Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer science field trip

A submersible, remote controlled video camera like the ones used to discover and explore the Titanic and the Bismark. VERY cool.

Little Man re-directs a river and creates a lake by building a dam.

Simple machines - pulleys

You didn't think I just stood around taking pictures, did you?

The workings of canal locks

Digging for dinosaur bones!

A photogenic mastedon and two cute kids!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our Tentative World Tour Schedule

I'm calling this our tentative schedule because, in keeping with my ENFP personality type, I always feel the need to keep my options open. I hyperventilate otherwise, and no one wants that. So here is what you might expect when - IF I ever stuck to a schedule in my life, which I don't believe I have. And we're tentatively starting the second week in September, but don't count on that. I mean, suppose we ACTUALLY HAVE SUMMER WEATHER THIS YEAR? It could happen. And what if it happens in September? You wouldn't want us indoors would you? Of course not!

Week 1
Week 2 England, Scotland
Week 3 Ireland
Week 4 Netherlands
Week 5 Spain, Portugal
Week 6 France
Week 7 France
Week 8 Italy
Week 9 Italy
Week 10 Greece
Week 11 Germany
Week 12 Germany (1/2 week - Thanksgiving)
Week 13 Russia
Week 14 Christmas around the world
Week 15 Christmas around the world
Week 16 Off
Week 17 Off
Week 18 Brazil
Week 19 Brazil
Week 20 Mexico
Week 21 U.S.
Week 22 Canada
Week 23 Africa
Week 24 Kenya
Week 25 Cameroon/Zimbabwe
Week 26 Saudi Arabia
Week 27 Israel/Iraq
Week 28 India
Week 29 China
Week 30 China
Week 31 Japan
Week 32 Japan
Week 33 Pacific Islands
Week 34 Australia

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Over in the meadow

I was torn this morning. We love going to our Friday nature center classes, but today's was called, "What lives in the meadow?" Well, now. I know what lives in the meadow. Cute things, sure - like birds and bunnies and even mice (which are extremely cute outside of one's house). But a loud herd of children isn't likely to see any of those cute things. No, I knew where they were going today: insects and spiders, and all manner of things that make my skin crawl. Did I mention spiders?

As it turned out, the kids had a great time and I managed to keep my distance from arachnids (even the plastic models). The specimens were zealously snatched up in large nets and deposited on a big white sheet for observation.

They played a game called "Listen" that would be great during any nature study time. All the kids held a closed fist up in the air and sat very quietly. As they heard a new sound, they put up one finger. When everyone had five fingers up, they went around the circle telling some of the sounds they had heard - cardinal, unknown bird, cicada, fly buzzing, frog - it was so simple but they were really into it.

And after the program, we finally made it into the visitor center because a sudden rain interrupted our hike/blackberry feasting. Little Man found a friend:

"Mom, was he smiling?"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Night of the Moonjellies

We just love this Five in a Row book. It's about a 7 year old boy who helps out at his family's hot dog stand one summer. His grandmother takes him on a surprise boat trip at night to see a sea full of bioluminescent jellyfish! (Cool new vocabulary word, huh?) We rowed it when Z-Man was 5 and when he saw it again last week, he was so excited. Now that does a homeschool parent's heart good.

We did some art projects this time around that really turned out nicely. The first was a night scene on black paper with - get this! - glow-in-the-dark moonjellies! How cool is that?! I found glow-in-the-dark paint in with all the craft paints. Now, you can't tell from the
picture, but it really worked! You have to put it on kind of thick. We did it with Q-tips.

Since the book's illustrations are done in oil pastels, we tried our hand at that too. That black paper came in handy this week. Notice the reflection of the moon on the water. I should mention that Z-Man is into WWII naval battles at the moment - hence, the battleships as opposed to fishing boats.

We looked at lots of jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium site and discussed bioluminescence.

We discussed being responsible, working hard and doing your work with a cheerful attitude. Z-Man recognized that this book is written in the first person too, being the author's account of his own boyhood.

