And sometimes it is just about fun.

Bubbles bubbles everywhere!

And sometimes, after a hard morning of working on letters, words, spelling, and math, we just want to have fun.

I like looking at the bubbles the best.

Catching bubbles in grandma’s back yard.
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Preparing for Washington D.C.

We are headed to Washington D.C. in a few weeks and so I changed our lessons to be lessons that will make a difference when we are there. We are planning on visiting the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and the monuments on the Mall. We are only there for 2 days, so I figure that is enough to squeeze into that time frame. If we get really lucky, we can hit the American History museum too – since that is what the adults on the trip really like.

The great thing about the Smithsonian museums is that they have “education” sections on their web pages for the different museum. These education pages give lesson plans, ideas, and virtual tours. This will allow me to really prepare our kids to go to the museum and see things – in so much as you can prepare young children.

I have made a cycle of 10 lesson plans that we will go through. Each of the lesson plans has a few different iterations, so that we cover the same things but in different ways. The 10 lesson plans will be repeated until we are ready to go. I’ve narrowed down what we are doing at home, but I plan on visiting every exhibition in the museums if we can.

Here’s the 10 plans and their focus:

1. Rocks and Minerals/Soil

2. Dinosaurs

3. Ocean/Biodiversity

4. How things fly

5. History of flight

6. Space and space flight.

7. George Washington

8. Jefferson/Lincoln

9. Museum exhibits: they post a bunch of stuff online so you can tour it and view them before you go.

10. American history

That’s the plan. We start tomorrow, so I will start posting the things we are going to do with the lessons starting then.

Engineering experiments

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Tinker toys are one of the best inventions ever. They help kids with their motor skills and lets them explore creativity, engineering, and various building principles.

Guided play doesn’t always have to be strictly guided; free play doesn’t alway mean free. Sometimes it is a matter of guiding by choosing toys and letting them free play with certain toys instead of simply giving the children free rein.

Our free play today involved tinker toys. And my budding engineer built his version of a fire engine.

Engineering experiments

20120428-171552.jpg

Tinker toys are one of the best inventions ever. They help kids with their motor skills and lets them explore creativity, engineering, and various building principles.

Guided play doesn’t always have to be strictly guided; free play doesn’t alway mean free. Sometimes it is a matter of guiding by choosing toys and letting them free play with certain toys instead of simply giving the children free rein.

Our free play today involved tinker toys. And my budding engineer built his version of a fire engine.

Zoo lesson.

Have I mentioned how much we love animals at this house? And how much we like the zoo? It was a treat to get to share this with the preschool group for once.

Here's the example for the monkey. If you want me to send you these, just send me an email and they are yours.

I got to teach the zoo lesson. As the children are all capable of writing their own letters, I made letter sheets with the common animals we would be seeing. I used monkey, zebra, giraffe, lion, and tiger. I got a picture of the animal (thank you ClipArt) and put it at the top of the page. Underneath the picture I put the word for the animal. Then I put down some handwriting lines. They were responsible for writing the word on the lines. If you would like a copy of the handwriting sheets instead of making your own, just leave a comment with a valid email address and I will get them to you.

For the various animals I also had some facts. If you want the fact sheets, click on this link.

While they were writing the word for each animal, I spent time reading the facts.

There was also an activity for each animal.

For the lions, we made masks. I had cut paper plates in half and put eye holes in them. I had taken yellow and orange construction paper and cut it into triangles. They glued the triangles to the paper plates. Then I tied string through holes on the edges and – presto – lion masks.

The lion masks looked cute. He was none too happy to have to stop roaring for the picture!

For the giraffes they had to draw a tall tree and decide how hungry their giraffe was. They had to draw enough food on the tree to feed their giraffe.

The tigers got stripes drawn on the back of the paper. They used black and orange crayons to create their own “tiger pattern.”

Monkeys got a tree drawn, with the monkey tail having to be wrapped around a branch.

Lastly, the zebras had them cutting black construction paper into “stripes” and gluing them into a stripe pattern for “their” zebra on the back of the paper.

After all the work was done with understanding the animals, we got to participate in a Zoo Olympics. I had them run a lap around the yard on their toes – without their heels touching (like lions). They got to crawl and roar like tigers from one end of the yard to the other. They had to jump like monkeys for 1 minute. I put some construction paper leaves up with tape on the wall and had them get them down (like they were giraffes eating). Then they had to slither like snakes as far as they could go in 30 seconds (we have a reptile house at our zoo). Lastly, they had to do a long jump to see how far they could jump. Everyone who completed all of these got a sticker.

There wasn’t any extra time, so we sat down to a snack of – what else – animal crackers!

Then we got to go on a zoo visit a few days later. It was a blast.

Animal fact sheets to go with the “Zoo Lesson” post.

Here are the animal fact sheets that I used with my zoo lesson. You are welcome to them.

