Friday, January 29, 2010

Home to the USA!

Continuing in North America, we come to our own beloved country. How on earth can you study America for ONE week? How can you possibly focus? Well, for one thing, we studied American History ALL year when Z-Man was in first grade.

One of the lanterns from Paul Revere's ride.

Then, in second grade, we studied a different state each week.

That's Arizona in back of Little Man.

So, for this week, I decided to narrow our focus to patriotism, immigration and symbols of America. Oh, and American artists. And composers. How's that for narrow?

First, the books we read and some of the related activities:

This one is packed with information. We used a couple pages from the teacher's guide and just explained/talked about the rest.

One of my all-time favorite Five in a Row titles. I was overjoyed to find it at a library book sale. We discussed our own family genealogy and looked at lots of old photos. We also watched the Schoolhouse Rock video, The Great American Melting Pot. Love those!

I strongly dislike books that make me cry, but I'll make an exception here. We watched two online videos on Ellis Island from the History Channel.

There are some books you just want to own and this is one of them. Naturally, we had to listen to people sing the National Anthem on Youtube. Whitney Houston during the Gulf War was my personal favorite. I'd love to hear someone sing the fourth verse at the Super Bowl.
...Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!

We made an adorable little paper Statue of Liberty from!

This book has Z-Man determined to ask Mark to run for president so that we can live in the White House.

OH MY! Could this be a cuter story? And the ducks REALLY MARCH into the fountain at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis! After we read the story, I started a Youtube video of it (there are many!) and the kids just stood watching, mouths agape. To this very day, there are ducks actually living on the roof of the hotel, in a little duck palace and they swim in the lobby fountain every day! That's definitely on our "places to visit" list now. (I feel I should note that several of the characters deceive someone - we explained that was wrong and were still able to enjoy the book. Just so you know.)

This also led to an interest in John Philip Sousa marches, so we first listened to several Classics for Kids shows about him, then to some of his marches on Youtube.

This one is just funny. We have the game too which is a lot of fun.

Z-Man made this free, printable file folder game of United States Landmarks. Scroll down to "Passport to America."

This is getting to be a long post, but stay with me - I've saved the best for last!

We took a look at Norman Rockwell's paintings entitled The Four Freedoms in a very old book we have here. We also did a limited study of John Singer Sargent. Our computer is in the dining room where everyone passes it frequently. I simply find paintings on Google Images and make them my desktop background for a week or so. Below is "Woman Fishing."

And last, but certainly not least, we listened to patriotic songs! God Bless America, America the Beautiful, Let Freedom Ring, etc. Here's my favorite. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fun in Mexico

We managed to have a fun week studying Mexico even though both boys were sick all week.

We read this cute book about a little girl learning to make tortillas with her Grandma. It is written in both English and Spanish:

Then we made our own Mexican treat - Churritos! Yum! And easy too. We cut flour tortillas into quarters, fried them one side at a time in hot oil and sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar. Mmmmm...

We read this true story about Paracutin, a volcano "plowed up" by a farmer in Mexico:

And this wonderful Five in a Row title about a little girl and her tall-tale-telling Grandpa:

We read about Omar in Children Just Like Me:

And lots of interesting information in these two:

Countries of The World: Mexico by Leslie Jermyn (Gareth Stevens Publishing) and

The above book did have some Day of the Dead stuff and Aztec gods that we didn't care for. I gave Little Man a brief explanation and Z-Man and I talked more in detail about what God says about contacting the dead and other practices in Deuteronomy 18:9.
Countries of the World: Mexico talked about human sacrifices in the Aztec and Mayan civilizations and we read what God told Israel about that too. Z-Man and I read some pretty exciting stories in
We read about the discovery in Mexico of the over-wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly. I was so pleased that we found this book:

What a great story! A Canadian professor and his wife started tagging butterflies in 1937. Children all over North America reported on tagged butterflies and it appeared they were headed to Mexico. The professor wrote to Mexican newspapers, asking for help. An American who was traveling with his dog wrote back and offered to help. After marrying a Mexican woman, they searched for nearly a year before they finally found it - millions of butterflies high in the mountains! The professor and his wife traveled down with a National Geographic photographer, who then authored this book! This one is a winner!

AND, Nova has a special on Monarch migration that is airing on PBS this Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST. Great timing!

Little Man enjoyed this one:

And to round out our study, we did some fun projects. First we colored butterfly lifecycle pages, which you can find here (scroll all the way down.)

Then we talked about the symmetry of butterflies. With an outline shape of a butterfly, I had the boys fold then in half and put colored glitter glue on only one half. Then we folded the halves together and pressed down: voila! Perfect symmetry.

And finally, we colored some butterflies and attached them to pipe cleaner rings to make finger puppets. Little Man was still partial to the Blue Morphos of the rainforest from last week.

All in all, it was a fun week, in spite of sickness. And it should here be noted that both boys managed to rally themselves sufficiently to play the Wii. They're little troopers, they are.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Workboxes revisited

A couple weeks before Christmas, I dismantled and stored our shoe racks that hold the boys' work boxes. At Christmas, we focus exclusively on Christmas learning and activities in a more relaxed way. When we started our official schedule again after New Year's, I didn't get around to putting the racks and boxes back up for the first week. I just put Z-Man's work in a folder.

Well! That was an eye-opener. The second week, we went back to the workboxes and got SO much more accomplished! And, since we are a Wii family as of Christmas, the boxes get done in record time in order to take a "Wii break." I quickly realized that this might encourage shoddy workmanship so we made a new rule that work must be done well and all necessary corrections made before we attempt to trounce our little brother in Wii basketball.

