Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Our Classroom Today--January 26

classroomWe hit the zoo again today. We had planned to learn a bit more about dolphins, always a favorite at the zoo. In preparation, I checked out books about dolphins, we watched a dolphin video, and I tried to prepare an easy dolphin copy book. Being a perfectionist, however, and wanting to be able to share it without worries about copyright, I didn't get it finished. Watch for it in the next couple of weeks. We'll be revisiting the theme at the beginning of March, I think, and then I'll have it all pulled together.

In the meantime, however, I picked up oodles of colored pencils at the thrift shop one day. I had enough to make 7 packets of 11 pencils each. Each packet has the same colors, so no fighting! Each child had their own packet, so they spent some time coloring various different things--though mostly at the dolphin tank and the coral reef exhibit. It is great to watch how they sit and focus as the animals swim by them! It was also great to have them be still for a bit instead of running through the exhibits. Sometime I hope to get them to sit a bit longer at the bird exhibit, because I find them fascinating.


I have but one complaint about the zoo. They have a beautiful coral reef exhibit (it used to be where the dolphins were housed). But they have a ton of fish in there that are NOT listed on their identification list! See that albino shark up there? We guessed it was an albino shark. It was confirmed when a volunteer happened to wander through the exhibit. But we were there for a REALLY long time before anyone came through to ask. Most people would not have been there long enough to ask. And there are several other creatures in the tank we would like to know about. They just need to have some sort of book they can add them to, so we can see and identify all of them. Kind of important when you are teaching kids...

In all, though, it was another great day at the zoo. Kiddo drew some very thoughtful pictures, and learned a bit more about some of the animals we have viewed for years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sweet Math at The Works

We have been going to The Works monthly now for a year and a half (minus the summer. They don't do homeschool days in the summer. Too bad.) We enjoy the activities, some more than others. This month was "Sweet Math," an exercise in estimation and budgeting using candy. Yes, candy. And the kids got to eat some. The moms? Not so much. But it really is about the kids, right?

Sweet Math--The Works

There were 4 stations set up with two jars as you see above. They were for the estimation portion of the activity. The idea was to estimate how many pieces of candy were in the fuller jar, based on the knowledge provided by the other jar. The first jar contained 10 caramels, so from that you were supposed to estimate how many were in the other jar. The Kit K*t jar was the easiest. You could literally count it. The Sk*ttles jar was the hardest. The caramels and St*rburst were in the middle. Kiddo really hasn't done a lot with estimating, so it was fun to see how he worked it through.

The second portion was budgeting. Each participant was given 5 "Works bucks" and a list of candy they could buy, along with prices. This was tricky for kiddo, who has done almost no work with money and math. I had to help him out by breaking things down into terms he could understand. Once he had it all figured out, he got to go order his candy. And then eat it. Well, he got to eat a couple of pieces. He got to buy 5--too many to eat in one sitting! Kutey participated too, she picked out the candy she wanted from the choices I gave her. Then placed her order. And ate the candy. She really had no idea how it all added up, but was happy to play a little store.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our Classroom Today--January 19

Another trip to the Mall of America. Twice in a month. This time, it was for a grand field trip (complete with contract!) to Underwater World. Basically, a giant aquarium with different sections and a huge tube at the bottom to walk through.


As you can see, you get a very different perspective on things when you are looking up at them from the bottom! The moon jellies you see there were not in the large tube. They were out in a little aquarium in a corner just before the end of the line gift shop. They were by far my favorite. I think I could have sat there and watched them swim about for hours. They were beautiful and calming.

The kids favorite was overwhelmingly the saw fish. I think we stood in one spot for 15 minutes waiting for it to swim by just right so the kids could get a picture of it! Other favorites were the loggerhead sea turtles, the various different rays, and the N*mo fish display. It was a bit odd to me that they had Finding N*mo playing right next to the real thing. We ended up stopped in that area for a while waiting for a large, loud homeschool group (not ours, there was another one there, on the same day, oddly enough!) to clear out of the area. It was astonishing to me how many of the kids stopped to watch the movie, and barely even noticed the aquarium next to it that held some of the fish species from the movie.

I have to note that the sea star pictured above is a "Chocolate Chip Sea Star." I HAD to take a picture of that. it really did look like it was decorated with chocolate chips. NUM!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today we have been reading and learning about Martin Luther King Jr. I hadn't realized just how tricky it was going to be to explain his importance to my kids. We have friends from all walks of life, and I truly believe that as far as race goes, they don't judge based on it. They notice it, but in the same way they notice hair color, or eye color, or glasses, or curls. It just doesn't matter to them.

So trying to explain that there was a time when people did notice it, and that people were treated differently because of it, and that sometimes it still happens, tricky for them to get their heads around. I also wanted to be careful to explain that it shouldn't matter, that we should treat everyone with kindness and courtesy.

Our study consisted of reading A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. and My Dream of Martin Luther King and then watching the "I Have a Dream" speech. The speech lost their interest, as I figured it would, but they did sit with me while I watched it. I can't remember ever watching it all the way through.

We'll probably have to watch it again next year. And probably the following year. And the year after that. Eventually they will find it interesting, and be able to understand the vocabulary (which is quite large!) used in the speech. For now, I am content that they have been introduced to the idea and that they asked appropriate questions. The rest of the understanding will follow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Our Classroom Today--January 12


In spite of our proximity to the Mall of America, we tend to avoid going there. But a friend in our Tuesday playgroup told me about Butterfly Bay, and this morning they were having free admission. So off we went.