Lion

 

Lives: Africa

Eats: Meat

Group is called: Pride

Sound: Roar

Fun fact: Lions are known as the kings of the jungle. When they walk they don’t touch their heels to the ground.

 

Tiger

 

Lives: India and Southeast Asia – forests and swamps – never far from water.

Eats: meat

Group is called: Streak

Sound: Roar

Fun fact: Largest wild cat (up to 720 lbs). Likes to swim and hunts at night.

 

Giraffe

 

Lives: Africa

Eats: Tree leaves

Group is called: Herd

Sound: Infrasound – cannot be heard by humans

Fun fact: Tallest animals. Their tongues can be 21 inches long.

 

Zebra

 

Lives: savannahs/Africa

Eats:  grass, bark. Leaves, fruit, roots

Group is called: family

Sounds: braying, barking, snorting

Fun fact: Black and white stripes – no pattern is the same on each zebra.

 

Chimpanzee

 

Lives: Africa-  dense forest, woodlands, rain forests, grasslands

Eats: fruit, leaves, seeds, stems, small insects

Group is called: Community

Sound:  barks and grunts (the “hoo-hoo-hoo”)

Fun fact: the spend most of their day in trees and walk on all fours when on the ground.

Volcano day!

Volcanoes are fun for kids to learn about. They like to see videos of erupting volcanoes (simply search for them on You Tube). My son also likes to talk about them because they are fascinating. I think they are pretty cool too, so today’s lesson focused on volcanoes. I was unsure how much of the lesson he would sit through and do, but to my surprise, he lasted for 45 minutes doing the first set of activities and then wanted to learn more after lunch. So after lunch we browsed around the various volcano websites and did more reading and learning (a bug thank you to the SDSU geology department for their page).

First we wrote the word volcano on a blank sheet of paper. Then we watched videos of volcanoes erupting on the Internet. I had him, on the same page he wrote the word volcano, then draw a volcano. After he got to do something active about volcanoes, we settled in for our lesson.

We learned about parts of a volcano using this picture. We also learned about how eruptions work, the different types of volcanoes, and some history of volcanoes. The SDSU website was really helpful. They even have various little tests after each section that we did. Lastly, they had a volcano crossword. Crosswords are fun. Since he’s still new to writing, we tend to do them this way: I read the clue and he gives me the answer. Then we spell it together as I write it in. This worked great for the volcano crossword.

Lastly, we made volcanoes. We took paper cups and surrounded them with a brown cone of construction paper. I put baking soda into the cup, and he poured vinegar into it. Presto – eruption. We did this for quite a while before the kids tired of this activity (yes, my 17 month old loved this one too). I had to change the brown paper a lot, but it was worth it to see their faces as they enjoyed the eruption.

These are the facts we focused on (I got them from the USGS website).

What is a volcano:

The word “volcano” comes from the little island of Vulcano in the Mediterranean Sea off Sicily. Centuries ago, the people living in this area believed that Vulcano was the chimney of the forge of Vulcan — the blacksmith of the Roman gods. They thought that the hot lava fragments and clouds of dust erupting form Vulcano came from Vulcan’s forge as he beat out thunderbolts for Jupiter, king of the gods, and weapons for Mars, the god of war. In Polynesia the people attributed eruptive activity to the beautiful but wrathful Pele, Goddess of Volcanoes, whenever she was angry or spiteful. Today we know that volcanic eruptions are not super-natural but can be studied and interpreted by scientists.

The Nature of Volcanoes

Volcanoes are mountains, but they are very different from other mountains; they are not formed by folding and crumpling or by uplift and erosion. Instead, volcanoes are built by the accumulation of their own eruptive products — lava, bombs (crusted over lava blobs), ashflows, and tephra (airborne ash and dust). A volcano is most commonly a conical hill or mountain built around a vent that connects with reservoirs of molten rock below the surface of the Earth. The term volcano also refers to the opening or vent through which the molten rock and associated gases are expelled.

Driven by buoyancy and gas pressure the molten rock, which is lighter than the surrounding solid rock, forces its way upward and my ultimately break through zones of weaknesses in the Earth’s crust. If so, an eruption begins, and the molten rock may pour from the vent as nonexplosive lava flows, or it may shoot violently into the air as dense clouds of lava fragments. Larger fragments fall back around the vent, and accumulations of fallback fragments may move downslope as ash flows under the force of gravity. Some of the finer ejected materials may be carried by the wind only to fall to the ground many miles away. The finest ash particles may be injected miles into the atmosphere and carried many times around the world by stratospheric winds before settling out.

How volcanoes erupt:

Deep within the Earth it is so hot that some rocks slowly melt and become a thick flowing substance called magma. Because it is lighter than the solid rock around it, magma rises and collects in magma chambers. Eventually some of the magma pushes through vents and fissures in the Earth’s surface. A volcanic eruption occurs! Magma that has erupted is called lava.

