Saturday, May 29, 2010

End-of-the-school-year program(s)

Tis the season! End of the year programs are upon us. Our co-op had an excellent program last week. The kids did their various recitations, songs, etc. Z-Man and his class even performed (is that the right word?) John 3:16 in sign language. Little Man was non-participatory but hey, we expected that. After the program, visitors were invited to peruse the many tables in the lobby where families displayed projects from their school year. One of Z-Man's friends actually made a mini dinosaur skeleton out of two turkey skeletons. How cool is that?!

We displayed our rainforest dioramas and lapbook but the kids have done so many different things this year that we thought it would be fun to have our own little "world tour" dinner for their grandparents. Z-Man set up "stations" for each continent that we studied and then led his grandparents on a little tour, explaining projects and answering questions. They, being the very sweet grandparents that they are, were attentive and impressed with the boys' work. I wish I had had the presence of mind to take pictures of everyone during the tour, but I'm afraid we'll have to make do with these:

Z-Man's notebook with all his maps and samples of math, language arts, Bible verses, cursive, drawing and hymn lyrics. These sticker books were great. We love stickers.




North America

South America

We also had a little slide show of some of the things that weren't displayed, like science experiments and field trips.

Now I'll box up most of their work and, let's see, we have two more year-end picnics and Z-Man's evaluation (yes, we live in one of THOSE states) and then I think we can officially call it the end of the year! It's been a great trip!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our time in China

The school year is drawing to a close, the weather is starting to feel like summer is coming and there is excitement in the air! My thoughts turn to planting flowers and planning summer camps and next year's curriculum. My boys' thoughts turn to playing outside - ALL day. Is anyone concentrating on our school work? Well, it's been a little tough. So... you all aren't going to believe this, but I - compulsive planner extraordinaire, eclectic homeschool girl, do-it-yourself poster child - I bought a pre-made unit study on China! Yup, I did.

And do you know what? It was great.

It's a five day study but we spread it out to two weeks because there was a lot there and also because we wanted to do extra reading. Each day started out with one or two videos and we loved that. One of the videos on the Great Wall inspired the boys to play "Great Wall" on our stairs, pretending to shoot innocent passers-by who were accused of being attacking barbarians. Don't worry, the windows were closed and the "barbarians" went on their merry way unaware and unscathed.

We did quite a bit of map work, studied Chinese inventions, animals, missionaries and places of interest and created a nice little lapbook.

Z-Man balks at handwriting as you can probably tell, so this was pretty good for him.

Of course, we still read lots of books. And OF COURSE, we read Ping.

We still love Children Just Like Me and the Look What Came From series:

We translated our names into Chinese characters at
this site and then tried calligraphy. We played with tangrams, and since the Chinese invented dominoes, we had to play with those too.

If we had extended our study another week, I would have liked to make paper and an abacus, since they were both invented by the Chinese, but there are always things that don't get done and I can live with that. Paper making might be a good, messy, summer outdoor activity anyway.

Next stop: our last country - Australia!

Until then,

(which means Valerie)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Great Hymns

It occurred to me one day last year that my boys didn't know any of the hymns I remember singing as a child - and they weren't likely to either, since our church is more of a modern chorus-singing type church. Some of the words to those old hymns are amazing. They're inspired and inspiring. I want my kids to know them. So, we started learning hymns this year and it was such a success that I think we'll continue indefinitely.

Since I had two friends ask for my YouTube links for our hymns today, I thought I'd post them all here, in the hope that they will be helpful to as many people as possible. Just click on the links - I checked them all today and everyone is still singing!

How Great Thou Art

All Things Bright and Beautiful

This is My Father's World

For the Beauty of the Earth

All Creatures of Our God and King

Amazing Grace

Nothing But the Blood

Just As I Am

Well, there you go! Enjoy!

*sung by Mac Powell and Jennifer Knapp and recorded LONG before recent announcements.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do-it-yourself summer camp

Summer is right around the corner! Oh, how I love summer. I love the promise of getting things done that I don't have time for during the year. I love for my kids to have some time where they can wake up in the morning and know the day is all theirs (well, after chores) - to hit golf balls for three hours straight, or sit in a tree and read a book or

spend all afternoon creating a "dirt track" for their hot wheels in what used to be just a flat, boring piece of lawn. Ahem.

Summer is a great time to really immerse yourself in a certain interest or subject. That's kind of what we do with our do-it-yourself summer camps.

We've been making our own summer camps since before Little Man was born. There's usually a theme like cowboy camp, nature camp or dinosaur camp, depending on the current interest.

Camp is right here at our house and lasts one week, which is about as long as I can tolerate living on a really strict schedule. We usually plan two or three camps in a summer. The trick with this whole camp thing is for the adults to really go along with the whole "pretending our house is turned into a camp" idea. Kids love it when their parents play along.

Campers are up early to tidy their cabin (bedroom) and get dressed to go to the mess hall (kitchen.) During breakfast, announcements are made detailing the day's crafts, sports and special activities and revealing what cabin is winning any contests. A detailed daily schedule is posted on the white board, including:

Morning chores
Morning service - songs, prayers, a fun Bible lesson.
Craft time
Nature time
An activity - sports, trip, etc.
Free time

The first day's craft is always choosing the cabin name and designing the sign. These are then posted on the bedroom doors. The camp director (Mark) judges cabin tidiness after dinner each night and announces a winner. At the end of the week, the cabin with the most wins gets to go out for ice cream. (OK, I have to come clean here. It's rigged - the kids' room always wins. But we all get ice cream.)

Projects are usually big things like planting flowers around the patio or painting the adirondack chairs. My kids are young and still enjoy doing things like that.

We get as many books on our subject as we can possibly find and spend lots of time reading them, aloud and individually.

Some things we've done for individual camps:

Dinosaur camp - we created our first ever lapbook from Homeschool Share. A friend brought her 20 plus dinosaurs over for the week and we created a dinosaur museum.

At the end of the week, we discovered dinosaur bones in the back yard. We had to chip them out of a hard, rock-like substance and then try to figure out what kind of dinosaur we had. Z-Man was so excited. Come to think of it, our dinosaur actually glowed in the dark too. Can't beat that.

Cowboy camp - we read, played, crafted, learned cowboy songs, had a camp fire and attempted to learn some rope tricks after watching a video. They're harder than they look. This is probably a blessing. If one had the ability to rope, one might be sorely tempted to rope one's little brother.

Nature camp - we've done this one several times. There is so much to do:

Solar prints
Nature scavenger hunts and Nature Bingo
Photography safari
Make natural dyes from plants
Make a nature museum
Sand sculptures

Catching tadpoles and raising them
Making tiny animal houses out of things found in the woods
Making bridges across small streams with fallen branches
Exploring and claiming new territory
Mountain climbing

Bark rubbings
Leaf prints
Making plaster casts of animal tracks

Things we haven't gotten to yet but might this summer:

making a water scope out of a milk carton
tree bingo at a local arboretum
attend a work day for one of the hiking trails in the area
tenting in the back yard

There are so many books just packed full of great ideas, but I'm pretty sure I got the water scope idea here:

And since this post is getting waaaaay longer than I anticipated, I will have to tell you our plans for THIS summer in another post. Think sports. Lots of sports.

Summer Luge?!?