Spy unit.

We like spies, secret agents, puzzle, and the rest. So I thought, for a good change of pace, we would do a spy unit for our lesson.

First, we got dressed as spies. Nicholas and Abby went through the dress up box and got dressed as spies. She put on her Ariel dress; he put on a hat and lab coat. Okay. Well, it was their disguise.

Next we did some worksheet problems:

Help the spy find the right laser angles.

Write your own detective comic.

Which agent?

We did some code breaking worksheets:


We also went onto the NSA’s code breaking webpage and played around for a while. We brought it up on the laptop, and spent some time as a family working through all that the website had to offer.

Then we did some mysteries. Nicholas did most of the reading of the problems to me and Abby. Then all three of us had to solve the problems. They aren’t as easy as we thought. And sometimes we had different solutions from the answer codes – but so long as the solution fit the problem I was fine.

Lastly, we learned about fingerprints and made fingerprint charts for each of us.

When we completed all the activities, I handed everyone their “detective badge” because they had earned it with all the work they did.

You’ll notice we worked on reading, writing, critical thinking, math, problem solving, and science….all without using those terms. Most of all, the kids were so involved in the fun and lesson that we spent 3 hours on the lesson before we realized all the time that had passed. It was awesome!


Compound words activity.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

Nicholas spread the words out on the ground before he was willing to put them together.

We’ve been working on compound words in our house. Compound words are when two words are put together to make a new word. Nicholas sometimes thinks phrases, like “play ball”, are compound words. Then he writes them as if they were compound words. Which is a problem. So I decided we’d learn the difference between a saying and a compound word.

I made a list of compound words that we could use, and cut some of the pocket chart paper into half. I wrote half the compound word on one side, and half on the other. Then I gave Nicholas the set of papers and asked him to make words.

We put up the “definition” of the compound word on the pocket chart. Nicholas had to read it out loud – which he does with such lack of enthusiasm. But then came putting the words together.

He made words that I didn’t have on the list – but that were compound words. Then he realized he had words left over that didn’t fit together so he went back and changed them.

Here’s the list of words we used:

It was a bunch of fun watching him do it. We have another set of words to do later this week. We shall see if he, in his writing, starts using compound words properly.

Wetlands science experiment.

Here's a picture of our wetlands from above. Notice the large amount of dirt and mud floating in our "dirty" water. In a few hours, the water becomes clear.

Here’s a picture of our wetlands from above. Notice the large amount of dirt and mud floating in our “dirty” water. In a few hours, the water becomes clear.

We recently got the complete Magic School Bus series. The series is about a teacher who takes her class on a bunch of field trips to learn all about science. We’ve been watching one a day, followed by an experiment.

The one for today was about the wetlands. The movie went over what a wetlands is and does (clean water). In the show, there was even an explanation of how the water gets cleaned (the mud and dirty stuff sink, while the clean water rises and moves on).  First things first, we watched the movie. We also ate popcorn to make it a little fun.

We had been up to Lake Tahoe earlier in the week and saw a wetlands at the end of one of our hikes, so we had recently seen a wetlands. I asked the kids to remember seeing the wetlands and we talked about what we saw.

Next, we went outside and I gave each child a paper cup. They had to find some dirt. My kids are really efficient at finding dirt. Then, we poured the dirt into a glass casserole pan.

Why a glass pan? Because you will need to look at the side of the pan and see how the water and dirt separates at the end of the lesson. If you use a metal pan, you won’t be able to see the separation.

Next, we poured some water on top of the dirt and mixed it all up. This represents the dirty water that comes into the wetlands.

We let it sit for 4 hours. After we let it sit, we went back to look at the “wetlands” we had created. During the 4 hour wait we looked at our wetlands a lot. Somehow, my kids thought that if they kept watching it, it would go quicker (it didn’t). This was a good lesson in patience and waiting.

Sure enough, the clean water was on top and the mud and dirt was at the bottom.

This is just how a wetlands works – bringing the clean water to the top and the dirt to the bottom.

Since this is my children, we had to mix it up and do it again – letting it sit overnight this time.

Spelling list week 5 and Story Starters.

This week for spelling we are redoing some of the words Nicholas missed during his other spelling lists. A redo week isn’t involved in the spelling work, but I thought it might be about time for him to look back and see if he could do better. This week’s spelling words are:

Hike, bike, skip, book, see, bee, like, hill, and table.

