Monday, October 13, 2014

Weird Stuff!

Miss L's most favorite unit study ever.  This unit focused on her love of "weird stuff" as she calls it, the unusual and unexplained things in our world.  We used a variety of books and materials.  Since she's so in love with the topic, some of the things on this list were not specifically used for this unit study, but have been hits here and easily could have been included had we not already done them. Her interests skew toward medical mysteries, mythical animals, and similar oddities so we went more that direction than UFOs.

Read aloud:
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder
This is not a book marketed to children.  I started reading it to her on a lark and had my doubts that she would comprehend it and/or that it would hold her interest, but she surprised me and really did enjoy it.

Spine:
Strange Mysteries from Around the World, Seymour Simon.
This book is written at her reading level (approximately 4th grade) so we could easily read it together and use it as a base from which to jump off into more detail.  This book was originally written in the early 1980s, so it was interesting to compare some of the information in this book with newer information from other sources.

Supplementary books:



Documentaries (all available on Netflix):



Projects/Hands On/Field Trips

  • Made a mythical creature fossil out of bones from an owl pellet
  • Made a fairy mummy and/or Fiji mermaid out of small novelty halloween skeletons and craft supplies
  • Found an unknown baby animal on the lawn, tried to identify it.  Took it to a local museum to get it positively identified and preserved.
  • Visited the website of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  True?  Fake?  How can you tell?Can you fool others with your own creation?
  • Curated her own exhibit of "weird stuff" in a curio cabinet and made a companion guidebook
  • Visit museums like Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Ripley's exhibit at the science center, other small local oddity shop/museums.









Friday, July 11, 2014

Stuff that supplemented History of Us, volumes 1-4

A list of stuff that we used alongside Hakim's History of Us history books in our homeschool.  We took a little over a year to go through volumes 1 through 4.  We're in volume 5 now and I'll make another list when that's shuffled through some.  :)  A lot (but not all) of these resources skew a little younger than the intended audience of the History of Us books; this is because they were picked with my younger child's needs an interests in mind while dovetailing with the History of Us topics.


Volume 1. The First Americans, Prehistory-1600

Human Prehistory
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Mammoth Hunter
The First Dog
Mysterious Bones: The Story of Kennewick Man

Native life and stories
Turquoise Boy: A Navajo Legend
Ka-Ha-Si and the Loon: An Eskimo Legend
Opossum and the Great Firemaker: A Mexican Legend
Quillworker: A Cheyenne Legend
Dancing Drum: A Cherokee Legend
Clamshell Boy: A Makah Legend
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest
likely a bunch more, we really got into these
Eyewitness North American Indian
Field trip to local sites/museums

European Discovery and Colonization
Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 (Mann)
The Discovery of the Americas (Maestro)
Westward With Columbus (Dyson/Christopher)
Francisco Coronado (Nardo)

Lost Temple of the Aztecs
Secrets in Stone: All About Maya Hieroglyphs
The Inca: Activities and Crafts from a Mysterious Land
Horrible Histories Aztecs and Inca

Good Queen Bess (Stanley)

The Lost Colony of Roanoke

The Life and Times of Corn (Micucci)

Field trip to the southwest (using resources in this post)


Volume 2.  Making Thirteen Colonies, 1600-1740

Topic: Jamestown
Double Life of Pocahontas
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
Watched the Disney version of Pocahontas and compared it to the story from other sources

Mayflower and Plimoth
Stranded at Plimoth Plantation 1626
Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving

Salem Witch Trials
Mysteries in History (Salem Witch Trials chapter)
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Salem Witch

Colonial Life
You Wouldn't Want to Be An American Colonist
Sign of the Beaver (historical fiction)
Calico Bush (historical fiction)

What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?



Volume 3. From Colonies to Country, 1735-1791

Revolutionary Life
American Girl Felicity Books and Felicity's World
Cooking Up US History (full of recipes for many American history time periods)

Revolutionary War
Eyewitness American Revolution
George vs. George
Johnny Tremain (historical fiction) with a Scholastic lit guide alongside
Liberty's Kids videos
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy
You Wouldn't Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party
George Washington, Spymaster


Volume 4. The New Nation, 1789-1850

Lewis & Clark
How We Crossed the West
National Geographic documentary
Seaman's Journal
Lewis & Clark for Kids
You Wouldn't Want to Explore with Lewis and Clark
Field trip

War of 1812
American Girl Caroline books

USKids History: Book of the New American Nation (Brown Paper School)

Amazing Impossible Erie Canal


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our 3-Week Arizona Study, outlined.


Week 1: Natural History

Mornings

1.       Book The Desert is Theirs (Baylor)

Tantalizing Topography (Arizona Wild and Wacky [AWW] )

Discussion: What is a Desert (Saguaro NP Curric)

Activity: Neighbors in the Desert (SNP)

2.       Book A Desert Scrapbook (Wright-Fierson)

Discussion: Ways animals and plants adapt to deserts

Activity: Desert Diorama (from One Small Square Desert)

3.       Book, chapters 1-4 Grand Canyon Journey (Anderson)

Discussion: evaporation and crystallization (BFSU A-9 part 3)

Activity: Erosion and Sedimentation (BFSU D-8 part 1)

4.       Book, chapters 5-8 Grand Canyon Journey

Discussion and activity: Limestone and Fossils (BFSU B-8 part 2)

Writing practice: Rock story

Afternoons

Tuesday Poetry theme—deserts, heat and dryness

Read alouds:

Activities:

TBD.  Likely usual routine.