Some volcanic eruptions are explosive and other are not. How explosive an eruption is depends on how runny or sticky the magma is. If magma is thin and runny, gases can escape easily from it. When this type of magma erupts, it flows out of the volcano. Lava flows rarely kill people because they move slowly enough for people to get out of their way. Lava flows, however, can cause considerable destruction to buildings in their path. If magma is thick and sticky, gases cannot escape easily. Pressure builds up until the gases escape violently and explode. In this type of eruption, the magma blasts into the air and breaks apart into pieces called tephra. Tephra can range in size from tiny particles of ash to house-size boulders.

Explosive volcanic eruptions can be dangerous and deadly. They can blast out clouds of hot tephra from the side or top of a volcano. These fiery clouds race down mountainsides destroying almost everything in their path. Ash erupted into the sky falls back to Earth like powdery snow, but snow that won’t melt. If thick enough, blankets of ash can suffocate plants, animals, and humans. When hot volcanic materials mix with water from streams or melted snow and ice, mudflows form. Mudflows have buried entire communities located near erupting volcanoes. Because there may be hundreds or thousands of years between volcanic eruptions, people may not be aware of a volcano’s dangers. When Mount St. Helens in the State of Washington erupted in 1980, it had not erupted for 123 years. Most people thought Mount St. Helens was a beautiful, peaceful mountain and not a dangerous volcano.

For our volcano coloring book we used this one from Crayola.

Here are some other great websites with information on volcanoes:

http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/Homework/mountains/volcanoes.htm

http://www.geology.sdsu.edu/how_volcanoes_work/

Paleontology day.

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So it was dinosaur day outside. We happen to have a lot of dinosaur things on our walls. We own the entire dinosaur Zoo Books set (thanks grandma). We have dinosaur timelines on our walls. We love dinosaurs. We also like being outside and since it is 80+ degrees by 9am outside lessons are fun.

To start off we spent time reading about different dinosaurs. Then we looked onto pbskids.org and played some dinosaur games.

We then learned what a paleontologist is. Nicholas was very excited to know there are people whose job is only about dinosaurs. Then we looked to see what tools a paleontologist needed. Once we gathered a shovel, pail, rake, magnifying glass and a basket we went on our “dig.”

I had hidden “bones” made of different colored card stock in the sand pit in our yard. My intrepid paleontologists went searching for bones. Once they found them all we put the bones together.

The bones went together how he thought they should go. I didn’t direct him. We ended up with some interesting looking dinosaurs. Of course, they were some interesting bones too.

We also did our traditional time of practicing writing letters, working with rhyming words, puzzles, and addition. But in honor of the day, we did all the work outside.

And so went our paleontology day.

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Kumon workbooks.

A proud certificate holder! He's finished two more of his workbooks.

We recently finished up 2 of our workbooks, both from Kumon. The first was, My Book of Simple Addition. The second was, My Book Of Rhyming Words (Kumon Workbooks).

Let me explain why I like the Kumon workbooks. First – they are repetitive but not boringly so. Repetition is important. Just like learning a physical skill takes practice and repetition, learning language and math skills takes practice and repetition. These books help the process along and I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel and create worksheets for him.

Second, the “lessons” are all contained. They are a front and back of a page. There is nothing that is too long. Everything takes 5 minutes or less when done properly (without having to stop for a million distractions). That means it takes us about 20 minutes to finish both sides of a worksheet – which is about the amount of time I like to sit and do something at the table. The length is perfect for us.

Third, the books are all integrated with each other. The Kumon people have even been nice enough, on the back of the books, to place a tree to show the way the books interact with each other.

Lastly, the books are skill based. Sure, there are sometimes grades attached to the various books. But mostly they have age ranges (I take them as suggested) and are truly based on skills. An addition book doesn’t require him to read. The reading book doesn’t require him to do math. There is nothing that crosses the various boundaries. These are perfect books for him to learn math and basic skills in that might not get covered in our various other lessons.

We are moving forwards with the next set of Kumon books and I’m excited. He likes it when we get to the end and he gets the certificate. It’s amazing how he settles down and is willing to complete the last 3 lessons all at once so he can have the certificate.

Developing curriculum

One of the greatest things about homeschooling is that every time of year is a great time to start developing new curriculum for your kids.

I’m a big supporter of child-led learning. This means taking the interests your child has and using those to teach. However, there are some things that I want my child to learn and be exposed to that he might not gravitate to on his own. Therefore, I have to develop some curriculum.

I’m a big fan of introducing classics early, so I’m working on developing some Greek and Roman mythology curriculum right now. Taking into account the fact that my son is an active learner, that my daughter likes I color, and that they love stories I am working towards my goal.

Right now I’m making a list of the gods and goddesses that we will cover. Since they are so young this will be a small list. Then picking the myths. And then I get to develop activities.

When it’s all done I’ll make sure it’s available to everyone.

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