Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Books, Balloons, and Bedtime Stories.

       Yesterday, we spent our morning cleaning once again.  This time the boys and I went through all of the bookcases in the house and pulled out books they have outgrown or no longer read.  Our library was accepting donations toward their yard sale and we like to pitch in.  While we pulled out books they "found" books they had forgotten we own and were all excited about reading them.  I stumbled upon Ian and Alec reading together, laughing and acting out parts of the story.  It was adorable! 
     Evan, bored with our cleaning, was downstairs playing and I found him in the kitchen.  He had one of his action figures with him and was having him fall down the side of the refrigerator.  I hear him yelling "z, z z" as he had his figure grab onto the letter z to help himself back up.  I just put the alphabet magnets up that morning after finding them in the cabinet hoping to find someone playing with them at some point.  I know they learn a lot about words and letters by playing and it made me happy to see him already getting into it.  They had a quick snack, during which Evan decided to sort the crackers according to which Angry Bird it was-- what great self- guided math!
letter fun
Snack sort


      We went to the library to drop off the box of books we put together and we had more books to pick up.  Once home we ate lunch and watched a few more Disney Imagineering movies.  The boys love this series and Evan is actually the one who asked me if we could start watching them all again since we hadn't seen them in a while.  I certainly wasn't going to stand in the way of them watching a great educational show like that!  While watching the movies, Alec was also trying to read his new library book.  He found an anthology called My Weird School Daze that has the first 4 books in the Weird School series and he's working his way through them. 

      We checked out a few new computer sites today too.  My sister sent me a link to Reading Bear.  I liked the simple straight forward way it went through letters of the alphabet with sounds and words and hoped that Evan would like it too, but he really wasn't interested in it.  I will try again another day when he's more receptive but lately he's very adamant that he can't, wont' and will never, be able to or want to read.  I'm trying not to push it to much, but I keep reminding him he needs to learn to read.  I had the older boys check out Magna High.  It's a free site (well; free for a few months with a limited trial offer) with a bunch of math games that are all aligned with the common core.  I figured new math games never hurt and if they learn while having fun too well, so much the better. 
      We had checked out a few science books for Ian last week while at the library.  He really loved the title and cover photo for the book called Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste.  He was excited to try all the experiments and while I loved his enthusiasm we just didn't have all the supplies for every experiment.  He settled for one or two today and we gave them a try.  I hadn't realized, at the time we checked the book, that it is a Steve Spangler book.  I love his websites, experiments and enthusiasm.  We can't wait to check out his other books and I even showed Ian his website.   Anyway, onto our experiments.  We tried making a fireproof balloon and putting a skewer through a balloon (in total we used 5 balloons).  I made Ian read and get out all the supplies needed for our experiments and then, since it required a candle flame I carried out the experiment for/with him.  First we blew up a balloon and held it over the candle.  It burst almost at once.  Then we took another balloon and while it was still deflated we filled it with water then blew it up and knotted it.  Holding the balloon straight up and down (which forces the water to the bottom) I was able to hold the candle right up to the balloon.  The balloon even blackened with soot at the bottom but did not pop!  Eventually, if you hold the balloon over the flame long enough it will pop (and get water everywhere!).  We noticed that the balloon with the water did not burst into many pieces like our first balloon, but just popped a small hole where the soot had been.  We read the description of how it works in the book and found out that it is all about heat transference and what a great conductor of heat water really is.

the first balloon popped right away!

The second balloon turned black on the bottom! 

        We then moved onto skewering a balloon.  There were three variations of the experiment listed and we tried out all three.  First we blew up a balloon and then let out 1/3 of the air.  We tied it in a knot and using a wooden skewer lubricated with a bit of cooking oil we were able to pierce the balloon near the knot and push it right out the other side (where the latex is darker and more forgiving).  It was really neat!  Next we tried drawing dots on the balloon with permanent marker and then blowing it up about 1/2 way.  We looked for places where the marker dots were smaller and darker (the spots where they weren't stretched as far and therefor under the least amount of stress) and put our lubricated skewer through them.  We read that the polymers in latex are what allows us to stretch and manipulate them.   For our final experiment we tried to make a hole in the sides of the balloon.  This is harder to do since the sides of the balloon are under the most stress.  In order for this trick to work you need to add a strip of clear tape where you plan to pierce the balloon.  It was fun running a bunch of science experiments and all three boys were eager to watch and participate. 

       Once we were done with science Ian headed outside to work in the sand while Alec went back to checking out Magna High.  He played at least three games that I know of and learned a bit about the order of fractions, estimating when adding and subtracting and trying to add and subtract with negative numbers.  All of these concepts were very tricky for him, but he kept at it anyway.  He asked for help frequently and I tried to help out when I could, but it's not always easy to explain such hard math concepts in an instant to satisfy the constraints of the computer game.  I figured he was learning and having fun and over time with more exposure he might just figure it out on his own. 
      Alec then got my Kindle and played Wild Kratts for a bit until Evan asked for a turn to play Minecraft.  By then it was almost dinner time.  Ian and I played a quick game of Memory and then all the boys watched Wild Kratts and Cyber Chase.  It was a good day but I still felt like they were relying to much on screens to keep them occupied.  Yet, as aggravated as I was by this extra time spent on screens, I was of two minds about it.  On the one hand they were spending a lot of time with screens today, but on the other hand they were mostly watching educational shows, playing educational games and they were all getting along, taking turns.  It just goes along with my love/ hate relationship with all things technological.  I look at them as necessary evils.  I warned (told?) the boys I was really thinking of taking away all screens until we leave on vacation.  This upset them all and yet I hope to be pretty busy with daytrips so perhaps they won't notice and will be forced to regulate the time spent staring a screen just a bit more. 
       After dinner Ian and my husband set out to mow and I offered to come pick Ian up around bedtime so my husband could stay and work.  Alec and Evan played toys for a bit, but once they started fighting I had them climb into the car and headed out to pick Ian up a bit early.  Once there, Evan got out of the car and while my husband and I were talking we noticed Evan was pulling on the cord to start the push mower.  I was impressed that he knew how it worked and with my husband's help he got it started.  Next thing I knew they were mowing the lawn together.  I, of course, was nervous he was going to get hurt.  I kept picturing him running over his own toes or something, but he did a great job and my husband was right by his side the whole time.  We found turkey feathers and talked all about them.  Why the turkeys are loosing them, how they are so light, what it feels like to flap with them.  Ian reminded Evan that we could use them with some ink to write with like in the olden days.  It was a great impromptu science and history lesson.  We also found a huge bees nest and watched the bees for a bit.  Alec had elected to stay in the car and work on his drawings while I watched the other two boys work.  They're both anxious to get paid so they'll have some spending money.  We listened to the rest of the Secret of the Indian on the way home and all the boys quickly got ready for bed. 

The bees nest was huge
Helping dad

Thinking of what to draw


        I read a few chapters in Mr. Docker is Off his Rocker to Evan and Ian and then said good night.  I found Alec on his bed curled up reading his book.  I offered to read a bit to him, like I did for his brothers but he asked if he could read to me instead.  He had already finished the first book in the anthology and was halfway through his second book in My Weird School Daze.  I couldn't believe that he had already managed to read more than one chapter book in just half a day!  He reads with such expression and enjoyment too.  He had me in stitches while he was reading.  It was a great way to end our day.  By the time I went to bed last night Alec came out of his room to tell me he had finished the whole book.  He read all 4 chapter books yesterday!  Ian also finished Mr. Docker is off his Rocker and wanted to tell me that before he went to bed for the night.  I love that my boys enjoy reading even after we say goodnight but I was a bit upset that Alec once again stayed up very late to do so.  It was 10 o'clock when he came out to tell me he had finished his book.  He gets so wrapped up in whatever he's doing! 
          Funny, typing this blog today, I look back and think we had such a great day, but while I was going through it I really didn't think we had.  Maybe it's my attitude that needs to change and not our set up.  I was really questioning our decision to unschool today and talked to the boys at dinner about doing more with our days.   I was upset that they seem to spend a good portion of each day listless and of course I was upset that seemed to stare at the TV, DS screens, and computer like zombies all day.  Yet, I know from all my reading that it takes time, lots of time, to really settle into unschooling and have everyone find their groove.  Looking back over our last few weeks of posts, we're really not doing that bad. 

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