It was beautiful. Well, given it was inside a mall, it was beautiful. We were lucky enough to enter just as they were releasing a new batch of butterflies. The butterfly in the picture above was handed to our friend M. It stayed on her hand the entire time we were there. She finally had to force it off when we were getting ready to go out. Kiddo freaked out a little bit when we first went in because a butterfly landed on his head. It didn't stay very long, but he was a little uncertain about it anyway. There were informative signs posted throughout the area. I am hoping to review some of what we learned about butterflies in the next week or so, after we finish our snowflake study.

After the butterflies we hit the food court for some lunch, a big treat for us since we are rarely in a mall. We sat at the railing and watched all the rides in Nickelodeon Universe. While the kids liked some of them, there were no real requests to ride them.

After lunch we headed down to Lego Land, at the request of Kiddo. He loves to look at the Lego sets and dream of one day owning them. They have an area where you can build little cars with Legos and then race them down a track. So we spent some time playing there, too.

We still managed to get in the things we need to do daily, and tonight we will start our snowflake experiment, so in all it will have been a great school day!

For parents who would do anything for their kids

Tony. It is only 15 minutes long, stars Tate Donovan, and is very cute. Go watch it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A review of Carschooling

PhotobucketA while back, I was selected to review Diane Flynn Keith's new edition of Carschooling. I honestly did not know what to expect, but given the amount of time we spend in the car I figured it couldn't hurt to have even a few more ideas.

I am thrilled with the content and I am not even halfway through the book yet! Would you look at all those tabs? Those are the things I want to use. Right away. I plan to make the book a permanent fixture in the car. I might even have to get another copy--so I can have one in the house to prepare for long drives and one in the car for times I need it. Photobucket

Yes, there are some ideas we all know (variations on 20 questions, the alphabet game, etc.) But with entire chapters devoted to Science, Math, Language Arts, Social Sciences, Geography, Arts, Foreign Languages, and PE and Health, even seasoned Carschoolers are BOUND to find something new. Some of the ideas require that you stop the car and get out once in a while, but many of the ideas are things that can be done in the car while moving. There are also a few ideas that might require that someone other than the driver be able to read at a decent level. The driver should not be trying to read what the indicators of wind speed are while driving the car. Keep your safety and those around you in mind!

The writing is utterly accessible, the ideas are described in enough detail to understand, but not so much that it is overwhelming. And the best part? You don't have to be a homeschooler to benefit from this book! Any parent who spends any time in the car with their kids can use the ideas in this book. There are ideas for all ages in the book, from preschoolers on up. Many of the ideas can be varied slightly to make it a bit more of a challenge for Kiddo, but still allow Kutey to participate. Some of the ideas are a bit more complex than we will get into at this point (we aren't quite ready for the periodic table of elements yet!), but others are perfect! The other ideas just give us room to grow into the book.

One of the things I really like about the book is that the ideas come not only from the author, but from other parents as well. These aren't just one person's idea of what might work, completely untested. These are things people much like me have done and enjoyed. I also appreciated the section on organizing your carschool. I had thought of just skipping over this section, but I decided to read it. I am glad I did. It made me think about many things I hadn't thought about before.

If you get the book, I suggest reading it straight through once. There are so many ideas in it that just skimming you might miss something, and you really don't want to do that.

My family tends to drive long distances at least once a year (think 1200 mile distances). I can't WAIT to use the ideas in this book on our next road trip. We have already started using some of the ideas in everyday carschooling. This book is a fantastic addition to my homeschool library!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Our Classroom Today--January 5

Today we went here:


And we bowled. Well, sort of. The kids rolled the ball down the lane and pins were knocked down. But I am not sure it could be called bowling. The kids had fun, to a point.

When you take kids bowling, you can either challenge them to push the ball all the way down the alley themselves, or you can let them use a ramp and let them have a little help from gravity to get the ball down the lane. This particular alley had only one ramp. I assumed (poorly) that the older kids (all 6 or nearly 6) would be able to roll the ball down the lane themselves and wouldn't need the ramp. I underestimated, however, the novelty of the ramp. So we were stuck--do you move the ramp back and forth between the two lanes? That would have been much more chaotic, and we were already dealing in chaos. Kiddo only bowled a frame or two with the ramp. I had him bowl without the ramp, and he did a fair job! I eventually also had Kutey bowl without the ramp, because there were 4-5 kids bowling on the ramp lane, and 1-2 on the lane without the ramp. I just helped her push the ball, and we did remarkably well. It also meant a lot less waiting for her.

We only bowled one "game." The kids were definitely done by then. It might have been better to follow a set order, because there was a great deal of asking if it was their turn yet. And since we were sort of willy-nilly about it, it was hard to tell them. But that would have required either two ramps or a lot of moving of the ramp, in addition to a much better understanding of what the kids were going to want. Live and learn, I guess! Next time. I also would like to spend a little more time working the scoring with Kiddo. Seems like a great application of math in real life, it was simply too chaotic to even think about working math. Maybe we'll practice on the Wii first...

After bowling, we adjourned to IKEA for lunch (love IKEA meatballs). Then we let the kids run wild in the store! Not wild, really, but they had a blast playing in the rooms they have set up to display furniture for kids. They each picked one to be their house, and they played for a long, LONG time there. I don't think we were too disruptive. For a frigid day, it was a good way to get out and about.