February 2015- South Florida Winter

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I have this love-hate relationship with February.   It feels like such a short month and we have so many birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Black History, Presidents, great weather for field trips.  So much to do. But somehow we have managed to make the most of our February and squeeze in a lot of learning.

Kate observing the wildlife on the Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, 2/2015.

Kate observing the wildlife on the Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, 2/2015.

Every year we return to Everglades National Park during the dry season and this year we had two visits, including a family camping trip over Valentine’s Day weekend.  Our first visit was with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida.   This is our third year participating as nature guides for local children from various non-profit organizations.  My husband and I worked with a great group of kids from an after school program in Homestead.  We spent most of our time on the Anhinga Trail, where we saw wildlife up close.  It was the perfect way to conclude our novel, Alligator Crossing.

My husband teaching the kids about water.

My husband teaching the kids about water.

The best part of this month was the great weather for our morning walks.  We observed the lovely buds on all the mango trees, including the one in our own backyard.  (I never observed this before.) After learning about epiphytes (air plants) and seeing them on the trails at Everglades National Park, we started seeing them everyday on during our walks, too.

Mango flowers in the South Florida winter.

Mango flowers in the South Florida winter.

We discovered my new favorite tree, the Starburst tree and some mornings we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the green parrots that visit our neighborhood.  We decided to put a bird feeder in our front tree, in hopes that from now on we might make some bird friends.

Double-breasted cormorant, one of the wading birds at ENP.

Double-breasted cormorant, one of the wading birds at ENP.

After completing our read aloud, Alligator Crossing we created a book project.  Instead of a report we created a box which contained the elements of the book with words and pictures.  We completed our Minecraft Homeschool Intro class.  Ironically, she enjoyed the actual online class more than the build time on their server.  Each week we learned about five amazing creatures, such as the coconut crab, red panda and the peacock mantis shrimp.   We decided to skip the next session but will probably sign up again in the summer for another of their Intro level courses.

We finally completed Level 1 of our AAR program. We actually started that program around this time last year.  To celebrate we’re going to take a break before starting the next level (for me) and we’re going to visit the American Girl store in Miami (for Kate).   In the meantime, we will work with an online reading program, Explode the Code.  I need something that she can do more independently.  I think AAR is great, but it’s teacher intensive and I need a break before moving to the next level.  I’ve also heard great reviews on ETC so I purchased some of their workbooks to reinforce the learning at home off-line.

As we complete the month we’re spending some time on Black History with a few great read alouds, including


Meet Addy  from American Girl and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.  Typically fourth grade is when Florida History is covered, so we will be be starting our Florida History and Geography Unit next month.  We have a few great field trips planned for this unit and hope to visit St. Augustine some time this year, as well.

When the month started I couldn’t imagine how much we would be learning, observing and doing together.  I realized the most important reason why I chose to homeschool was because I wanted to see her love to learn.   I’m trying to tune into what she’s excited about and make those our learning priorities and the result is fewer struggles and a happier kid and happier mom. The other day she told me, “Mom, we’re like besties”.  I initially turned to homeschooling because I felt out of options, but it seems more and more like this was the best option for us.

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Outside

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Our garden is growing and making us so happy.

Our garden is growing and making us so happy.

Outside.

Now with our weather cooling down. We are enjoying walking,  gardening and learning outside.

We spent some time at Anne Kolb Nature Center, which got us in the right mind set to be outside.  Later in the week we saw a cool bird while on our walk.  We think it’s a little blue heron. (Let us know what you think, any bird experts our there?)

Taken at Broward College South Campus.

Taken at Broward College South Campus.

We also did some volunteering last week at our church, putting some mulch down in the butterfly garden and helping out at the pumpkin patch.  Kate was a bit disappointed because during our shift nobody came to buy pumpkins. 😦

Helping out at the butterfly garden.

Helping out at the butterfly garden..

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Kate showing off her first completed sewing project.

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What we’re reading (Read Aloud): Just finished the 3rd book in the American Girl Kaya series. We will go on to the 4th book tomorrow and are planning to do a lapbook on Kaya.  We just love that girl!

Next post I will do a review of Time4Learning, now that we’ve been using it for a while.  I was thinking of writing about our reading program and how we are using it.

To help me stay organized I’m following the district calendar, since my older daughter is in public school.  Last week was the end of our first quarter and I must say we’re in a better place today than when we started.  Kate finished her first sewing project.  She was so proud of herself.  It was so important that she complete it and see that it was worth the hard work. We are starting to make some progress in reading and hope to complete Level 1 of our reading program.  It is still challenging. We are working hard.  We review sight words all the time, read, journal,practice handwriting.  We are growing into this one day at a time, like the little seeds that we planted weeks ago.