Friday, August 31, 2012

Crafts for Learning about Castles

We have been studying castles and medieval times for a few days and my boys are just loving this unit.  We have been reading books, watching movies, and enjoying a few hands- on crafts and lessons.

Ian spent a bit of time on the Lego Castle Adventure website reading all about medieval castles and creating his own coat of arms.
Evan also went on the Lego Castle site and with my help was able to earn a few trophies for his room.

He made a coat of arms and it was neat to hear his logic for all the things he picked:

  • He made his shield a diamond shape because he figured it would offer the most protection.  
  • He picked the colors blue and yellow because they are his favorite.  
  • He made the Falcon (bird) in the middle a deep red to match the trim he had chosen.  
We read about castle jobs and took a little quiz.  He kept getting one or two wrong and in order to get the trophy you had to get them all right.  He got frustrated and quit and I couldn't blame him.

We moved over to the Medieval Times site and looked at some of the weapons of the time period.

Then he asked me to print out a coat of arms for him to color.   

They all seem pretty caught up in the coat of arms so I thought I'd let them each make one out of cardboard next week and they can paint & decorate it.

In furthering our medieval study we read Smelly Old History Medieveal Muck and the boys were asked to draw, paint, or create in 3- D their own castle.

We studied pictures of castles found on the Internet and I showed them some art samples I had found on pinterest the other day.  I then left them to create.

They all thought play- d'oh would be the best choice (I was surprised and thought Ian at least would want Lego's) but we pulled out the jars and I left them to it.  Here's what they came up with so far:

Ian's castle may be a bit hard to see on the mat but he included window holes, drawbridge, and the center keep

Alec's castle is two floors with mote and parapets.

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. 

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.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Writing can be fun?

Not really meaning to, we ended up doing quite a bit of a writing today.  The boys each received a letter from my mom and wanted to write back to her.  My boys typically hate writing and we have been trying all sorts of activities to help them look at writing as fun.

I thought today would be a good day to practice our writing.  Evan, once again dictated his letter to me to write for him.  I did make him write a few of the words in the letter though ("I love you"-- just some very small words to start) while the older two boys wrote their own.

Once again this was a struggle for Alec but Ian wrote quite a bit sitting in his room at his own desk.  We did have to edit for punctuation and missing words but all in all it wasn't horrible when I took into account the fact that he wrote it totally on his own in the same amount of time it took me to help Evan write his.

Before writing I asked them if they remembered the right way to set up the letter and we talked about the format of a letter, and Ian definitely did.  I figure by writing letters once a month or so they should have this format down pat in no time.
Our math lesson also ended up including quite a bit of writing too. 

It was another lesson pulled from my cereal math packet, but instead of estimating or counting, today they had to create.  They decided on the ingredients for their very own cereal and wrote a recipe using fractions and measurements!  

I could not believe how much fun my boys had with this writing assignment!

We pulled out my cookbook and looked at recipes.

I showed them that they have to list all ingredients and then write the instructions.

On the front of the sheet there were lists of ingredients, shapes, colors, textures, etc. to choose from in making the cereal.  They also had to describe how the cereal would taste and name it too.  Of course the descriptions they came up with orally were much more descriptive than the ones they wrote down but that's pretty much how elementary aged writing goes.

I got them excited about writing by telling them that if they got me excited about their cereal and, if they used ingredients we could find at the grocery store, I'd allow them to create it "for real" one day next week along with designing their own cereal box.

Alec started the project and told me it was the best ever!

They loved writing up the recipe and I did have a few mini lessons about how 2 1/2 cups and 2- 1/2 cup measures are not the same thing.  We were basically talking about adding fractions without them realizing it.

Look at that grin he has on his face while writing-- priceless!
I probably should have waited until they told me what kinds of cereal they'd like to make before offering to let them eat it.  I think some of the combinations will not only make my stomach hurt but my teeth too!

Let me share them with you:

Evan's recipe calls for 1/3 cup apple jacks cereal, 1/4 cup crushed potato chips, 1/4 cup whole Oreo sandwich cookies with 1 Tbsp. milk.

Ian's cereal ended up becoming a milk shake since he used 6 cups coffee ice cream, 1 cup milk, 5 cups whipped cream, two cherries, 1/4 cup crushed potato chips and 1/4 cup choc. chip cookies and instructed his audience to blend the milk, ice cream, chips and cookies together in the blender.

Alec's cereal: Marshmallow Toast Crunch used 8 cups of milk, 4 cups of cinnamon toast crunch, 1 cup of rainbow colored diamonds (that don't even exist so he told me we could make them), 1 cup marshmallows, 4 Oreo cookies and 3 chocolate chip cookies.

But true to my word we'll take a day (or three if they want to try each other's and get to [have to?] eat them).

I think I'll definitely try another math/ writing activity like this again.   I bet we'd learn a lot by writing and then trying out our own recipes and it was very engaging. 

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Castles in Connecticut?

We headed out on a day trip today.  The older boys brought a word search of shark terms and a dot- to- dot shark in the car for the long ride to Gillette's castle.   The boys were excited to be visiting a real life castle.

