Monday, April 26, 2010

Konichiwa from Japan!

We've been having a rather laid-back tour of Japan for the last week and a half or so. Basically, what this means is that we've been learning about Japan, hitting golf balls in the yard, learning about Japan, throwing the football in the yard, learning about Japan, jumping on the trampoline. It's been nice here.

But get this: today we read a FIAR book that we love, A Pair of Red Clogs.

In it, Mako and her friends in Japan play a weather forecasting game. They kick off their clogs, and the way they land tells what the weather is going to be the next day. Naturally, we had to play. MY (obviously superior) shoes predicted a fine day tomorrow. Both boys' shoes, however, predicted snow. Snow. So guess what? Here we are in Central New York, just days away from May Day and the REAL forecast for tomorrow is snow! Can you stand it? Cause I know I can't. I mean, I switched out our wardrobes this weekend. Fleeces and sweaters are put away and there are t-shirts and shorts in my kids' dressers. Sigh.

But let's talk about Japan. I'm sure it's warm there.

We started our time in Japan with a long drive in my husband's car. Since his is one of five cars in America with a cassette player, we had a chance to check out the Powerglide Japanese course that I found at a book sale for TWO DOLLARS! We learned about 16 phrases in one day - it really wasn't that difficult. I'm not saying that I want to write it or anything, but if you do, go to this site to see what your name looks like in Japanese:

We did a lovely crayon-resist, topographical map project that I found here.

It's a little hard to see in the picture, but it really turned out nicely. The whole crayon resist idea caught the boys' imagination and we did quite a few "secret messages" written in white crayon which they decoded by painting over them. Z-Man did one for me too. It said, "Mom, I love you. Can I have some M&Ms?" Hmmm.

We read Japan ABC's

The illustrations are done in a Japanese woodblock print style so we tried our hand at that too. We cut pieces from a clean styrofoam meat tray and "carved" our illustrations by pressing down hard with a pen. Then we painted them with a flat foam brush and pressed paper down on them to make our prints.

Here's a book that we just loved:

It's Make Way for Ducklings set in Tokyo. If you read this blog, you know I love children's books based on true stories. It is a teeny bit tense though, and one of the ducklings doesn't make it through a bad storm but the heroine does make it, floating on, of all things, a styrofoam meat tray. At this point, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to anyone who haplessly stumbled upon my blog after googling "styrofoam meat trays." You are welcome here.

One last book -

Z-Man and I are reading this together. If I ever learned any Japanese history in school, I have zero recollection of it. Now I find it fascinating.

Yet another great reason to homeschool.

P.S. - Konichiwa means hello.

P.P.S. - If you feel compelled to leave a comment using the words, styrofoam meat trays, be my guest. It has 5 syllables just in case you were considering a haiku.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

We have a winner!

The random number generator has spoken! Congratulations to Octavia of Three Blessings at Home! She has won the Astronomy pack giveaway that was posted as part of the Great Curriculum Clean-out.

I have to tell you all that this contest has been a blast for me. It was fun to get comments in my inbox every day and check out other people's blogs. Wow. There are so many interesting and inspiring bloggers out there!

And I must also thank Luna for making me just about choke on my Dove sugar-free truffle laughing at this comment: "makes me want to put on my glasses, don a lab coat and yell "SCIENCE!" all spiffy like." HA! Naturally I had to go watch the "She Blinded me with Science" video on Youtube. I think Thomas Dolby is seared into my head from college. You could figure out my age from that statement, but please don't try.

Anyway, Congratulations Octavia and happy star-gazing!

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Worked, What Didn't

As we wind down our school year, I wanted to assess what worked for us and what didn't.

What worked:

Getting up before my kids! It is impossible to overstate the difference this has made in our homeschooling and life in general. I've been getting up to pray and read the Bible and just get myself going before the commotion starts. Little Man, especially, hits the ground running in the morning. It helps to be prepared.

Workboxes. They definitely give our day the structure the kids need and that I have trouble providing otherwise. (I'm just not a structured kind of girl.) We use a lot of fun things that wouldn't get pulled out otherwise AND we get more done during the day. I don't feel the need to always fill all of the boxes and I think that helps me not to slip into just filling them with busywork.

Pre-K first. Sitting down and doing fun "school work" with Little Man first helps to fill his little tank. He is MUCH more likely to play independently once he's had some Mommy time.

YouTube. Adding YouTube videos to our studies was a huge hit. It was especially effective in teaching hymns. It probably goes without saying that I pre-screen all videos before showing them to the boys.

Stick Figure Bible Study. We've used Bible Study Guide for All Ages this year and each lesson has a page of stick figure people illustrating the story. They loved this! We have a Wii, an iPod and various other technology in this house and my kids loved the stick men. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and be thankful.