And, best of all, we made our own little food stand, complete with menu, prices, guest checks and paper hats! There is much to be learned from running your own business, even if it's just for one night in your kitchen. Mark didn't mind having to buy his dinner and even came back to the counter for seconds!

Later, Little Man wanted to get in on the action and sold a bottle of water to Daddy, giving back $26 in change for a dollar bill. He's a generous child. Now don't all beat our door down asking for water!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Around the world with a pre-schooler

One of the things I was looking for in a curriculum this year was a way to include my three-year-old in our studies as much as possible. Little Man desperately wants to do whatever Z-Man is doing.
Several curriculum plans that I looked at did allow for teaching multiple ages, but generally not as young as three. So, since I enjoy pulling things together on my own anyway, (compulsive planner, remember?) I decided to look for world geography for the younger set.

We'll already be using a lot of picture books and our art, music and Bible (minus some of the missionary stories) will work for both kids. I'll post those plans with each individual country. But take a look at these BEAUTIFUL books from Sleeping Bear Press!! What a find! They are beautifully illustrated and each page has a short rhyme (suitable for the little ones) and a sidebar with more information for older kids. Each one is presented in an ABC format - great for those just learning their ABC's.

Also in the series so far:

C Is For Ciao: An Italy Alphabet

K is for Kabuki: A Japan Alphabet

M Is For Maple: A Canadian Alphabet

S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet

P is for Passport: A World Alphabet

And it gets even better: Each and every book has its own free teacher's guide here!

Life is good.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Speaking of World Geography

Here is my absolute favorite You-tube video ever! Don't let the title throw you - this one just makes me feel good every time I watch it.

Fun United States Geography

Although we primarily focused on building character and a strong foundation in the three R's this past year (second grade), we did do some short unit studies, including the human body, the 12 days of Christmas and the Iditarod. But there was one unit study we kept going all year - our state study. Each week, we put a new map on the refrigerator and read all the interesting facts.

A friend and I are sharing this set of Highlights' "Which Way USA?" maps that we found at a used curriculum sale last year.

We turned it into a year-long bird and flower study by printing out state bird and state flower coloring pages. Whenever possible, we looked up the bird or flower in one of our guides. We also printed an outline map of each state with the capitol. These coloring pages went into Z-Man's workboxes each week, along with the bird book or flower book. We then put everything for each state into his notebook.

We practiced our United States geography with this FUN book and game:

And got a little family competition going with this free, online game.

Now that summer is here and lots of people are traveling, we keep some colored pencils and an outline map of the U.S. on a clipboard in the van. When we see an out-of-state license plate, we color it in! We're in NY - we were SO excited when we saw Alaska! We're a little geeky like that.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Take me to the river

We have a nature center about 45 minutes from us that is just wonderful. I love going to places like this for nature study because we learn so much while having a great time together as a family. Today, they had a program on the river, the first in a series of children's programs on different habitats. 

We just finished reading (rowing, if you're a FIAR person) Make Way for Ducklings, and who should greet us first, but Mrs. Mallard:

Mr. Mallard, as in the book, was apparently down-river, checking things out. At least that answer was acceptable to Little Man. There were no ducklings, but there was one fat snapping turtle in the water. Neither child made the connection from the book (Mrs. Mallard refused to nest where there might be foxes in the woods or turtles in the water) and I'm sure I should be disappointed at that, but...

Next we hiked the trails down to the river and collected water to see if there were any tiny creatures in it.

It was quite full, actually. We saw Mayfly larva, Waterboatmen, Crayfish, Minnows, and a whole host of other miniscule, fast-swimming little creatures.

These little magnifiers were so cool AND easy to use. I'm determined to find some.
Catching unwilling specimens for observation was fascinating to Little Man. So there you go - next time you need to occupy your toddler, how about a pan of river water and a plastic spoon?

And finally, a little swim. In his sneakers. Water shoes? We don't need no stinkin' water shoes.

You turn your back for one minute...

and Pluto is no longer a planet. And now, friends, they're going after rainbows. According to this site

The sequence of colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet may be remembered by memorizing the name of that fine fellow "ROY G. BV". This was originally "ROY G. BIV", because it used to be common to call the region between blue and violet "indigo". In modern usage, indigo is not usually distinguished as a separate color in the visible spectrum; thus Roy no longer has any vowels in his last name.

