Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The day before Easter, my mother-in-law and her boyfriend came over and she organized the annual egg hunt for my boys. We ordered in pizza and jo-jo's and played Mexican Train. We had a fun and relaxed evening together just enjoying one another's company over a simple game.
On Easter morning, we attended church and then had an absolutely lovely lunch at Cracker Barrel. We even made it there before the big Easter lunch rush as our church service ended at 10:30. Cracker Barrel is one of our very favorite restaurants and the food and service were good as usual. I even treated myself to blackberry cobbler with ice cream!
When we got home, the children were eager to see what we had put into their Easter baskets this year. Mason was very happy to find a little plastic collectible figurine that he had wanted from E-bay.
Duncan received a Bop-It which he really wanted.
Monday, April 26, 2010
The Kingdom of Penguins was the last stop on our journey through the Newport Aquarium. By that point, we were all a bit tired and ready to get started on our long car trip home. So, I just took a quick picture of the penguins and we hit the road. My two older children spent a longish time with their hands in the water of the sharks touch tank. They noticed that most of the sharks were huddled in the far corner of the tank, completely shunning the human touches. They were probably overwhelmed by the crowds as well.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
- Design a poster illustrating a scene from the novel or capturing a theme in the novel.
When Amber presented her work to me, I was truly just blown away by her depiction of one of the scenes in the novel. Not only did she accurately depict the scene, her painting truly captured the feeling that the scene evoked in her. For those readers familiar with Fahrenheit 451, she chose to illustrate the scene in which Montag first shares a book with his wife. His wife reacts in fear and anger and is eager to get back to her true family, the wall-size television.
I love how my daughter illustrated the wall-size television. She told me that from the book's descriptions, she pictured the images on the television as being larger than life, louder than life, and just a bit creepy.
Montag, on the other hand, is sad, beaten-up, and overwhelmingly lonely after his wife's reaction.
My daughter enjoyed this assignment, was quite proud of her work, and doing the assignment added to her understanding and appreciation of the book. I will definitely be giving this assignment as an option for future end-of-book projects! So, if you find yourself stuck in a boring book report rut, give art a try!
Friday, April 23, 2010
Many Weeks in Review - Short Weeks, Sectionals, Homeschool Conference, Newport Aquarium, Iowa Tests, Stomach Flu, and Winding Down
At the end of March, my daughter and I travelled to Indianapolis, Indiana for the USA Swimming Speedo Champions Series Central Sectionals. Amber was absolutely thrilled to make the hard time cuts for two events - the 50 Free and the 100 Fly.
At 13, she was on the low end of the age scale at the meet. Most of the swimmers were between 16 and 19, with many college level swimmers participating as well. Central Sectionals was the biggest, fastest meet she has attended yet and it was a very good experience for her. While she did not make finals this time, she assured me that she would be making finals and receiving medals in the future!
While I was very proud of her and very happy that we were able to attend the swim meet, the trip was long for me. I tend to be a hobbit-like homebody and we were gone for 5 days. My husband usually drives in big cities so downtown driving was a challenge for me. I always delight in seeing my beautiful and talented daughter swim, though!
We had a short week the week of Sectionals and a short week the next week as well since the laundry attacked me when I walked in the door and I needed a day to recover. Following close on the heels of the Sectionals road trip, our whole family attended the Midwest Homeschool Convention. I had an absolutely perfectly-perfect time. You can read all about my fabulous experience in this post.
On the way back home from the homeschool conference, my whole family enjoyed a great day at the Newport Aquarium. If you have a chance to visit the Newport Aquarium, I highly recommend it. The only improvement over our day would have been for the aquarium to be much less crowded. We saw so many interesting aquatic creatures and they also had a lovely frog and Rainforest exhibit. After returning from the Homeschool Conference, Amber promptly was struck with a very violent stomach flu which completely knocked her out for most of last week. She missed three days of school here at home and a full week of swim team. Thankfully, the stomach flu did not travel through our whole house, though.
Last Friday we completed an art lesson for the first time in weeks. The art lesson focused on modeling with clay - a lesson both of my boys were very excited to do! Amber participated for a bit but soon tired so she was excused from the activity. While their clay projects are not completely done as they need to paint them when they are dry, I do think they turned out really well. My sons are used to working with Sculpey III, so this clay was quite different and more difficult with which to work. I purchased red air-dry clay from Discount School Supply and we have quite a bit left over. I'm thinking we can work in a clay project to coordinate with our Ancient History studies next year!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
As I was looking through the stack of shirts for my size, a lovely young woman working in the booth came over to see if she could help me. She commented that she just loved to see women my age (OK, I'll admit I had about 20 years on her) wearing these shirts -they give her hope that she will have a happy marriage. She shared with me that she and her friends have grown up seeing divorce all around them, and now among their young married friends as well. She said that it was depressing at times.
