Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Lego Quest #37 ~ Natural Disasters

Tsunami by Adrienne ~ during the tsunami (left side) and the devastation after it (right side).

A tornado by Andre.

You can see many more photos of nature disasters made with legos at the Lego Quest blog. We especially like the first photo with the tsunami.

"Lego Quest is a bi-weekly challenge for Lego loving homeschool and unschooled kids. It is non-competitive, creative fun. There are no winners and there are no commitments. Play along only when you are inspired by the challenge."

Monday, 28 March 2011

Book Sharing Monday :: The Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox: Celebrating the Greening of the Earth is written by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis. This book explains the ways different cultures celebrated the arrival of Spring in the past. The author then explains the special celebrations and festivals for Spring's arrival for today's people. The Seder (Jewis), No Ruz (Iranian), Holi (Indian), and Easter (Christian) are explained. Easter customs, like the egg and the rabbit, are written about as well as Earth Day. 

There is an ancient Anglo-Saxon springtime story about the goddess of Spring and the magical hare at the end of the book, with a few hands-on spring activities. 

"The spring equinox is a time of beauty - and it is also a time of balance. It is not quite summer yet, but not really winter anymore, either. It is a time when the world stands between the two seasons. It is a time to walk in balance with nature and look to the future."

If you would like to participate in Book Sharing Monday, please leave a link to your book sharing post below. Happy reading! 


Sunday, 27 March 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Green Eggs & Ham, WW II, and Earth Hour!

We had another good, quiet week here. School wise, we wrapped a few things and continued with others. We are still waiting for Spring here in SW Ontario, Canada!

Celeste and I are reviewing the lessons on vowels in the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. We also started the First Language Lessons. At first, she didn't like the FLL, but already by lesson six, she has changed her mind. She is also continuing her work in Explode the Code and Miquon Math. This week, she decided to read "Green Eggs and Ham" by herself. She sat on the couch and worked on it while I was busy with Adrienne and Andre. After a while, she told me she had read the whole book. I then listened to her and she did great! I am very proud of her! I read that story a long time ago, once to her. It's not one that she has memorized. She then read it to her siblings and her dad. She is already planning on reading it to her Nana when she visits next. She's very excited!

Adrienne and Andre continued on all their regular main subjects this week. Every morning went pretty smoothly, considering we were off last week. It's always a little difficult to get back to it after a break.

In History, we finished our study of World War II. We had several books (see picture above) we wanted to read and a movie as well. We watched an excellent documentary called "The Price for Peace: From Pearl Harbour to Nagasaki". This documentary explained World War II in the Pacific. It included original footage and interviews of veterans. 

I gave Adrienne and Andre a writing assignment as homework to wrap-up our study of WWII. The assignment had four questions which they needed to answer with some details. The questions were:
  • What caused World War II
  • What countries were involved in World War II
  • Choose a battle and give a brief account of it
  • How did WWII end?
In World Geography, we finished our review by testing ourselves on the maps of South America, Europe, and Africa. We also started the next unit, Asia.

We finished our literature study of Black Star, Bright Dawn this week too. This short novel was a perfect match to our Iditarod study.

On Friday, we did a little Art Appreciation by studying the paintings and the life of Joseph Mallord William Turner. The picture above is called "The Fighting Temeraire" and was one of our favourites.

Adrienne and I also worked on Mystery Class this week, you can see our latest charts in the previous post. We also talked about current events, in particular the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Yesterday we celebrated Earth Hour by turning out all our lights for over an hour! This is our thrid year participating, I think. Our neighbour friends came over to our house to play board games with us. We also had a fun time playing hide and seek in the dark! I forgot about taking pictures this year, but you can see my posts from previous years here and here.

If you would like to read more wrap-up posts by other homeschoolers, visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Journey North Mystery Class ~ Week Eight

This week, we received all the sunrise/sunset data for the 10 mystery classes along with the first set of interdisciplinary clues. These clues can be related to culture, geography, history, or any other facts. Adrienne and I really enjoy working with these. The first set helps us with trying to guess where in the world these classes are, usually we can figure out what continent at least, sometimes more!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Learning about World News

Over the last couple of months, I have been researching ways to add world news to our "curriculum".

We don't subscribe to any newspapers or even cable tv or satelite, so I searched the internet for kid-friendly news websites. I came across a few interesting ones that I wanted to share with you.

We are slowly getting into the habit of reading some articles from a couple of these sites and discussing them. Adrienne (13) and Andre (12) read the article on their own. I ask them to make a mental note or write down any words or names that they don't understand. I also read the same article.  I either explain the unknown terms or we can google together. I have never been one to pay close attention to the news, so I will be learning a lot too. We then talk about what we read together.