Is nothing safe? What's next? My guess is they're eyeballing February. It never did fit in with that "30 days hath September" rhyme.

Now I would like to tell you that when we came to this point in our Noah study, we stood up and said "NO! We will not participate in this blatant, revisionist color snatching!" But those dot painters don't come in indigo. And you can't really mix them. Well, you can but the applicator tips get all messy and then the three year old wants to mix all of them and then the yellow actually paints green and he cries because he wants yellow and it's just chaos, I tell you! 

Sorry, Roy.

So here is Little Man's masterpiece:

and Z-Man's:

Nice, huh?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

There's gonna be a floody, floody - All things Noah

We've had a fun couple of weeks here learning about all things Noah. We use Bible Study Guide for All Ages as a jumping off point.

Some cool things we learned:
  • The Fisher Price ark sinks pretty quickly if you put it in the bathtub.
  • There are a LOT of verses to that "Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory" song. And they all have hand motions. Don't forget the hand motions.
  • The colors of the rainbow make a kind of muddy brown when you paint them all on top of each other.
  • We looooove stickers. Oh yes we do.
So here are some of the things we did:

Printed out animal matching cards and laminated them with clear contact paper. Little Man almost has the hang of playing memory match. Almost.

We also printed an ark to color and we put animal stickers on, over and around it. Both were at the Jan Brett site, which is an educational wonderland in itself. For those who have children who could color for days on end, there is a very extensive mural to print out. Once assembled, it's like 3 by 6 feet. We don't have anyone with that kind of coloring stamina here.

Little Man also worked on his wooden Noah's ark puzzle and can do it completely without assistance.

We worked in The Ultimate Bible Sticker Activity Book which was a big hit. It's a DK book with over 250 stickers and also covers Joseph, Moses, Jonah and Jesus. Sorry, I can't find a picture of it.

We did some easy multiplication (twos, of course!) for Z-Man with a Youtube Schoolhouse Rock video from way back when you could actually use religious themes on Saturday morning TV.

Naturally, we had to round up all the toy animals in the house and play.

We talked about the search for the ark and the possible locations, obstacles to finding it, etc. Answers in Genesis has lots of interesting info.

We talked about God's mercy in waiting so long and giving people a chance to turn to him before the flood. We also talked about the meaning of names in the Bible and the long life expectancies.

We found some wonderful books at the Dollar Store that have all sorts of word finds, break the secret code, mazes, crosswords, activities where you have to look up verses in your Bible to complete a message, etc., that were great for Z-Man.

Next time...Rainbows!

Check this blog out for zillions of pre-school ideas:

Tot School

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Workbox System

A friend emailed me today, asking about our workbox system. After I sung its praises to her, I thought it might be a good idea to write about it here too. Probably the best site I've found so far about it is here

In a nutshell - each thing your child does is put into a clear plastic shoe box (or plastic envelope, or magazine file box, or whatever) and the boxes are numbered. They do them in order BUT they can see everything they have to do and as they get done with one, they  stack it and the amount of boxes left gets smaller and smaller. It's great VISUAL feedback for them. PLUS, if there's something fun (like a game, or trampoline time, or something online) in box 9, there's a little more motivation to get through boxes 1-8.

For us, the work box system was nearly miraculous. The benefits were immediate and, with a little tweaking here and there, they lasted until we "relaxed" into our summer routine. Off the top of my head, here are some of the benefits:

  • the "can I go play now?" whine virtually disappeared
  • we got waaaaaay more accomplished in a day
  • I actually USED some of the fun stuff that I had been accumulating - like telling time bingo, geo boards, craft projects, etc.
  • I actually did educational things with Little Man (he has his own boxes) instead of trying to get him to occupy himself while I worked with Z-Man
  • Z-Man worked much more independently
  • Z-Man actually liked being more independent and being in control of his schedule
  • Little Man really, really loved doing his "chores" as he called them
I'll try to write another post soon to give you an idea of what kinds of things I put in their boxes.