I told her that I was happily married and had been for 17 years now. Then I promptly bought the shirt.
My husband really does rock. Of all the blessings that God has bestowed upon my life, I count him at the top.
My husband rocks and I have the shirt to prove it!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Planning a Unit Study Step by Step: Breaking the Main Topic into Sub-Topics and Choosing Areas of Study
So far, I've posted about:
- why I use unit studies/resources to teach you how to plan unit studies
- starting with resources that you own
- utilizing free resources.
In this post, I'll be discussing breaking the main topic for a unit study into smaller topics and choosing areas of study. Now we're really starting to get into the nitty-gritty of planning a unit study!
When planning a unit study, I simply can't cover EVERYTHING there is to know about the topic. For example, some colleges offer undergraduate or graduate degrees in Egyptology! Obviously, there is a lot that could be learned about Ancient Egypt and not all of it can be covered in the 8-10 week study that I am planning for my children.
So, part of planning a unit study is to decide which parts of the main topic of study are going to be covered. For example, the large topic Ancient Egypt is made up of lots of smaller topics like Mummies or Egyptian Math.
This particular step is one of the most time-consuming but I have found that if I do I thorough job in this planning stage, the rest of the planning goes quite smoothly. Scheduling what we will do each day and choosing hands-on projects to complement the unit study is much easier if I have first broken down the big topic into smaller topics.
To accomplish this step, I like to refer to two sources - a teacher's book and an excellent book that overviews the whole big topic for the unit study. My favorite teacher's books for planning history unit studies are the History Pockets books by Evan-Moor. To get an overview of the whole topic of Ancient Egypt, I used a book from a series that I particularly enjoy, The Nature Company Discoveries Library Ancient Egypt.
After taking careful notes while reading through both resources, I compiled a list of all of the topics that I want to cover with my children about Ancient Egypt. Now, some of the topics are rather small (e.g., Egyptian math) so that more than one of them could be easily covered in one day, while others are larger topics (e.g., Pyramids) that will take a few days to a week to cover the topic and complete hands-on projects.
Ancient Egypt - Sub-Topics
- Upper and Lower Kingdoms, 3100 BC
- Geography of Ancient Egypt
- Crops/Animals/Farmer's Year/Shaduf
- Egyptian Wars
- Temples and gods
- End of the Egyptian Empire
- Exodus - Bible
- Daily Life (clothing, names, jewelry, hairstyles, food toys, family life)
- Pharaohs, Egyptian government, Menes, Queen Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Ramses III, Tutankhamen, Cleopatra VII
- Egyptian Math
- Hieroglyphs, Writing and Education
- Sacred Felines
- Egyptian Art - Frontalism
- Social Order, Pyramid of Society
- Medicine/Healing/Magical Beliefs
- Craftsmen/Craftswomen (potters, stonemasons, carpenters, glassmakers, leatherworkers, metalworkers, jewelers, weavers)
- Feasts and Festivals
- Trade with Other Countries/Tribute to the Pharaohs from Other Countries
Now that I have a list of sub-topics, I can easily look through the materials that I have to see if I have books that cover all of the sub-topics that I want to cover with my children. For example, I noted that I had very little information about Cleopatra so I picked up a book at the library from a series that my children adore, "You Wouldn't Want to Be Cleopatra!: An Egyptian Ruler You'd Rather Not Be by Jim Pipe.
Future Planning Steps
What planning steps are ahead? Before I will be done planning this or any unit study, I need to do all of the following:
- Choose fiction novels for independent reading and read-alouds.
- Choose hands-on projects to coordinate with the topics.
- Choose writing projects or design a writing menu.
- Decide if a lapbook or lapbooks will be part of the study.
- Coordinate non-fiction books with the specific topics for read-alouds and independent reading.
- Schedule what readings will be done each day.
- Consider if there are specific subjects that I need to tie in with the unit study.
