Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Finishing up February

The past couple of weeks have been a little light on photo-worthy activities.  We’ve done a lot of doctor’s appointments, runs to Motor Vehicles and re-organizing.

One thing I did was set-up Georgie’s Bookworm.  I decided to provide him with some incentive/ acknowledgement for reading books now that he can read some on his own.   I had to think about what my standard was going to be for adding books to his worm – does he have to read every single word without help?  or can he get assistance with a couple unusual or very difficult words?  I decided that if he can read a book on his own except for assistance with 2 or 3 unusual/hard words (like “whisper” and “lightning” in Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?) we would give it to himHe was very excited and went right away to select some more books to read (and then pestered me for 3 days straight to add them to his worm).  The worm itself was made using the shapes tools in Word.
I also downloaded some activities for Vicki from Confessions of a Homeschooler to see if she would enjoy doing them.   They had mixed results.   They kept her interest for a little while the first day but she didn’t want to try them again when I pulled them out later in the week.
I also set up one of Georgie’s lap-size whiteboards with a set of larger writing lines using a Sharpie marker.  I’m trying to encourage him to do more writing with lowercase letters and I’m hoping this will help.  So far, it is working pretty good.  I’m still trying to decide if we need to buy Handwriting without Tears for him or if we can continue using free resources.
Next week we will be continuing our Continents study with Asia, which will include more detailed study of China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, South Korea and Thailand.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate Festival

Our local museum had their annual Chocolate Festival over the weekend, in honor of Valentine’s Day.   In addition to chocolate samples, they had display signs with information about the origins of chocolate, where cocoa beans are grown and the different kinds of chocolate.

They had a few craft activities for the kids.  The only one we actually did was to make heart wreaths. 
Vicki made hers fairly quickly and went exploring with Daddy.
Georgie first had to color his large heart just the right colors.   Then he very carefully made sure each heart had a nice smiley face (or alien head) of glue and put them in exactly the right place.
After the wreath the kids weren’t interested in the other craft projects (a heart puppet and a chocolate coloring page) so we just looked around at the exhibits.

The museum is having a special exhibit of teapots right now.   There were all kinds of elaborate and fancy tea sets - painted ones, silver ones and shaped ones.    Georgie’s favorite was a fish shaped one (which I barely caught in the upper right corner of the picture).
They had a community art project where each visitor was able to add some paint to large paintings of cupcakes and ice cream cones.  We probably could have stayed there all day if it was left up to the kids.  I guess I’ll have to pull out paints more often.  Maybe once the weather gets warmer and we can work outside I’ll mix up some corn starch sidewalk paints and let them go nuts.
We visited our usual favorites.  The music boxes and mechanical toys collection….
the trains…
and both kids were really interested at looking at a collection of studio glass.  They enjoyed picking out their favorites and which ones they thought looked strange. 
Each time we visit the museum they seem to discover something new.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Penguins and Polar Habitats

As part of our study of Antarctica, we did a more detail study of Penguins.  We read a variety of non-fiction books that we had in our selection at home. 
Product DetailsProduct Details
These were the first non-fiction books Georgie has attempted to read.  The National Geographic Kids book is a Step 2 reader, while the Scholastic one is Step 1.  He did okay and was able to read both of them with some assistance.

We visited National Geographic Kids and viewed the pictures and videos on penguins.  I think this is a site that we will be using frequently as we go through our Continents studies.  It has an amazing selection of games, videos and pictures covering Animals, Countries and News.   Thankfully Georgie didn’t discover the games here until we were finished for the day.

Georgie played the March of the Penguins game at the National Geographic website.  The idea of the game is to keep your egg warm on your feet.  You have to use the mouse to keep moving while collecting fish to eat and avoiding other penguins, holes in the ice and rocks.  Hitting obstacles can cause the egg to fall off your feet and you will have to retrieve it.  If the egg spends too much time on the ice it will die.   Each time you keep the egg warm for a designated amount of time you advance to a new, harder level. 

Once Georgie got tired of this game, we returned to the National Geographic Kids website and explored the games there, which meant “formal” school was done for the day.