Adrienne - reading about Japan in Maclean's

We are also trying out Maclean's magazine, which is a Canadian weekly current affairs magazine, readily available at our local library. Another option that we will be trying out is to visit the library and read the newspaper there. Photocopying articles of interest at the library would also be an option.

By trying a few different sources, we will find out which one works best for us. As we try all these different options, we are also getting into the habit of reading the news and talking about them.

There is a variety of choices on the web. Some sites have articles written for young children, with videos and photos included. These sites often have quizes and games. I think these are great, but I also think that reading from regular newspapers, magazines, or sites is important, especially for my older children.

Here is a list of the sites I found most interesting.

DOGO News - this site has an option for teachers to build their own "class" page, choosing which articles will be displayed. There are twelve categories on the right side of the main page, from current events, to science, to entertainment and more. You can also search the website. The articles are filled with photos, diagrams or drawings, videos, and links to other articles or to definitions of certain words. There are two other tabs at the top of the main page, called sites and maps. Under the sites tab, you will find links to sites that kids have reviewed. These are also organized by categories. If you want to find all the kids reviewed sites on Math for example, you could just click on Math; or you could use the search box. The maps tab brings up a google map and shows you more articles at their location on earth.  

Youngzine - this site is also very user-friendly. It has tabs across the top of the page for different categories. A Playzine tab includes games, comics, and videos.  Once you sign up, you are able to leave comments on the articles. You can also take quizzes. You can also sign up as a teacher and create a class to monitor what your children are doing on this site. I haven't read all the details about this option yet.

Another site that I have found useful for myself is the New York Times Learning Network. This site has lesson plans, daily quizzes, crosswords, and many resources. I especially like how they put together teaching ideas that relate to current events, like this one for Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami, or this post filled with questions related to Elizabeth Taylor, or even lesson ideas for celebrating Women's History Month.

If you would like to recommend other websites, please leave a link in the comments.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Journey North Mystery Class ~ Week Seven

This week, we were given an extra set of clues in the form of sunrise time on the equinox. These are very helpful as we are able to calculate an approximate longitude for each 10 mystery classes. I set up our charts in the photo to reflect our findings so far.

The Journey North site has helpful information reguarding this new set of clues and how to calculate here (under the "longitudes clues are here!).

This Friday, we'll be receiving our first set of interdisciplinary clues. Adrienne and I love these! Now the fun will start!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Book Sharing Monday :: Wings

Wings is written by Sneed B. Collard III and illustrated by Robin Brickman. This book is full of interesting facts about bats, birds, butterflies, moths, and insects. We learned about many of the animals that have wings, and some birds that don't, and how they use their wings. Each of the animals featured has a fascinating ability. I added a few photos from the book, that my son chose. He really enjoyed this book. I thought the illustrations are amazing! Each is made by hand with painted paper, cut and sculpted and glued. There are resources listed at the back of the book, websites and other books about bats, birds, butterflies and moths, along with a short glossary.

The same author/illustrator team also wrote a book called "Beaks!". We found it at our library, just need to wait for it to get to our branch!

"Some of the most unusual wings belong to the clearwing butterflies of the American Tropics. As transparent as glass, these see-through wings make the butterflies difficult to follow when they are flying. Many clearwing butterflies are poisonous, so the colored edges and veins of their wings may warn predators to stay away."

If you would like to participate in Book Sharing Monday, please add the link to your book sharing post below. Happy reading!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ March Break!

This week was March Break for the local school boards. I wasn't planning on taking the week off, but between the beautiful spring-like weather, the free ice skating, the library programs and all the neighbour kids coming over to play with my kids, I decided to just take the week off and enjoy it! We all took advantage of the fresh air, even our pets!

We all enjoyed this break from our regular routine.

We went ice skating.

We took advantage of $2 movies at our local theatre and saw The Voyage of the Dawn Trader (Narnia). All five of us! The treats we bought at the Bulk Barn cost more than the movie!!

We played board games together, Uno, Mouse Trap, and a new-to-us Artifact. I have found many great board games at the thrift store, this Artifact one was my latest find and my two oldest and I had a great time playing it.

We continued to follow and chart the progress of our selected mushers in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. We also continued our literature study with Black Star, Bright Dawn.

We also read a lot! Below you can our current books. Andre finished Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel today, Adrienne is reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (which I read a little while ago, can't wait to hear what she thinks about it!), I am reading Jane Eyre, and Celeste is reading with me Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy. I also have been reading aloud Peter and the Sword of Mercy from the Peter and the Starcatchers series.

A great and relaxing week! If you would like to read other homeschoolers wrap-up posts, you can visit the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers blog.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Journey North Mystery Class ~ Week Six

We are about halfway through the Journey North Mystery Class project! This week, we received the Universal Time data for all 10 mystery locations as well as their regular sunrise and sunset times. These UT times will help us determine the approximate longitude for each location. When we received this data for the Equinox, we will be able to make our calculations. You can read more about these special clues at the Mystery Class page here.