We planned to meet up with my sister and nephews, tour the castle and hike on some of the trails.   We also brought our three books on Cd and the Magic Tree House chapter book we started the other day to fill in the remainder of the ride.  Ian and Alec each took a turn reading one cheaper and then Alec just continued to read the entire rest of the book out loud to us all!  
I had planned on starting a Medieval unit on castles and knights this month.  So far I've gotten to the point where I told the boys we'd be learning about castles and knights and that's about it.

I did ask them today to tell me everything they know about castles and knights.  I then explained that while we were headed to a castle today it was not around during medieval times and no knights or kings ever lived there.

But I figured there are some similarities to most castles and it would be neat to see one in person.

 I was right.

It was very neat.

The boys strike a Sherlock Holmes pose
We knew William Gillette built his castle as his home.  He was famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes on the stage (long before movies of Sherlock Holmes were ever made).   We found out many more things throughout the tour though.

William Gillette played Sherlock over 1,300 times and was the one to give him the watch cap and pipe.

He was a crafter and an inventor as shown by his house.  The 40 something door inside the castle are all made of intricate wood designs and no two are alike.

He had secret staircases and mirrors to watch the goings on of others and keep his movements secret.  He invented an indoor "sprinkler" system in case of fire using rain water run- off.

It was a real interesting, though pretty quick, walking tour through the house.

Once outside, after we had our lunch, we went hiking on a few of the trails through the property and ended up on the banks of the Connecticut river.

 It was a beautiful day to be outdoors enjoying the sunshine and the beach looked like something out of a shipwrecked movie with lots of trees and vines overhanging the water.  The boys pretended it was a bat cave, a training area, and many other things.

It was a great day.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Geography and Science: Learning about Florida, Outer Space and Plate Tectonics

Today we decided to focus the bulk of our schooling on geography and science.  My boys all love learning about geography and science that they willingly and eagerly participate!

We started our morning by finding Florida on the united states map and I had my kids tell me everything they knew about Florida. 

Here are some of the things they told me:

  • It's where Disney is and lots of other parks too
  • Florida has more kinds of fish around it than any other part of the world
  • Flamingos are now extinct in Florida
  • It's surrounded by ocean so it must have a lot of beaches.  
  • They noticed it was on the gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.  

We then watched an hour long documentary on Florida that took us to the Florida keys; where they showed us an underground hotel the kids thought looked really neat.  Remembering the hotel helped them also remember that there's coral reefs and that Key West is famous for scuba diving.

They learned that the Seminole Indians live in the Florida Everglades with animals like buffalo, alligators, snakes, raccoons, and birds of all different kinds.  They also remembered that the Seminole Indians would eat the alligators; the men would capture them and it was the woman's job to kill, clean and cook it so the woman did more work than the men did (my kids words--- not mine!).

We saw the space station at Cape Canaveral and it showed a plane ride that simulates anti- gravity.

We learned that St. Augustine is the oldest town in Florida; parts of it were over 500 years old.  They showed us an old military hospital and the tools they would have used back then to amputate legs and arms. 

The kids learned that Daytona has a huge motorcycle convention every year and that racing was born in Daytona when it was realized that the cars could drive fast on the sand.

It was pouring rain again here this morning and since I noticed the rooms upstairs were once again nice and dark we turned Ian's room into a planetarium with a projector he got for Christmas last year.  

We projected various planets onto the ceiling and then there are many different buttons to choose from.  We learned random facts about the planets, the climate, size and distance from the sun of each planet, as well as how many moons and different space missions that traveled to each planet.

They told me they learned that much of the space travel happened in the 1960's and 70's. 

  • They learned that some planets like Mercury and Venus have no moons. 
  • Some planets known as the gas giants have just gasses and no land mass.  
  • The dark spot on Neptune is a hurricane. 

Alec chose to read a page in his book Extraordinary Endangered Animals.

Since I was told we didn't do any "real" science today we put an experiment together.

I had Ian read aloud about plate tectonics in the science book and then we simulated an underwater earthquake causing a mini tsunami.  

We put two small blocks into a deep pan and added water to cover them.  We held them down and rammed them into one another causing the water to rise up in a big wave. 

I figured it tied in nicely with yesterday's weather lessons about hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones (of which Ian was able to tell my husband, last night at dinner, where on the globe each of those took place-- I was so proud!). 

We experimented with the height of the tsunami based on how fast or how far apart we started and discovered it's not so much how far the plates move but how fast that determines the size of the wave.

The faster the plates move the higher the wave.   They each took a turn playing with the blocks and running the experiment themselves.

After science Ian did another lesson in his math workbook while Alec finished reading all about the Lesser Panda and Evan looked through a few of his lizard books he brought home yesterday.   They watched a non- fiction movie about monster trucks and then occupied themselves for the rest of the afternoon.  

Such a fun and interesting morning learning all about Florida, outer space and plate tectonics. 