We didn’t get back to our lessons until after the weekend.  I had plans to do some of the activities from a free sample from Itty Bitty Bookworm for the book Five Little Penguins Slipping on the Ice.   Unfortunately (only for this activity, I’m actually very glad), New Jersey experienced a thaw over the weekend and it is supposed to stick around for a while.  The main activity we were going to do involved freezing a pan of water and doing an experiment checking which of various objects would slide.  We don’t have room in our freezer for a pan of water so I put it outside on our deck.  I’m sure you can imagine why the thaw messed up our plans.  We did read Five Little Penguins Slipping on the Ice and do one activity.  (edited on 2/9/11:  I usually won't update my posts except to fix spelling or grammar but I had to address this.  Evidently my source, who shall remain nameless, was a little off about the warmer weather coming.  In fact, we are currently experiencing high's in the teens and windchills in the negatives. :-(  So, if I can find the pan I used for water, we may try this experiment after all.)

An activity similar to our next one does appear in the Itty Bitty Bookworm unit although I also found the idea a bunch of other places.  We had learned through various books, videos and games that penguin fathers keep the eggs warm by balancing them on their feet.  So, I filled two balloons with rice to serve as eggs and let the kids try to keep them off the floor by holding them with their feet.
Georgie did okay even once he started moving around but Vicki decided she was going to keep her egg warm by cuddling him in her hands.
After finishing up our penguin unit, we discussed some of the differences between the Arctic and Antarctic.  We read the Cat in the Hat book Ice is Nice All About the North and South Poles and read some more from DK Eyewitness Arctic and Antarctica.  We learned about the Polar Habitats which include Antarctica and the Arctic Tundra.

I wanted to emphasize to the kids that polar bears and penguins do not live together except in zoos and cartoons.  We played a sorting game using pictures from Confessions of a Homeschooler and printed off the internet.  We used links from our Intellego units to help research our answers.  For Arctic animals, we used a Canadian website and for Antarctic animals, we used Cool Antarctica.   This was a lot harder than sorting animals by habitat.

 After we finished, we discussed some of the reasons there were more animals and more variety in the Arctic.  Antarctica has a much harsher climate, fewer plants, fewer sources of food, even the summers are cold and it is technically a desert.  The Arctic is a paradise in comparison.

We played an Arctic Animal file folder game from File Folder Fun to learn more about some of the animals found in the Arctic.  It consists of informational cards that you match up with drawings of the animals. Vicki was able to answer the polar bear question before Georgie could.
Next, we used our Scholastic Instant Dioramas (downloaded at their recent dollar sale), Artic Animals Toob and some of our own toy animals to make a Polar Habitats Playset.  I used a large disposable roasting pan and filled it with shredded paper “snow”.  I used a piece of cardboard to separate it into two sides and attached the pictures from the Diorama book to it, as well as to the sides of the pan.  The kids were not interested in coloring the diorama pictures because they were too curious about what we were going to do with them, so I added a few Animal Planet stickers we had. 

The Arctic side of our diorama....

and the Antarctica side.
The kids had a fun time playing with it but I’m sure the penguin went visiting with the polar bears.  We even had a sea fan and an eel come to visit from the marine animal toys Vicki played with over the weekend.
We finished up by watching the Magic School Bus In the Arctic.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up: Jan 31 to Feb 4 2011

We had a really good week.  Not being able to leave the house for 4 days may have had something to do with it.  We had to keep busy or go insane.

I’ve made some minor changes to our days in an attempt to get a better routine for all of us.  I’ve started waking up before the kids, somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00 am is what I am shooting for.  Vicki usually gets up around 8am and Georgie around 9 am, so this would theoretically give me at least an hour of peace and quiet to enjoy a cup of tea and do a simple workout.  In actual practice, Vicki woke up around 7:15 twice in the last week.  Evidently she only likes to sleep in if its all snuggled up with Mommy.  I’m going to keep trying though.

Once everyone has breakfast and I’ve finished my workout, we start school.  I aiming for 10am or earlier.  We start with some exercises for the kids.  The purpose of this is really just to let some energy out.  Once this Winter is over and the snow is all gone, we will probably take a walk first thing.

Our first sit-down work is a literature unit and/or read-aloud.  I found that getting the kids to sit down and listen to a book is much harder later in the day.  If I do it first, it gets them into school mode and they are more likely to listen.

I planned to do a unit on Caps for Sale this week that I downloaded from Live Oak Media.  They have activity guides for a long list of children’s stories.   We read the story and I prepared to do the first of our activities.   But, the story was in the Harper Collins Product DetailsTreasury of Picture Book Classics and instead of doing activities, Georgie begged for me to read Harold and the Purple Crayon, then Goodnight Moon and then From Head to Toe (which we actually also have as a full size book of its own).   After all that reading, we ran out of time to do any activities and we never quite got back to them.

