After they ate we finished up math with another cereal math lesson for Alec and Evan- making an abacus. We used a cup, turned it upside down and poked two holes in the bottom. We threaded a pipe cleaner through one hole and added fruit loops to the pipe cleaner (10 for Evan 15 for Alec and Ian) sticking up out of the hole. Once we had all the fruit loops threaded on we curved the pipe cleaner and placed the other end in the second hole. Then we flipped the cup over and twisted the to ends of the pipe cleaner together inside the cup. We then put the cup back onto the table and practiced using our abacus. Ian was supposed to do another lesson in his McRuffy math book but really wanted to make an abacus too. Since he didn't even know what an abacus was I figured he was learning too so why not let him join in the activity. We also read a short book called the Grapes of Math. It was filled with math riddles and pictures that encouraged kids to find how many objects were on each page without counting but rather by grouping or multiplying. They seemed to enjoy it and it was a very quick read. By the end of the day they had eaten all the cereal off the abacus and I was OK with that. They'll still remember making, using, and then eating it and now I don't have to worry about ants or bugs being attracted to the sweet abacus.
We did lots of science too. Over the weekend the younger two boys watched a documentary on sea otters that I had recorded from the animal planet channel called Wild America. They just loved it so we watched it again as well as an Eyewitness video simply called Oceans. We also read three books called Seeds, Fruit, and Roots in preparation for planting. Overnight I soaked some beans in water. We pulled one bean each out of the water and compared it with a dry, hard bean. They told me the soaked bean was larger because it had soaked up the water. Ian made the hypothesis that the plant will grow out of the white dot on the bean. We opened up the larger, soaked seed and found the baby plant inside. We planted a few of the soaked beans and a few dry seeds inside a plastic baggie with wet cotton balls. Alec made the hypothesis that the soaked beans will grow faster or sooner since they had a head start. They enjoyed setting up their own bags and I let them do it themselves. I did tell them to be careful not to use dripping, soaking wet cotton balls since they may drown the seeds and I cautioned them not to put too many seeds into the baggies but other than that I tried not to over teach. I did this project with wet paper towels instead of a cotton ball back when I was teaching and thought it was a great low- mess way to grow seeds in the classroom. It also doesn't take up much room and the kids can really see first hand all the growth that would usually take place under the dirt. Once they had their baggies of seeds the way they liked we sealed them shut and taped them to the window. If you'd like directions on this project I found them here. We'll observe the seed everyday for the next few weeks and see how it grows and changes as well as label all the parts of the plant.
For history we read a book called Knights and Castles and made our own mini bow and arrows using Popsicle sticks, dental floss and q- tips. This was another idea I found on Pinterest and loved that it used all the material from around the house, plus the added bonus of a nice soft arrow! If you follow this link you'll find the directions. It was pretty simple and lots of fun! I'm sure I'll be finding q-tips around for quite some time but that's OK. They set up a castle out of soft blocks and tried to knock it over. They realized it took quite a lot of coordination and concentration to get the bow and arrow to work right. It was a bit hard to use since it was so small and your fingers have a tendency to get in the way.
We read some more of our story Wonderstruck. The boys have all sorts of theory over how these two stories will connect. At first they thought the girl was Ben's mother or perhaps his cousin when she was younger, then they were thinking it was his grandmother. Now they aren't sure how the stories will connect but we're 226 pages into the book and they love it! If you haven't read this book with your children I'd highly recommend it for 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders.
We took yet another trip to the library where we picked up some books we had ordered through inter library loan on the medieval ages and colonial life. We also picked up new books on Cd/ Tape and some new books on this week's state- Alaska! Which I already have some great idea on teaching! Of course with my oldest son's love of Gold Rush, Bering Sea Gold and other Alaska shows he watches we know quite a bit about Alaska already. I'm thinking one week may not be enough for each state. As we started looking at Alaska we thought of the northern lights, polar bears, caribou, and all sorts of wonderful wildlife. Ian talks about gold and mining. We thought of Eskimo's and the differences in weather. There's so much to cover, but I remind myself over an over that they have their whole lives and we don't need to cover every single thing about every single topic we approach. It's always hard to find that balance because I don't want to just superficially cover a topic enough just to say we learned about that but I don't want to spend months on each topic either. So armed with another dozen books and some movies we finally left the library and headed to the store to pick up supplies for other activities I had planned for today.
Unfortunately, we never got around to the other activities we had planned. I wanted to start a few art projects and have the boys start to brainstorm ideas for an ABC book of their own. We just ran out of time. Alec starts soccer tonight and we had to eat an early dinner so we can be at the field on time. I, once again, felt overwhelmed with all I want to teach and feel like we're kind of all over the place in what we do during the day. There never seems to be enough hours in the day for all we want to do and all the wonderful things there are in this world to learn about-- art, music, foreign languages, world history, U S history, geography (again both world and U S), science (which also encompasses so much!), it's so hard to focus. I just want to teach them everything about everything. But we strive to find a balance and I continually have to remind myself that 90% of what we do get through in a day usually finds my kids so engaged in what they're learning about that we are ahead of the game. We have years and years ahead of us to learn and explore. Whatever is left, that we haven't covered by the time they are adults, they should be able to learn about on their owns. After all, the absolute most important thing I can teach my boys, is how to teach themselves!