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Busy Day Learning At Home

Every now and then we like to have a more traditional day of homeschooling at home.  We had a few errands to run and dentist appointment today but that did not stop us from enjoying a full and busy day filled with learning.

Ian started his day with some Lego multiplication shown here while  Alec played Words With Friends and math bingo on my Kindle.  Ian also built some projects with his K'nex then they all ate breakfast and got ready for our day.

I had printed out a math drill for each boy-- Ian on his times 3's (which he was insulted because he left off on times 4's in school but I explained this was a review) and Alec on his +3's.  I timed them each one minute to see how many they could get done and told them we'd try to do this at least once a week and all I'd like is for them to keep beating their old score.  Ian laughed to realize he only answered 4! " I guess I do need to practice those!" he said.   Alec answered 10.  This was a super simple math segment today focusing on speed and accuracy of facts.  While his older brothers did their math sheets Evan asked to do another dot to dot/ maze page.  He ended up doing two- one dot to dot on numbers 1-10 and another sheet on the alphabet both with a maze on the back. 
I was at a restaurant Saturday night with a bunch of other moms and we had a lot  of straws left on the table at the end our meal that we hadn't opened or used.  They all agreed someone should take them home and finally I jokingly said "I'll take them and I'll come up with some homeschooling project to do with them on Monday."  

I was completely kidding. 

Looking through the boys science book this morning I found a section on hurricanes and making vortexes... using (yep! you guessed it!)  straws!  

We first read the two pages on hurricanes and learned that: 

1. hurricanes form over warm water or else they don't form.  
2. The water has to be at least 80 degrees or higher.  
3. Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are all the same thing. 
 4.The vortex makes an eye in the middle of the hurricane.  

The experiment was super easy.  

Using a drinking glass filled with water, you take a straw and make a horizontal slit in the middle of the straw (being careful not to cut all the way through) and then blow water into the glass.  

They had a lot of fun with this, and yes we got water all over the table, it also was a bit hard to see the vortex around all the bubbles but they said they saw it.  

They also saw the book had a hurricane in a jar experiment on the next page so we had to do that one too!  We took a jar with a lid and filled it 2/3 full with water (Alec demanded warm water since that's what Hurricanes use), added a drop of food coloring, 1 tsp of dish soap, 1 tsp of vinegar then put the lid on tight and shook it up while spinning the jar.  

As we put it back down on the table you see a mini hurricane real quick and then watch the water swirl around and around.  We ended up taking the lid off and adding a bit of glitter and trying it a few more times.  

The experiment said glass jar but we only had plastic-- it seemed to work good enough but maybe the vortex would've been more pronounced in a glass jar; I'm really not sure.  

I do know the boys had fun and thought back to the hurricane we had last year at this time. 

We went to the dentist's office and stopped by the library too. 
On the way home from the library we listened to Duck for President.  Right away the boys recognized the voice of the reader from the Click, Clack Moo, Cows that Type book we listened to last week.  I said it might be the same author... then as they opened it to the first page, saw the farm and heard the words farmer Brown they shouted excitedly "it's the same farm!"

I love that they were making these connections between the two books.

We got home and they each packed their own lunch to bring outside.  We listened to two more books on Cd while we ate- Bear Snores On and I Stink; which are some of the kids favorite, well- read, books.

Once I was done eating I offered to read a few more books and the kids picked Dinosaurs Love Tacos, and two chapters of our newest Magic Tree House Book; Knights at Dawn.  We're going to be starting a unit on Medieval times and I thought these were great fiction books to go along with that time period.

The boys were complaining that the picnic was a bit chilly in the shade with all the wind but then asked to go swimming-- go figure right?!

I did let them though and figured we were done school for the day.

But I was wrong.

Evan noticed the packet of seeds he had planted at the beginning of the summer had a small flower bud on it and the boys asked me to look it up and see what kind it was.  I was able to find it here. It's called a plains Coreopsis.  Evan was so excited to see that he finally had a flower.

After swimming for just a little bit Alec decided it was too cold and asked if he could play math bingo on my kindle.  Next thing I knew I heard him shouting 39!  I walked over to discover that he had chosen the hard level and was adding two digit numbers... in his head,....when they were written horizontally (which I always think is much harder than vertically)!  I was floored!  The only times he ran into trouble was when he had to regroup; and honestly he's only 6 so I wouldn't even expect him to know the ones he was doing.
The boys all decided it was too cold to swim and so they started playing in the sand.  Ian found a few toads and Evan caught them.  We put them into one of Alec's Backyard Safari Land and Water Habitats he had gotten for Christmas and watched them hop around.

We had a nice discussion about toads and compared them to frogs.  The boys told me the colors of their skin help them camouflage themselves in the leaves and dirt.  They also told me toads don't have webbed feet like a frog.  They noticed the eyes are different on a toad than a frog, "a frogs eyes are on top of his head and a toads eyes are more on the side." They watched the two toads become "friends."

It was a great totally impromptu science lesson that kept my younger two engaged for over 30 minutes. 

Such a fun day of learning at home.