Read-Aloud time on the couch. One of the great blessings of homeschooling.

Lapbooks. We'll have to include more of these next year. Z-Man loves showing people the finished product and they provide great review!

Having a loose schedule for the entire year. Just enough so I know what's next but can still be flexible when needed.

What Didn't Work:

Taking days off because Mommy didn't get her act together to plan out our day. Ugh. This is fine every once in a while, but these days tend to multiply, especially if they occur in the beginning of the week. It's hard to get the boys back on track after an unexpected vacation day because they tend to think the next day should be the same. And the next, and the next...

Math. We used Saxon this year and it worked in that learning occurred but it was a huge struggle. I don't want the mere mention of math to cause dread and resignation or, worse, whining and complaining. I'm still looking into alternatives for fourth grade next year.

Busyness. Weeks where we had something scheduled every day were just too much for all of us. I want to be more judicious about what we say yes to in the future.

Some of the Dave and Neta Jackson books about missionaries. Don't get me wrong - they are great books. I couldn't put some of them down. But I also couldn't show them to my eight-year-old. He's a really sensitive kid. They might not be a problem for a lot of kids his age.

Hopefully this little exercise will help me as I plan next year's studies. But first - our summer fun camps! There will be a sports theme this year, at the boys' request. More on that very soon!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Out of Africa

This is the display that greeted the boys on the first morning of our Africa study. We found so many great books to read. I'll list our favorites for you.

Little Man's favorite:

We love Jan Brett books and you just can't beat her web site for cool extras to go along with the books. Here is a video of her in Africa looking for the plants and animals to put in her book:

Then we watched a different kind of safari: safari in a hot air balloon at the Newton's Apple science site.

Little Man also liked this book:

Apparently if you lose your tooth in Africa, you get your own live chicken! But not under your pillow. Cause that would be weird.

Mine and Z-Man's favorite:

Come With Me To Africa

It's the story of a photographer who dreamed of going to Africa as a child and finally made the trip. He's so positive and enthusiastic that you can't help feeling the same as you read it and his photos are wonderful. There's real-life adventure too: a sand storm, the vehicle nearly tipping over in the desert, climbing Kilamanjaro and standing guard for thieves. A great read with great photos!

This next one was an unexpected bonus, as we were studying the virtue of humility at the time:

And finally, sometimes the books your kids like are kind of surprising. I thought they might not care for this next book about a 30 year old English spinster who headed to Africa alone, always in a proper Victorian dress, (true story!) but they loved it.

Naturally, we had to study lots of African animals! I bought a big box filled with animal cards at a yard sale last year and that has been just invaluable.

We drew our own herd of animals and learned about creating depth in a drawing by putting objects in back of other objects. There are printable patterns for that project at Art Projects for Kids.

We read about some African children in our Children Just Like Me book, which the boys love and which has undoubtedly been one of my best purchases for this Around the World study.

And we read about David Livingstone and Samuel Morris in Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes, which has been another great asset.

I'll leave you with a Youtube video of a South African group called Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing Amazing Grace. Wow!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's Free Curriculum time again!

What's more fun to a homeschooler than a used curriculum sale? A used curriculum giveaway!!

Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations did this clean-out last fall and it was great fun. There are a lot of people participating with a terrific variety of giveaways and you can enter to win as many as you'd like. Click on the button at the end of this post and check it out!

And now for my giveaway. I have a great package of Astronomy books:

If you're having trouble reading the titles, they are:

And God Created Science: Exploring Outer Space (30 projects)
Space and the Solar System (with stickers)
The Young Astronomer (an Usborne book)
The Glad Scientist Visits Outer Space

If you would like to enter to win, you can earn a total of three entries:

1. Leave a comment on this post.
2. Blog or tweet about this post and leave a comment telling me that you did.
3. Follow my blog and let me know in a comment!

This giveaway is open until Saturday, April 24th, 2010 and is only open to residents in the continental US. A winner will be chosen at random and I will announce the winner on Monday, April 26th. Please be sure to leave a way for me to contact you via your comment {i.e. blog address or email}. If I haven't heard back from you within 3 days, I will draw a new winner.

Go here to see LOTS more giveaways or to post your own! Have fun!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

A New Perspective

For the last month or so, I've been making the herculean effort (for me anyway) to get out of bed before my children so that I have time to read my Bible, pray and just generally get myself mentally prepared for the day. I can't tell you what a difference it has made in my mood and how our days have been going! I was motivated by a blogger named Kat and you can read about that here. I highly recommend checking out her blog - she has a real gift for motivating.

As a child, I was a very early riser (well, during summer vacation at least) but I regret to say that I have not seen very many sunrises in my adult life. This morning, I was rewarded with this as I sat on my back steps, drinking my coffee:

I only wish you could hear all the birds singing. Ahhhhhh... lovely.