Week 2: Human History

Mornings

5.       Chapter 1 National Geographic (NG) Ancient Pueblo

Activity: Trees of Time (Tuzigoot NM Curric)

6.       Chapter 2 NG Pueblo

Book  When Clay Sings (Baylor)

Activity: Say it With Pictures (Make N Learn Southwest Indians)

7.       Chapter 3 NG Pueblo

Activity: Dig that Pad! (Tuzigoot NM Curric)

8.       Chapters 4-5 NG Pueblo

Activity: Who Were the Prehistoric SW People? (Tuzigoot NP Curric)

 

Afternoons


Tuesday poetry free

Read-aloud Walker of Time

Activities:

 “What’s Hidden in the Midden?” (Investigating Artifacts Session #5)

“Putting Together Clues” (Investigating Artifacts Session #6)

 

Week 3: “Modern” History

Mornings

1.       Book Down the Colorado: John WesleyPowell (Kogan Ray) 

Activity: “Modern Cultures of the Verde Valley” (Tuzigoot NM curric)

2.       Book AWW pgs 48, 64, 68, 88, 104

Activity: “Sonoran Desert Time Line” (SNP curric)

3.       Book  TBD.  Flex day?

Activity: “Water in the Desert” (SNP curric)

4.       Book Survival!  Desert

Activity/Writing Practice: Planning Survival Pack vs. Day Pack

 

Afternoons


Read-aloud and discuss:


Continue Walker of Time.  Possibly re-read Brighty of the Grand Canyon if time allows.


Activities:

TBD.  Options:
Make and decorate pots and/or baskets




Supplemental books:

Earth Fire: A Hopi Legend of the Sunset Crater Eruption by Malotki
Exploring the Grand Canyon by Foster
Mary Colter: Builder Upon the Red Earth by Grattan
The Sonoran Desert by Day and Night (Dover Coloring Book)
A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert by Phillips and Comus
Grand Canyon Association Introduction to Grand Canyon Geology, Ecology, and Prehistory

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How do I supplement Moving Beyond the Page?

The Moving Beyond the Page (MBtP) folks say there is no need to supplement their curriculum beyond math and phonics and from what I understand from talking to others in the online MBtP groups, that is often true.  However, *I* needed to supplement the 5-7 (when my daughter was PreK/K and son was in 1st grade) and 6-8 levels (K/1st  and 2nd grade, respectively) beyond math and phonics, just because of my own kids' idiosyncrasies, the modifications needed to be made in order to combine kids of two different levels into one program, and how our life is arranged.  So please take everything I say here with a huge grain of salt, it is only my own experience and I've not heard of anyone else who does it this way.  In some ways I have a love-hate relationship with the program because of this. 
Before I get to specifics I should probably also explain that I am a major research junkie and I have and do try to read everything I could get my hands on about different homeschooling philosophies.  I have ended up taking ideas from Well-Trained Mind (classical education), Charlotte Mason, and unschooling methods.  Bravewriter's The Writer's Jungle and Pickert's Project-Based Homeschooling was also very influential.  Most of the ideas I took from these materials are rather intangible, however, and while they definitely influenced how I tweak MBtP, it is difficult to express how this looks in practice.  But I'll try. 

So, without further ado, how *I* modified and supplemented MBtP 5-7 and 6-9:

  • Per MBtP guidelines, math and phonics.  My older child came to the program already a fluent reader, so he skipped the phonics. 
  • We did not do any of the printing practice or spelling portions of the program.  My kids have limited stamina for the physical act of writing, so we learned to form our letters through our “writing practice”.  We skipped the spelling for my older child because he is leaning toward being an intuitive speller, working on it in-context.  And the younger one couldn’t read yet so spelling seemed like putting the cart before the horse.
  • Scribing the answers.  Some of the lessons have a lot more writing than my kids could handle.  I would decide on the fly which ones the kids would write themselves, and which they would dictate for me to scribe.  
  • Compression.  Sometimes we did hit a lesson or series of lessons that were truly too easy.  The last unit of the 6-8 was like this for both my kids, they both already had a very good grasp of this introductory science unit.  So we just went through it really fast.  We still read the books, but we skipped a lot of stuff and did only the demonstrations that seemed extra fun or new to us.  This often meant we did two lessons in a day. 
  • Additional books to “up” the information and difficulty level for some of the nonfiction selections of the progress.  For example, when the younger was using the MBtP title The Usborne Children’s Picture Atlas, I gave the older one DK Geography of the World.  This way they both could do their own research at the level they needed. 
  • Our daily “writing practice”.  Both my kids keep spiral notebooks for daily “writing practice”. This is so fun!  Some days the kids are writing something related to the MBtP materials, some days they are doing copywork, some days freewriting of their own choice.  The notebooks are very satisfying to look through later—you can see the skills progress before your eyes in fast-forward!  
  • Additional science study.  There’s nothing wrong with the MBtP science, but my scienc-y kids want MORE.  So we also use Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) as well as a lot of unit studies and interest-led science projects, materials and reading.  This is another post in itself.
  • Additional history study. Ditto the above! Chronological history study also appeals to me to help the kids gain “pegs” on which to hang future learning. We started out using SOTW but it didn’t work out so I just made our own booklists.  This is yet another post by itself. 
  • Additional literature and poetry study.  See Brave Writer materials above.  J

