fun pretending.  After they filled out the Sorting Hat quiz on Friday and left the quiz for the owls to pick up that night, they were lying in their beds, wondering which House they would end up in.  Some “mysterious” hooting noises floated up the stairs, and I heard Nia say “Guys! I just heard OWL NOISES!!”

Saturday morning they woke up and rushed to the hall to see if the owls had left them fresh letters.  Sure enough, their House results had arrived!  The Sorting Hat sorted them: Ciara into Ravenclaw, Bran into Hufflepuff house, and Nia into Gryffindor.  The letters went into detail about why exactly they were chosen and what good traits they had that made them perfect for each house.  Bran and Ciara were a little depressed that they weren’t in Griffindor, but I’m hoping to capitalize on all their individual talents and abilities to really help them see how unique each child is.

Tonight’s Owl Post will feature a letter from Hagrid on selecting a proper magical pet to be their friend at Hogwarts, with instructions to write him a letter back letting him know which pet they prefer.  Future classes will include learning all about the care, history, and characteristics of these pets and how they have been viewed in legends and stories.

I’m still figuring this out, with the help of the wonderful moms who are already doing it.  They’ve posted awesome and clever lessons on Trolls (taught by Gilderoy Lockhart), Potions (taught by Theodore Nott), and others, such as several hilarious and un-grammatical Care of Magical Creatures lessons by Hagrid; also Nature lessons by Luna Lovegood and Hogwarts History with guest professor Hermione.  I’ve got lots of ideas boiling in my mind right now about more classes to add. 

Other lessons or ideas the moms have created so far:

* House elf Home Ec (cooking and sewing) taught by Dobby

* Quills and Magical Writing (penmanship, calligraphy, etc.)

* Divination

* Herbology

* Literature

* Astronomy

Please leave me comments or ideas of what other classes we could do and any other helpful ideas you have.  It’s a lot of fun so far!

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