Georgie is getting bored with MEP math.  Though it has a lot of activities and puzzles in each lesson, it moves fairly slow (4 or 5 lessons on each number).  So far it has been very easy for him so I may skip a few lessons as we move forward.  I am thinking about switching to Math Mammoth when it goes on sale through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op in March.  It will be good to actually use the abacus again.
We are still working on Quarters in Money but we have moved on to time to the quarter hour in Time.   These are both going well.  I wouldn’t say he has them mastered but he seems to understand the concepts.  In Addition/ Subtraction, he knows all his facts up to 10 very well.  I think doing Place Value using Math Mammoth will help him continue to advance.

We finished Unit 9, short U words, in All About Spelling.  Georgie is still finding these lessons pretty easy but I think that will change once we are finished with the short vowel words (only E left to go).  I added his spelling lists to Spelling City and will be using that to “test” him once a week.  He is so resistant to writing that I want to find different ways to go over the words.  So now we have orally, with the tiles and typing on the computer.  He did about 15 of the words from Unit 9 on the computer this week.   He did his usual narrative while he typed “run is easy, it rhymes with fun….mug is easy it rhymes with dug”. 
I'm continuing to push writing lowercase letters to Georgie.  I took one of his lapsize white boards, drew widely spaced lines with a Sharpie marker and let him use that to practice.  If he continues to resist writing correctly, I may look in to getting Handwriting without Tears for him.

Another thing I’ve added to our days is time for Georgie to read to me.  He’s doing very well with reading and I let him pick from our selection of Beginner Books.  He likes these books a lot and loves to read them.  He usually does about the first 10 pages by himself then we alternate.  This week he read Green Eggs and Ham and Hop on Pop (both of which he can read the whole thing by himself), One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Put Me in the Zoo.
We were able to do quite a bit this week in our elective subjects as well.

We learned about Habitats and Biomes.  More on that here.
Then we started our Continent study with Antarctica.  More about that here.IMG_5887

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Continents - Antarctica

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We began our study of Continents with Antarctica, mainly because I figured it would be the easiest.  We are using the Continents and Cultures unit study from Intellego, which is where we found many of the links we used.

We began by mounting the map from our Evan Moor Beginning Geography book.   I'm still thinking about different ways to use this as we continue our studies.  Since the continents are displayed in different colors but are not labeled, I think we will use it to play a guessing game at the very end.

We took our globe off its stand so we could get a good look at the shape of the continent and where it’s located relative to the rest of the world.

We read from our Scholastic Atlas of the World and looked at Zoom Antarctica at Enchanted Learning to learn interesting facts about Antarctica.
  • Antarctica is the coldest, windiest place on Earth
  • The average temperature is –55 degrees F
  • No humans have settled permanently in Antarctica but many countries maintain scientific outposts.
  • About 70% of the worlds freshwater is in the ice and snow of Antarctica
  • Antarctica is a continent because under the ice and snow is land (whereas the Arctic ice covers mainly water).
  • During Summer (December), Antarctica experiences 24 hours of daylight and the snow and ice recede enough to show bare rock in places.  Various species of birds take advantage of this to lay their eggs.
  • During Winter (June), Antarctica experiences 24 hours of darkness and the ice extends out in the oceans.
We discussed icebergs and did an experiment to show how much of icebergs are actually under the water.  I froze two blocks of colored water and then floated them in a bowl of water.  After noting how much of each block was under the water, the kids swirled them around and watched the water turn colors.
After exploring many of the links provided in our Intellego unit study – Continents and Cultures, we did a modified version of one of the activities. 

We gathered four different materials:  a wool sock, a cotton blanket, a lump of lard (blubber) and fur from our dog Zappa. 
Zappa is a Samoyed – a breed originating from the Siberian region of Russia where they are bred to assist with herding reindeer and pulling sleds.  Since we obtained this fur through brushing it consisted mostly of the long top coat so wouldn’t give the insulating properties of the full coat.

We took four identical thermometers (reading an inside temperature of 68 degrees F) and wrapped each one in a different material.    Thankfully, it is currently cold enough here that we were able to place the thermometers outside instead of taking up space in our freezer.
After checking the temperature outside (29 degrees F), we predicted which of the materials would be the best insulator and which would be the worst.  (I was very surprised that Georgie, who usually hates anything icky on his hands, actually touched the block of lard).  

Georgie thought the fur would be the best and the lard would be the worst.
Vicki thought the wool would be the best and the cotton would be the worst.

I had my doubts about Vicki truly understanding the experiment but she ended up correct in both her predictions.