Here are the charts for week six, first is the Northern Hemisphere, then my line showing the equator, followed by the Southern Hemisphere locations:


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Book Sharing Monday :: The Great Serum Race and Big Alaska

I am sharing with you two books today by author Debbie S. Miller, "The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail" and "Big Alaska: Journey Across America's Most Amazing State". Both titles are illustrated by Jon Van Zyle. We read both books as part of our current Iditarod study. They are wonderful non-fiction picture books that we all enjoyed and learned a lot from.

The Great Serum Race is a great book to learn about the original Iditarod tril and the race that twenty sled dog teams did to bring life-saving serum to the community of Nome in Alaska. We have read this picture book every year that we have followed the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The book explains the story behind the serum race and also has extra information at the back of the book about the serum run mushers, the heroic dogs, and the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

"The relay continued from musher to musher, roadhouse to roadhouse, with teams pushing west through the biting cold. At each relay point, the mushers warmed the serum over wood-fired stoves. Following the winding rivers, the teams covered an average of thirty miles each, at a speed of six or seven miles per hour."

Big Alaska is a gorgeous book! We really enjoyed reading about all the "big things" in that state, from the highest coastal mountains (St. Elias Mountains) to the Matanuska River Valley where some of the heaviest vegetables grow, to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. An eagle is your guide on this voyage around Alaska.This book also mentioned the Iditarod which is the longest sled dog race in the world. There are Alaska facts at the back of the book, with all the state symbols and climate records. The author also added extra information about each of the places featured in the main part of the book. 

"Tucked in the forest, the eagle spots some cabins with yards full of sled dogs.  He roosts in a nearby spruce tree and watches a dog musher drive his team of huskies down the historic Iditarod trail."


If you would like to participate in Book Sharing Monday, please add the link to your book sharing post below. Happy Reading!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up ~ Another Birthday, Iditarod, and WWII

We had another great week here, even if it looks like winter is determined to stay! We celebrated another birthday on Wednesday so we took the day off.

Every morning, I work with Celeste while Andre and Adrienne complete their independent work. This week, Celeste asked to start again at the beginning in the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading. I think this would be a good idea since lately she seems to get confused with her vowel sounds. A review will be good. We started First Language Lessons this week too. The first lessons are all done orally and we'll take our time with it too.

She spent some time playing on the 1st Grade Jump Start this week, sometimes with Andre's help. You can see  both of them in the photo at the top.

We continued our Poetry Memorization and started a new poem "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

In World Geography, the Trail Guide suggests a review before starting Asia. We had talked about it last week and had decided to take some time to look over our notebooks and Adrienne suggested we test ourselves with the maps. I photocopied blank maps for each continent we studied so far and we started this week with the maps for North America, the USA, Canada, and Central America. I participated too and the kids thought it was pretty funny that I remembered less than them!! We took some time colouring the maps, after we corrected any mistakes.

In Science, we learned about energy chains, energy resources (fossil fuels and renewable) and momentum this week. We used a few of the links suggested in the Usborne Science Encyclopedia. This one from BBC was a great review. We also played with a virtual Newton's Cradle and we also converted a town to renewable resources at this link.

In History, we are now studying World War II. On Monday, we read an interesting book about Pearl Harbour. "Attack on Pearl Harbour: The True Story of The Day America Entered World War II" is written by Shelley Tanaka. This book recounts the events of that day through the eyes of young people that were there. An eleven year boy, a young Japanese on an underwater attack mission, and an American sailor. There are many illustrations and actual photos throughout the book, as well as maps and diagrams.

We watched The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Out of all the World War II movies, this one is very different. It is seen from the young boy's point of view. He is the son of a german commandant at a concentration camp. It is a very moving film and you should preview it before showing it to your children. My two oldest watched it with me, but not Celeste. We talked after the movie and some of the discussion we had was inspired by questions I had seen on this site.  

We also watched the World War II in Colour documentary we found on this site. Adrienne and Andre took the quizzes and did some of the puzzles. We will revisit this site again next week. We are continuing our study of World War II for one more week.

The Iditarod Sled Dog Race started last weekend. We have been following this race since 2008. Each year, the kids picked their own musher to follow and keep track of their race statistics. This year, Andre chose Lance Mackey again (he's been picking him since our first year!), Celeste chose Kristy Berington, and Adrienne started off with Zoya DeNure but she scratched early on, so she chose Dee Dee Jonrowe and Michelle Phillips. We also do other activities related to this event every year, some years more than others. This year, we will be reading several picture books and one or two novels. I started reading aloud "Black Star, Bright Dawn". While I read, Adrienne and Andre were sculpting sled dogs out of clay.