Story starters for this week:

Monday: Who is your favorite superhero?

Tuesday: What does your favorite superhero do?

Wednesday: Describe an event your superhero took part in.

Thursday: Where does your superhero live?

Friday: What does your superhero eat?

Our story starters are sometimes only one sentence long. But that’s okay by me because at least he’s writing and thinking about answers to questions.

Spelling and reading: Week 2 day 1 and blocks for Engineering.

After the hard work of spelling and math was done, we headed over to our blocks for some engineering - although Nicholas just thinks he' having fun building things.

After the hard work of spelling and math was done, we headed over to our blocks for some engineering – although Nicholas just thinks he’ having fun building things.

Today is Day 1 of our second week in spelling.

Our spelling words for this week are:  map, chair, table, desk, sink, bathroom, bedroom, stairs, car, and pool. For the first week of spelling, click on this link.

Last week’s spelling words went really well. The progression from writing and saying to the actual spelling test went really well. We even managed to get a 100% on the spelling test. And I didn’t help or coach on the spelling test. So that was a nice treat. Nicholas was also super proud of himself when he finished the spelling test and got a 100%.

We did our math for the day (we are still reviewing our addition and subtraction from 1-12). We are going to be done reviewing at the end of this week and moving on. He finished the first day of spelling, and we did some “reading the clock” practices.

We have a few more items on the agenda for today: A science experiment about making balloons travel, cooking, measuring the chair legs in the house, German, and some engineering. We also have our physical activity. Abby and Nicholas have to vote on it, and today we ended up with bike riding for a little bit followed by basketball at the park.

But we had to make a pit stop and do some blocks. My kids got special treats when they visited their grandma and aunt yesterday – one of the treats being some planes from Planes. So we had to make an obstacle course for them to go through. Blocks were making the course, and we had a ton of fun.

We practiced how tall we can build things, making arches and bridges, making things work together, and building paths. All of these things can be worked through in an engineering lesson, or you can just build and let the kids learn by trial and error. So the block building was a blast.

I have to prepare some special handouts for our trip to the CA Academy of Science tomorrow. That way the kids feel like I put some effort into the trip too.

Anatomy lesson #1.

MP900438746Today starts our anatomy lessons. I do call it anatomy. I have no problems calling it anatomy.

I wrote “anatomy” in big letters on a piece of butcher paper and stuck it on our wall. As we learn about the different parts of the body, we will put up different images on the butcher paper. Since this is our first lesson, it’s just a blank sheet of paper at the moment.

To review the basics, I downloaded this worksheet and had my children fill it out. For Abby, I printed the names of the different body parts on stickers (the kind you get for return addresses at Staples). Then I peel them off, give them to her and tell her what they say. She’s responsible for putting them in the right spot. Nicholas has to read his own words and put them in the right spot. I’m not above helping if he needs it, but he has shown me he can read when he wants to – so now he has to learn to read on demand.


Here’s a great website to help plan your lessons on bones: http://kidshealth.org/kid/htbw/bones.html

This is the skeleton we used for our "Name that Bone" game.

This is the skeleton we used for our “Name that Bone” game.

Then we moved onto the skeletal system. First we covered what our bones do. Our bones do many things:

1. They give our body structure.

2. They help us move.

3. They protect organs.

I printed these three things out on a sheet of paper and the kids got to cut them out and paste them onto a picture of a bone. While they were cutting and pasting, we talked about what bones are made of (calcium and bone marrow were as deep into the topic as we got) and how you can get strong bones (fruits, vegetables, milk).

Then we got to play “Name that Bone.” I printed out an image of a skeleton and cut apart the bones and laminated them. Then the kids go to pick them up and name them – I helped the first two rounds, but then Nicholas had them down. After we named them, he had to tape them in order onto our Anatomy poster. This took a bit longer, but he eventually got it.

In addition to the labeled bones, I added the phalanges, carpals, and metacarpals.

What else did we do for our lesson? We continued our math book and practiced some more subtraction and addition. He’s not paying attention to the operational signs in math, and just assumes he can do what he wants with the numbers, so I’m making worksheets that mix up the operations. When he gets 100% on the worksheet he gets a penny. I leave him alone to do it and make his own mistakes. Sometimes he does 3 or 4 math worksheets in a day trying to get his penny. I’m wondering when he’ll learn it is simply easier to pay attention the first time around.

We did our reading an phonics books too. I have the Spectrum books for reading and phonics for 1st grade and we work our way through, one page at a time. Reading time was spent reading the new Transformers book Nicholas got on sale at Barnes and Noble and the Sophia the Princess book.

We also did our word wall with -et, -at, -ob, -ot, -it, -id, and -ee words. Abby like this because she gets the extra words and a magnet board and gets to play too.

Lastly, we finished our German sticker book today. Once we finished it, we went through and had to read each page of German words.

Ancient Egypt 5: Mummies and other burial customs.

One of the coolest parts of Ancient Egypt is their burial customs. There are mummies, masks, and grand tombs. This lesson focuses on mummies and other burial customs.

First we got to look at some pictures of mummies. We Googled “pictures of mummies” and just viewed some of them. We got a little side tracked into why we don’t make mummies, here, anymore. But we had fun looking.

Then, as a change of pace, we went to this website and read the book on burial customs. This is a great book put out by the Chicago public schools and it is some what interactive. There are links to the different words to help give descriptions of larger and less common words. There are also various games at the end of each chapter/page that are linked to the subjects studied. It took us about an hour to get through the book and various activities.

We also played this mummy making game.

I discovered that Nicholas will happily sit and play on the computer for long amounts of time. I was a little amazed because they weren’t his usual games – he tends to like Disney games and PBS games. But he sat at the computer and played games about Ancient Egypt. The games did a lot of my teaching for me this lesson.

Then we read this story.  It was important, during the story, that Nicholas help me read it. He’s not a big fan of reading on his own – he likes to be read to. So instead, I read to him and then pause at various words that he knows and say, “I don’t know what this word is, can you help me?” Then he helps me with the words. So I picked this story to read as our “working” story this week. We did the worksheet afterwards that goes with the story.

Lastly, we designed our own death masks. I had 2 different coloring pages for this lesson. One was the death mask of an actual Pharaoh. The other was a blank death mask that they got to color for themselves. I had Abby and Nicholas do the actual death mask while I read the story of Osiris and Iris.

We didn’t do any writing words with this lesson because we practiced writing when we did the worksheet that went with the story.

Other Ancient Egypt lessons:

Ancient Egypt Orientation

Ancient Egypt 2: Rosetta stone and pyramids

Ancient Egypt 3: Sphinx

Ancient Egypt 4: Daily life


Other resources that are fun, but we didn’t actually use:


Ancient Egypt 4: Daily life.

Here’s our lesson on the daily life of Ancient Egypt. It’s a shorter lesson that is filled with activities rather than a bunch of book learning. We started off by reading the pages in our Usborne book about the daily life of Ancient Egyptians.

Then we made reed boats. Here are the directions for making your own reed boat. While making the reed boats, I told the kids about the Nile. Here are the facts I used in our conversation:

1. The Nile is the river that gave Ancient Egypt water and most of it’s food and trade.

2. The Nile flooded every year. The cycle of flooding provided minerals and nutrients to the soil – which allowed things to grow.

3. People used the Nile to get from place to place – like we use freeways.

4. Reed boats were used to get up and down the Nile – like we use cars.

After this discussion/activity we went into the backyard and I turned on the hose. I asked them to pretend that the grass was the banks of the Nile and they could use the hose to flood it. So the kids had a blast flooding my grass – but the plus is they did the watering for me. Then we put our reed boats on the grass and tried to get them to move. We ended up blowing them where we wanted them to go. I explained that, just like we blow on the boats, the Ancient Egyptians had to move their boats – generally by having people row for them.

Then we came back inside.

We got on the computer and went to this website – which has a great section on the daily life of Ancient Egyptians. After we finished reading, we colored a picture of Ancient Egyptian children.

Then I asked them to remember what the noblemen had on their walls. When Nicholas told me that they had art, I said that we were going to make art for our walls. I pulled out a long piece of butcher paper – I called it our “tapestry” – and laid it on the ground. I said that we were going to pretend we were from Ancient Egypt and make art. It had to tell a story or remind us of something. Each kid got their own sheet of paper (Abby’s was smaller). Then they painted away.