In future posts, I'll be discussing all of the above topics. If you have any questions about planning unit studies, I'll be happy to try to answer them in future posts.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
On the front cover is the very first section of an Ancient Greece timeline from Milliken. The rest of the timeline is tucked in a pocket inside the lapbook. During our Ancient Greece unit study, the timeline was displayed on a bulletin board in our schoolroom. On the left side of the first two-page spread, is the drawing that my daughter completed of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. On the right side are two mini-books from the Ancient Greece Project Pack from Hands of a Child (The Parthenon and The Dark Ages) and one from the Ancient Greece History Pockets book by Evan-Moor (The Olympic Torch). All of the mini-books on this two-page spread come from the Ancient Greece Project Pack from Hands of a Child.Included on the left side are four mini-books: Ancient Greece World Impact, Philosophers, 4 types of government, and a mini-book contrasting a boy's life in Athens with a boy's life in Sparta.On the right side are mini-books about Playwrights, Symposiums, City-States, and Drama.On the left side, my daughter has fastened a 3-pronged folder filled with written assignments from the unit study. On the right side is a layered look book of our own creation about social structure in Ancient Athens, a mini-book about weddings in Ancient Greece (Ancient Greece History Pockets), and a library pocket filled with index cards about the Ancient Greek gods (Ancient Greece History Pockets). Inside the 3-pronged folder are all of the independent writing assignments that my daughter completed during the unit study. She wrote paragraphs about:
- The Minoans
- The Mycenaeans
- The Dark Ages
- Egyptians and Greeks
- Changes in the Greek form of Government
- Food in Ancient Greece
- The End of the Trojan War
- Styles of Sculpture
- The Peloponnesian War
- The Three Main Empires After Alexander's Death
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
The absolute MOST wonderful thing about attending this year was that my whole family went with me. I didn't have to miss them and I didn't have to drive in downtown Cincinnati! Since "big-city" driving makes me incredibly nervous, having my husband be my convention chauffeur was a huge bonus for me! While I attended seminars and shopped in the vendor's hall, my wonderful husband took the kids swimming at the hotel pool, played games with them, and took them out to lunch. Yes, my husband rocks. (I even purchased a shirt that proclaims that very fact at the convention).
My convention experience was filled with highlights. Hands-down, though, the biggest highlight was attending a Tim Hawkins show on Friday afternoon with my teenage daughter. We laughed until we cried. I can't remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did during his show. He was absolutely hilarious! Since he was performing at a homeschool convention, he included lots of jokes about homeschooling and I found those particularly entertaining. We were so excited about his show, we even purchased a few of his DVDs to watch at home.
I attended five seminars. My favorite seminar was "Spelling and the Brain" by Andrew Pudewa. In his fascinating lecture, he explained why a child can READ a word and still not be able to SPELL the word. Seriously, I have wondered about that very fact ever since I started homeschooling. I attended his lecture specifically because I was looking for a spelling program for my daughter whose only language arts weakness is spelling. After listening to Andrew Pudewa speak about teaching spelling to children, I not only purchased the Institute for Excellence in Writing's spelling program for her, but for my sons as well.
While I enjoyed almost all of the seminars I attended, I did attend one in which the actual topic was completely different than the description included in the convention materials. I have to admit, this was upsetting to me. Choosing between speakers was quite difficult and I relied heavily on the descriptions of the lectures. I should have jumped up and left but I didn't. Has this ever happened to you at a homeschool convention?
The vendor's hall was fabulous and I purchased many wonderful books and programs for our homeschool next year. I'm looking forward to spending some time reading over and appreciating all of the educational materials that I purchased over the next few weeks. With my purchases at the convention, I am just about done curriculum shopping for the 2010-2011 school year. With one more order of odds and ends from Rainbow Resource, I will be all done!
Lastly, while I expected to enjoy the Tim Hawkins show, the seminars, and the vendor's hall, I had a completely unexpected happy surprise while at the conference. I was looking at a sewing curriculum in one of the vendor's booths and I heard my name. I looked around and a vaguely familiar-looking lady was looking right at me and saying my name. I thought I knew the face but I just couldn't place her.
Then, she told me that she was Angie from the Homeschool Classroom. The recognition clicked in for me and I promptly gave her a great big hug! We talked for quite a long time and I was just thrilled to meet a bloggy friend in real life. We've corresponded many times via e-mail since I started writing for the Homeschool Classroom and it was a real treat to actually meet her in person. I am pleased to say that Angie is every bit as delightful in person as she is on e-mail and her blog. If you haven't read Angie's blog or checked out all of the wonderful articles at Homeschool Classroom, I urge you to do so.