So you might ask, why do MBtP at all if there's this much change from it?  I ask myself that a lot.  For now, we're continuing with it because:
1.      On busy days, even if we only get MBtP core stuff done, I feel reassured that at least we made some progress;
2.      it gives me a framework for studies to connect subjects and think of subjects I wouldn't have come up with on my own;
3.      and the kids continue to enjoy it. 

I am not at all wedded to the program though so who knows, we may get two weeks into the 7-9 and I'll throw it all out the window once and for all.  ;) 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fizzing and foaming

So much fun can be had with citric acid, amirite?



One recent nice day we finally pulled out the Fizzy Foamy Science Kit that the kids had been bugging me to try.  We have wall-to-wall carpet so this seemed like an outside activity!  Turns out it was not so messy, but fun for outside anyway.



The instructions were clear and the kids were able to do almost all the activities with minimal help from me. Big K reading the instructions and the two of them taking turns adding and mixing, with me there to direct and watch that a tablespoon remained a tablespoon.

I think they were a little dissapointed that nothing fizzed over wildly like a good ol' Diet Coke-and-Mentos fountain, but they happily got up close to the little fizzing cups and observed what was going on in there. 



Most of the more interesting activities involve mixing citric acid and baking soda.  I think I need to lay in a supply of citric acid for the house, we went through almost all of the stuff that was in the kit...we would have had lots left over if we just stuck to what's in the instructions once or twice, but my little experimenters took it upon themselves to mix things in different quantities and in different orders to see what happens.

Oh, and we thought the dancing raisins didn't work at first, but after they'd soaked in the little cup in the sun for 10 minutes or so, they started bobbing away.  Another valuable reminder that patience is key!


Monday, May 14, 2012


Ask for a line graph, get an analysis of rebel battle strategies.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dino Day!

Miss L was over the moon happy.  After all my previous posts about dinosaur study ideas, and after listening to my daughter beg over and over again to have a big dinosaur event with her homeschool events, I finally agreed to put one together.  It was a couple days ago and this is a little bit of what it looked like.  I arranged 10 "stations" around the house and outside, with directions posted at each station so kids and parents could do them in whatever order and at their own pace, open-house style.  The stations ranged in complexity from coloring dinosaur pictures in Miss L's room and making dinosaur models out of Lego in K's room to real fossil examination and bone excavation, so no way was I going to herd all those kids through individually. 

The fossil identification station  was a pretty big hit.  A lot of the older kids really liked it.  There's something special about being able to put your hands on the real thing that is so different from reading about it in a book.


It was a station of 24 numbered fossils, with a list of possible fossils you can see on the left side of the photo below.  Just gotta match 'em up!  Some fossils were pretty easy (a clam) and others pretty tricky (crinoid fragments), so I color-coded them with the easiest to hardest to give people a place to start.  Plus handy guidebooks nearby and answers strategically placed if needed. 

My boy liked trouble shooting this table and helping me find all my errors before everyone got there.  There were more than a few of them.  Glad he was helping!



Geography wall.  Matching different dinosaur fossils to where they have been found on the globe. 


Skeleton and bone matching.  Determining which bone belongs to which dinosaur.  Remarkably tricky in real life, I stuck to easier bones for these kids.


Connections between modern birds and dinosaurs.  I punted a little bit on this one, having left it for last in my planning, so basically all I did was find some good pictures of velociraptor, archopteryx, and chicken skeletons online and wrote down some thought questions, and then posted the result on the chicken coop fence.  Good enough.



Dinosaur trackways.  Terra cotta-color air dry clay looks and feels a LOT like mud.  Add some realistic dinosaur toys and you can re-create footprints along a Jurassic shoreline pretty nicely. 


I tried to add some suggestions for making a story with it, like having the tracks of a carnivore hunting a herbivore, but I think most of the kids were too distracted by the pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance nearby to think very hard about that.

By far the most popular station was the Dino Dig.


To make this station, we cast makeshift T-rex bones in plaster from these molds and buried them in our big ol' sandbox.  Add some shovels and brushes to re-create a real paleontological dig, and you've got a fun afternoon.  If you're wondering why there are no kids in any of the previous photos, this is why.


Tight quarters in that sandbox.  A good time, but busy!  It will be a while before we do this again, but I think Miss L is hoping it might become an annual event.  We'll see, kiddo.  We'll see.