After the paintings were done, I got a marker and asked for the story behind it. I wrote the story on the paper, so we would remember. Abby’s story was simply her pointing to different parts of the paper and telling me what they were (which was good, because colored blobs all look the same). Nicholas’ story was a bit more involved. Then we waited for them to dry, and hung them on the walls of our house.

Our practice words for the day were: Nile, river, papyrus, tapestry, house, life, and day.


Ancient Egypt 2: Pyramids and the Rosetta Stone.

I had to think about how to present the Rosetta Stone to a young child. An older child will instinctively understand that not everything is written and you might need help. A younger child just thinks, “I’ll ask mom.” So I had to figure out a way to present it. I came up with my idea: Make him his own Rosetta Stone.

Rosetta Stone Activity:

All you need is two pieces of paper and a pen. You write a message in nonsense symbols on one pice of paper and the code on the other. We sat down at the table and I handed Nicholas the message in symbols (it was short and said “Lightening McQueen is the fastest race car”). I asked him if he could read it. He said no, it looked like nonsense words and a bunch of pictures. So I pulled out the code and we decoded my message. I think he was happier about the message than the decoding.

I asked him the following questions:

1. Was it hard to read the message before you had the decoder paper?

2. Were you able to decode the message with the decoder paper?

3. Did it take a lot of work?

4. Did you understand the message once you decoded it?

Then we went to this website and played around on it. We looked at pictures of the actual Rosetta Stone. We talked about how the Rosetta Stone was like the decoder paper. We also talked about archeologists and how they work – Nicholas wanted to know how the stone was discovered and what kind of person did the job. We had a lot of fun.


We also spent time working on pyramids. We drew pyramids on paper first. Then we went to this website and looked at the various types of pyramids. We also did the maze that I included below.

I then had Nicholas and Abby color this picture while I did the reading from the Usborne Ancient Egypt book on pyramids. Most of the information on pyramids can also be found here. 

Then we cut out the puzzles and glued them back together on a tan piece of paper, because the tan represents the sand that the pyramids were built in.

Lastly, we got to be archeologist and explore the pyramids too. Here’s the link to explore the pyramids.

Our practice words for the day were: Pyramid, burial, tomb, sand, desert, build.

Click her for the 1st lesson on Ancient Egypt. 

Ancient Egypt: Orientation to the subject.

I have found it best, for us, if we start a subject with an orientation to the subject. In this case, we are starting our Ancient Egypt lesson.

First, we colored a map of Ancient Egypt. While the kids were coloring, I was reading a timeline of events in Ancient Egypt. I found a timeline here.  We occasionally stopped while I was reading to discuss various topics. I was asked, “What is a Pharaoh?” I replied, “It was what the Ancient Egyptians called their king or queen.” When I was asked what the pyramids were, and if they looked like real pyramids, we went and watched this video from National Geographic.

After we finished coloring, I pulled out my pencil and drew three lines across the map, separating Ancient Egypt into the Upper, Lower, and Middle Kingdoms. I had Nicholas erase the lines, and told him that the three kingdoms became just two – Upper and Lower Egypt. I then made him draw the lines.

Next, I told him that Ancient Egypt has its own writing and alphabet – called hieroglyphics. I had printed out the hieroglyphic alphabet from a website and showed it to him. Then we practiced writing our names in hieroglyphics. We also practiced writing our favorite words in hieroglyphics – I chose cat, Nicholas chose truck, and Abby chose Minnie (surprise!). Mainly the kids pointed to the picture and I drew. But I did make them try to draw their names as well. It was a lot of fun.

For our reading time I opened up our Usbone Ancient Egypt book. Have I told you how much I like the Usborne books? They do things in a timeline manner, so I’m not jumping around from subject to subject while reading. They also have great pictures, and there are direct explanations for the pictures. In addition, they have great web links in their books to help out on the subjects. Nicholas is a little young for a lot of the web links, but it is fun for me to scroll around them. I got to read 6 pages before the kids tuned out too much to continue reading.

Our practice words – for our English writing – were: ancient, Egypt, hieroglyphics, picture, and kingdom.

Anyways, that was our super easy Ancient Egypt orientation lesson. Tune back in tomorrow for more lessons on Ancient Egypt. Up next – Rosetta Stone and pyramids.

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