I am filled to the brim with fresh encouragement and excitement about homeschooling. After having such a positive experience, I'm ready to make my hotel reservations for next year's Midwest Homeschool Convention!
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
- I want them to be able to complete at least some of their schoolwork on their own.
- I want them to be able to find the information they need to complete their schoolwork.
- I want them to realize that learning is a lifelong process and that "school" is never really done.
One of the ways that I work toward these large goals is to prepare workbook pages for my children so the workbook page can be completed independently. I have been prepping workbook pages ever since I attended a seminar at a homeschool conference last year by "Heads Up Now." Prepping workbook pages was just one of the great ideas in that seminar.
What do I mean by "prepare"? Before putting a workbook page in one of my boys' workboxes, I first:
- Highlight the instructions for each section with a highlighter.
- Fill in the answer for the first question in each section.
- Include any additional reference materials that will help them to complete the page in the workbox that are not readily available for them elsewhere. (For example, I wouldn't include a dictionary but I would include a list of common contractions and their spellings if the workbook page was about contractions. My children know where the dictionary is but they might not remember the contractions list in the back of their English book.)
Taking a few extra minutes to "prep" workbook pages for my children the night before really helps to cut down on the questions that I am asked during our homeschool day. Of course, I am always available if one of my children has a question, but I also like to encourage independence!
Monday, April 5, 2010
I spend a lot of time at my little work area in our bedroom. While I sometimes spend too much time on the computer doing non-essential tasks, most of my computer time is spent doing the work that helps our homeschool and family business run smoothly. I also treasure the time I spend writing for my blog, Curriculum Choice, and Homeschool Classroom. So, the papers and the mess pile up quickly around my computer work area.
I feel that a less cluttered work area will help my thoughts to be less cluttered and chaotic but I need more than a quick fix. I've cleaned up my work area before, but, of course, it eventually got back to the the disorderly state you can see in the pictures above. So, this time, I'm looking for permanent solutions to the clutter.
I've been working on a small portion of my work area each day. By working on this project in small chunks, I'm better able to:
- Not feel overwhelmed by the task and rush through it;
- I can really give some thought to better storage solutions for the things I need to have at hand;
- I can give thought to ways to manage the daily clutter without letting it pile up around me.
When I'm done (or perhaps along the way), I'll post pictures and the organizational solutions that I come up with to make my work area a more organized space. If you have any great tips to organize your computer work area, I'd love to hear them!
Friday, April 2, 2010
The two main resources that we used for our Astronomy study were:
- Space Science for Children, All About the Moon, Schlessinger Science Library (DVD)
- Space Science for Children, All About Stars (DVD)
- Eyewitness Planets (DVD)
- Space Science for Children: All About the Earth (DVD)
- Space Science for Children: All About the Sun (DVD)
- Space Science in Action, Planets & The Solar System (DVD)
- Space Science in Action, Moon, Schlessinger Science Library (DVD)
- Space Science for Children, All About the Planets, Schlessinger Science Library (DVD)
- Bill Nye the Science Guy, Outer Space Way Out There! (VHS)
- The Moon by Ralph Winrich (First Facts, 2008)
- Stars by Gregory Vogt (Earlly Bird Astronomy)
- The Moon by Laura Hamilton Waxman (Early Bird Astronomy, 2010)
- Venus by Adele Richardson (First Facts, 2008)
- Meteors and Comets by Gregory L. Vogt (Early Bird Astronomy, 2010)
- The Solar System by Laura Hamilton Waxman (Early Bird Astronomy, 2010)
- Mercury by Adele Richardson
- Constellations (A True Book) by Paul P. Sipiera
- Mercury by Gregory L. Vogt
- Earth by Jeffrey Zuehlke (Early Bird Astronomy, 2010)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Here is the view of the sun from our sidewalk chalk Earth. Earth is "only" 93 million miles from the sun.Here is the view of the sun (barn) from Pluto - 3.7 billion miles from the sun!After this Interplanetary Hike, I think all of us have a better understanding of the relative distance of the planets from each other and the sun.
Regarding books, on the other hand, I read quite a bit this month as I logged many hours in the stands at swim meets!
- Alice in Wonderland (2010) ****
- Matrix Reloaded ***
- Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Leonard Sax ***
- Help, Lord, I'm Getting Ready to Homeschool My High Schooler, The Old Schoolhouse ***
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll ***
- The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan ****
- Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan ****
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson ****
- The Proof is in the Pudding by Melinda Wells ***
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury *****