Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's All Fun and Games

  After another mid-week sleepover with my younger two and a couple of days filled with schoolwork and book work, I decided to declare today a fun movie and game day.  I loaded some new computer games onto each of the computers-- Where in the U.S.A. Is Carmen Sandiego?  and Oregon Trail.  I pulled out board games like Q Bitz, Spot It! Fire and Ice, and Geo Dice.  I pulled out science kits like Wind Powered Car and Big Bag of Science.  I pulled out movies like Schoolhouse Rock, The Magic School Bus, and Liberty's Kids.  I had the kids pick and chose what interested them and we just learned through play and exploration.  We set aside our regular schoolwork and our geography/ history fair reports and just focused on enjoying ourselves.

   At first I wasn't sure this was going to go well.  Ian and I started playing Q Bitz and then Evan and Alec asked what we were doing and wanted a turn to try.  They both figured out the card but Evan thought he wouldn't be able to keep up so he wandered off on his own.  Ian, Alec and I played at least 15 rounds but either Alec or Ian ended up in tears when the other one won and I finally called a halt to the game.  This was supposed to be FUN and here they were in tears while Evan wandered around complaining he was bored.  It is a super fun game though and you have to use a lot of math and strategy.


    Evan then requested Spot It! Fire and Ice.  All the boys loved the other Spot It! game we have so I agreed.  Ian decided he didn't want to play but Alec, Evan and I had fun playing three rounds and three different versions.  It was fun and the variations make it unique.  We tweaked the rules here and there as we saw fit.
   When the games were over no one wanted to try any others.  Alec decided to try playing Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego and I played part of a round with him so we could both see how it worked.  He ended up playing several rounds and he had a really fun time.  He looked up facts about the various states when he wasn't sure about the clues and even used our wall map and Scrambled States of America game to help him along.  He had a lot of fun!

   Ian decided to use the other computer and try playing the Oregon Trail.  I warned him before starting that most everyone dies on the Oregon trail.  He read up on getting supplies and we worked together to figure out how to navigate through the program.  The game has come a long way since I used to play it in school.  There are actual graphics and even small animated movie clips about life on the Oregon trail.  After loosing several wagons to ice and running river water, Ian was in sight of his final destination.  He became ruthless in making it to his destination when his children died of thirst.  Ian then died and he threw up his hands.  I reminded him that I had never heard of a single classmate of mine making it to their destination.  While the Native Americans in this game tended to trade with them and be friendly we were often scalped by Indians or else died of dysentery.  I tried explaining to him how different the game he played was compared to game I played.  Computer graphics have come a long way since the eighties.
    While the older two boys were playing their computer games, Evan wanted to do some science.  He opened up the Big Bag of Science he had gotten for Christmas and we did the first three experiments.  Though I really hesitate to call anything we did with the bag "science."  I can't believe the recommended age is 8-10; I'd say more like 3-5. For the first experiment he dissolved colored tabs (like the ones you get in Easter Egg decorating kits) in water.  Yep, that was the whole experiment.  They went on to describe dissolving and encouraged the child not to throw anything away until they went on to experiment two.  Since experiment one took all of 3 minutes we went on to experiment two.  Experiment two encouraged the children to hold the colored vials up to the light and to look through them.  It then told them to hold up more than one vial and look through them; so basic color theory.  Evan rolled his eyes and told me if he held up the blue one and the yellow one at the same time it would be green since blue and yellow make green.  It then instructed him to use the welled tray and a pipette to play with color mixing.  he had a lot of fun with that.  When he was finished the book said we could go to experiment five and add some super absorbent  crystals to the wells.  These crystals were tiny, hard, white rocks.  As the crystals sit in the water they'll suck up both the water and the colors and turn large, squishy and different colored.  We set them aside for an hour and got ready for lunch.

   I offered to make lunch for all the boys once we got the table cleared off.  Alec was finishing up his game when his computer froze and Ian died of thirst in his game just as lunch was ready.  We settled down together and read another chapter in Danger in the Darkest Hour as well as another chapter in Harry Potter.  I'm finding it a bit tricky to have enough time to read aloud all the books on our agenda for the day.  I often have two chapter books picked out as well as 3 or 4 smaller books. I just love books and I have a hard time passing up any of them at the library.  We often run out time to read them all and have several renewals before we get around to reading most of them; some are returned unread.  But I know we read A LOT and listen to many more stories on CD as well.  We're just a story loving kind of family I guess.
   After lunch Ian started making a batch of Brownie Buckeye Cupcakes.  He followed the recipe and, using a boxed brownie mix, made some peanut butter cup stuffed cupcakes with some delicious peanut butter frosting.  He even learned how to pipe frosting!  He also made some meatloaf for dinner.  Later he'll cook up some egg noodles and a package of vegetables to go with it.  He was pretty proud of himself in making two new recipes today and told me that it was something he could add to his kitchen resume.  When he was all done the boys decided to have a "taste test."  The sacrifices they make for the greater good of the family.
Mixing up the meatloaf 

The cupcakes are cooling

Ian learning how to pipe frosting

The finished products!

    While they sat and ate their snack I read Passage to Freedom; The Sugihara Story.  My boys loved this story too.  It is about a Japanese diplomat who helped thousands of Polish/ Jewish refugees receive visas for safe passage from Lithuania through Russia and into Japan.  He worked against his government's orders and put his family at risk to help these strangers.  It was a touching story (seriously I felt myself tearing up and choking up just trying to read it).  When we were all done the older boys and myself gathered around the wall map.  We looked at Germany, Poland, Warsaw, Lithuania, Great Britain, France and many of the other European countries.  We talked a bit about which countries were involved in the war, how far Hitler's domain spread and which countries were on which side.  They asked me about being Jewish and what the word Jewish meant, we talked about Jewish holidays and different religions.  We talked about Christians and Catholics and holidays we celebrate and why.  It was great to see them so involved in a history lesson!
    Evan went to play video games in his room while Ian, Alec, and I had a mini air hockey tournament.  Alec won against us both and was considered the champ.  Ian helped clean the living room and started supper for me.  It's so amazing to me to see how much my boys are growing up.  They're quite helpful around the house (when they want to be) and I couldn't imagine our lives any other way.

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