After 15 minutes, we retrieved our thermometers and took temperature readings.
The thermometer in the wool read 61 degrees F.
The thermometer in the cotton read 42 degrees F.
The thermometer in the lard read 60 degrees F.
The thermometer in the fur read 59 degrees F.

Not a big difference between the wool, lard and fur but the cotton was definitely not a good insulator.

For our next activity (from Intellego), we discussed what things we would need or want to bring on an Antarctica exploration.

Georgie decided he would need to bring: “a jacket to stay warm, gloves to keep hands warm, warm socks and boots to keep feet warm, food and water and other drinks, a sleeping bag, a strong tent in case it gets windy so it won’t blow away and a map”.  Things he would want to bring included cookies, games and friends like Kitty (stuffed animal) and Daddy.  He doesn’t want Vicki to come and “Stephie is almost a grown-up but still a kid so she can’t watch Vicki so Mommy has to stay home to take care of Vicki.”

We watched the Ice Worlds chapter from our Planet Earth DVD’s.

Other resources we used:

ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC (DK Eyewitness Books)Scholastic Atlas of the World   [SCHOLASTIC ATLAS OF THE WO -OS] [Paperback]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Science – Habitats and Biomes

Science Sunday

For Science this week, we did an overview of Biomes and Habitats.   This is in preparation for more detailed studies of individual habitats that we will be doing as part of our Continents study.
We started by reading a non-fiction booklet from Science a to z.  We downloaded these when they were offering a free trial (I think just for one day).  The booklet describes the building blocks of habitats (latitude, elevation, climate, land and water, plants and animals) using easy to understand terminology and examples along with some beautiful pictures.  I'm going to take a closer look at their curriculum offerings even though I'm pretty sure we are going to use Real Science Odyssey along with Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for Science.  I haven't actually purchased RSO yet so it's not too late to change my mind.  ;-)

We briefly went over all the different biomes using the Biomes of the World Picture and Activity Cards from The Teachers  .  I think I picked these up (possibly free?) from Currclick during one of the their sales.  They give nice brief descriptions of each major category of biome and the sub-categories of each.  For example, Freshwater biomes are divided into rivers/streams and lakes/ponds.

We played a fun game using headings and animal cards from Kelly’s Kindergarten (although I made a fifth heading for Grasslands) and extra animal cards from File Folder Fun.    I attached each heading to a separate sheet of paper and then showed the kids each animal card, one at a time.  They then had to tell me what biome it belonged in.  If they weren’t sure, we would look up the animal in our Animal Encyclopedia and discuss it until we figured out where it belonged.  Georgie probably knew 95% of these without looking them up.  Something that I was VERY surprised at.  Turns out it was from a combination of Animal Genius for his Leapster (which he just received for Christmas but has been playing quite a bit) and watching Diego. 

Even Vicki knew a few besides the very obvious Ocean ones (I’m sure thanks to Diego).
Georgie was very excited when he “won” this game (playing against Vicki & I) because he had the most animals on his biomes.  Of course it wasn’t exactly fair since he had Desert, Rainforest and Ocean while Vicki and I just had Tundra and Grasslands.  Vicki didn’t seem to mind “losing” though, so I just let Georgie have his excitement.
Georgie finished up by drawing an imaginary animal (in his case an alien) and its habitat. 

His description of his critter - an alien with this many legs, and 1,2,3,4,5,6 arms and a big body and one eye.  He has three heads and three ears, and a fourth ear with a smiley face.  And coming out of where the face is looking is a picture of its favorite food - bananas!  Actually it's his favorite video game - Pacman!  And coming out the other side is their other favorite video game guy - the ghost. (Georgie received a Pacman video game that hooks up to the tv for Christmas and yeah, he's been playing it a lot). 

This guy has to watch out for elephants, other aliens and cows.  Elephants use their trunks to strangle them.  The other aliens laugh at them "you're not good at soccer - ha ha ha" (???)  and the cows squirt milk at them.  And he only has 3 lives.  He lives on some kind of planet and his home is a giant rocket ship.  The bottom is two points and it has five windows that he can look outside to watch out for elephants and cows.  The doorway is right there at the bottom.

He has his own refrigerator in his house which has his own food and water.  His food, he eats two kinds of food - he lives in a game and he eats eggs and Pacman and he has to watch out for ghosts.  This is how big he grew when he ate his first food, which was Pacman and when he got tired of that, he had eggs.  The End.

We also watched The Magic School Bus Hops Home and read What is a Biome? by Bobbie Kalman, which we will continue to refer back to as we go through each habitat.
Magic School Bus: Hops Home [VHS]What Is a Biome? (The Science of Living Things)