We used the literature questions for Black Star, Bright Dawn (thanks Carol!) found here and here. I will be sharing a couple of the books that I read very soon on Book Sharing Monday. You can also see a selection of the books we are reading at the top of this blog in the librarything widget.

We watched a great documentary from the Discovery Channel about the Iditarod 2008. I was able to find this at our local library! It was really great to see the actual check points and listen to some of the mushers.

I hope you had a good week too! If you would like to read more wrap-up posts, visit the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers blog.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

What works for us...

This is the last part in my "what works" series where I share and review which curriculum works for us. This time I am reviewing our "together" subjects. These are History, Geography, Science, Art and Music Appreciation, and Poetry Memorization. These subjects we do together and this is the part that I really enjoy in our homeschool. It's mostly Adrienne, Andre and myself, but Celeste tags along too sometimes.

First Canadian History:

We are learning about our country's history this year and really loving the curriculum we are using. The Modern History Through Canadian Eyes is a guide to study Canadian History using several resources. I chose to use the Story of Canada, the Spirit of Canada, and Footprints in the Snow. The guide also lists other core resouces. Every unit has a list of world events and people to match that time period, along with Canadian events and people, and additional reading suggestions. I use all this information to get more books from the library as needed. Some units also have suggestions for extra projects (writing, research, field trips or other). These types of guide/curriculum is what I really enjoy working with. It gives me a guideline but allows me to add my own selections as well if I want to. The kids have also said they have enjoyed learning more about their country's history this year.

In World Geography, we are using the Trail Guide to World Geography. This is the second time we are using this guide. The first time was a couple of years ago. Adrienne and I had followed the literature study included in the guide, reading Around the World in 80 Days and making our way through the world with it. This year, we are using the main portion of the guide and studying the geography by mapping, trail blazing, and using the geography trails. The trail blazing is a list of ideas for extra activities to do for each week, each part of the world. The geography trails are like trivia questions. My kids really enjoy doing these (to my surprise!). They search through their own atlases to find the answers. The guide has three levels for the trails. Adrienne and Andre also  have made their own illustrated geography dictionary. They both really like this curriculum and I have enjoyed using it. We use library books, folk tales or even travel videos to supplement. The guide includes so much that I know I will be using it again for several years. I do have the CD that includes all the notebook pages for each level and Uncle Josh's Outline Map book. I had printed and photocopied everything I needed at the beginning of the year which really helped!

Another subject that my kids have really enjoyed this year is Poetry Memorization. This was something I have always wanted to include in our homeschool, but never really got around to it until I found this curriculum. The Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization by the Institute of Excellence in Writing (IEW) is a very easy program to implement. We read the poem, memorize it, and recite it every day. Every week, we add a new one. All three of my children participate in this one. The poems are appealing to all of them. This is another program that will last a few years, as there are four levels of poems in it. We are only working on level one this year.

The Art and Music Appreciation we are doing this year is basic but we enjoy our Friday afternoons discovering painters and musicians. We are using the guide from Harmony Fine Arts, the Logic Stage level 7.  I am using her program as a guideline and searching for the music online (free) or at the library. We then write a short biography and record the names of the music selections we listened to on our notebook pages. For the painters, I also search online or use the links already mentioned in the guide, or the library. We view and talk about the works and record their names and our thoughts, along with a biography of the artist. It's simple but we enjoy it. I am not using all the suggestions in the guide at this point but what we are using, works.

This last subject, Science, also works but partly.

I pulled my own curriculum together this year for science. We chose to study physics, following somewhat the Well Trained Mind rotation. I decided to try the Physics Workshop kit from Thames & Kosmos to add a hands-on part to our study. This kit has over 70 experiments, all related to physics. We are using the Usborne Science Encyclopedia (Internet Linked) as our spine. We have used the suggested internet links a lot and learned from them. We also use notebook pages to record definitions, narrations, drawings and lab notes.

The Thames & Kosmos kit came with an experiment manual which I used as my guideline and is filled with information. I have used it also as a spine for certain topics. The part that my children and I have been disapointed with are the experiments and the workshops. Each experiment is preceded by a workshop where you build the item that you will need for the experiment. I am including a photo below of one of the workshops. You can see there is a little bit of text explaining what you are doing, but no other explanations. We have had to guess a lot of the time by looking closely at the picture. Our science lessons are sometimes frustrating because of this lack of explanations. That is why I said it works partly. Science isn't a subject my son looks forward to because so often we haven't been able to build the experiment properly!

This is the conclusion of my series on what works for our family. I hope you have enjoyed reading my posts, and maybe you will share what works for your family, curriculum wise too. Let me know if you do by leaving a comment.  This series was very helpful for me as well, taking the time to review our choices will help me decide for next year.

If you missed the other posts in this series, here are the links:

What works for Celeste

What works for Andre

What works for Adrienne.

Celeste is six years old, Andre is 12, and Adrienne is 13 years old.


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