One of the best things I've done to make life a little easier for myself was starting a file for the week. Over the weekend, I put whatever paper items we'll be doing in the folder for that day. Then, when I go to fill boxes, most of it is right there for me.

Behind the week file you can see a file for each country we have yet to do.

Some of the things we do are the same every day. Some don't go in work boxes:
  • Bible reading and related crafts, stickers, etc.
  • Read-Alouds
  • Listening to the hymn of the week
And some do go in work boxes:
  • math sheets (Saxon)
  • one fun math activity
  • cursive practice
  • language arts worksheets
  • listen to the Daily Audio Bible for Kids
Weighing Lego storm troopers

Some things repeat each week. On Mondays, we put a stamp in our passports and color a Dover map of the country of the week.

Each week we try to:
  • do a Mark Kistler drawing lesson
  • listen to Classics for Kids
  • complete a map labeling activity and
  • do a map mystery
  • copy and memorize a Bible verse
  • listen to the Wee Sing song for the country of the week
  • make some sort of craft
I'd also like to make sure we play some sort of educational game each week, but that doesn't always happen. Unless you count the Wii. Then we're golden.

The rest of Z-Man's boxes are usually something to do with the country we're currently studying - lapbook components, writing or research projects, youtube videos, etc. Little Man usually does 3 or 4 boxes and participates in our Bible lessons, read-alouds and craft projects.

For more about what goes into the boxes, check this post for elementary kids and this post for pre-schoolers. All I can say is, I'm glad I got them back out!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rainforest Lapbook

Z-Man's Amazon Rainforest Lapbook:

He is so proud of his work. This is his third lapbook but I think we really need to do more because he is so pleased with the result and every time he shows someone, it's great review for him.

This is what it looks like opened up. The flap that folds up has a labelled map of South America on the other side.

Here are the little booklets opened up - the mammals book on the left has four individual booklets on the jaguar, tamarin, tapir and giant anteater. Each opens for a place to write information about the animal. The layers of the rainforest booklet opens at each layer to write a description. The tree opens at the top to describe the canopy, then the trunk opens in three places for lianas (vines), epiphytes and buttress roots. The booklet on the right shows where the world's rainforests are. The top flap has three frogs with places to write their names and a bromeliad, which actually opens on both sides. He also did a round anaconda book which we forgot to put in! Hmm... maybe it will fit above the layers book.

ALL of these lovely and colorful print-outs are from Homeschool Share. What a tremendous resource!

We've had such a wonderful time in the rainforest that we hate to leave. But we're not going too far - just north to Mexico - see you there!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Awesome Brazil and rainforest resources

We've been studying Brazil and the rainforest for two weeks now and we've really had a lot of fun with it. There are a lot of resources to tell you about, so maybe I'll start with our favorites and describe them and then just put the rest in a list.

By far, everyone's favorite book was this one:

My Amazon River Day

I'm sorry there's no picture of it, it appears to be out of print but there are some reasonably priced used copies on Thankfully, our library had it. The book chronicles a day in the life of a family that lives on a tributary of the Amazon through great photos and the words of the 10-year-old daughter, Patricia. Her brothers spear fish and climb TALL trees for fruit, they wash dishes and drink out of the (muddy) river and there are no walls in their house. My kids found it fascinating. I had Z-Man go through it twice after we read it - once to tell me how their lives differ from his and once to find the similarities. It was pretty eye-opening for him. (Everyone's clothed, by the way.)

We also enjoyed this one:

This was written by a biologist and is not a story book but the content is so interesting that it held Z-Man's attention. I'm sure the fact that we got to have chocolate in conjunction with it helped too. After learning about plants that help heal (and plants that hurt!), we watched this online video about jungle survival:

For elementary aged kids, I don't think you can beat the A to Z series:

Lots of great photos and a different interesting topic on each page.

Z-Man and I investigated the Yanomami people, who live in the rainforest around the Brazil/Venezuela border. First, we read about them in Window on the World:

which gave us good information from a Christian perspective. We also watched this youtube slide show which I assume is the work of someone on a missions trip because the soundtrack is a really pretty version of "How Deep the Father's Love For Us."

And then we read a REALLY exciting book (as in, a little too exciting for younger children) being the fictional but very convincing account of eleven year old Alex, who survived a plane crash and was taken in by the Yanomami. The illustrations are just great. It's the boy's journal and there are both photos and his drawings and, in one instance, the drawings of some children who had never seen paper and pencils. There is a lot of great information told from an American kid's perspective, great photos of the Yanomami (people are NOT clothed, just so you know), a heroic rescue and even prayers to God for rescue and help although I don't know if the authors are Christian. It does show a tendency toward violence but no actual violence and it shows a tendency toward the mistreatment of girls and women but no disturbing images. There are, however, photos and drawings of their "religious practices" which the boy first finds scary and then beautiful. I explained to Z-Man what spirits they were calling out to and that they were using drugs and he didn't think it was so beautiful.

I went back and forth on this one, but, in the end, I was glad we read it. I will say though, that I wouldn't have read it to Z-Man last year.

We read about Nate Saint in this book:

which is written in a rhyming style which the boys didn't seem to mind. I do wish I had found a more in-depth book on this for Z-Man.

And, of course, we had a plethora of animal books, like this one:

which is great because it's divided by biomes and has gorgeous pictures.

Last, but not least, we watched good old Jack Hannah: Zoo Life - Wonders of the Rainforest which is a VHS tape and apparently so old that I can't even find a picture of it. Ah well.

If you've stayed with me to the end of this long, long post, I thank you! I'll try to post some pictures of Z-Man's lapbook over the weekend and then we'll be heading to Mexico!