Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday School

We had a bit of extra schooling this weekend.

Luckily, the boys did not mind at all and eagerly participated.  I offered to do a fun science experiment with the boys.  We've been talking for a few days about making rainbow icicles.  It sounded easy enough and they look so pretty.  We were excited and with temperatures hovering around freezing this week it seemed like a good time to attempt it.

Alec and Evan helped me set up the container, measure the yarn, decided on the starting color and then we headed outside.  The wind was whipping off the water and blowing our yarn all around.

We soon realized we had no way to suspend the container off the deck railing like we had planned and so we decided to head back in and reevaluate our plan.  We changed containers, added a string to hang it from and set it off the hooks underneath our deck.  The string was still blowing all around and the hole in our second container was so large the water was just pouring through.

We were getting discouraged (and, in fact, Evan quit) but Alec and I were pretty determined to get this to work.  We tried filling a plastic bag with colored water and poking a tiny pinprick hole in it; we got outside and realized the bag of water was to big to fit inside the neck of our bottle.

My hands were so cold and wet they were starting to freeze to the hook.

 At this point we had some very pretty frozen string but not much else.  Still determined to give it a go we headed back inside and made up a hanger for the first container.  We went back outside, tied the tail end of our string to a block of wood and tossed it into the snow under our hook; this kept the string from blowing around.  We had a nice small hole, a hanging plastic container; I really thought we were all set and had it right this time.... but we were wrong again.

It was time to leave for basketball so I told Alec we had to give up for today but we'd try again another day.  It's frustrating when science experiments don't go the way you plan but I can't deny we learned a lot-- all the way NOT to make rainbow icicles.  

Sometimes you've just got to be happy with all the unplanned lessons that crop up; even if they do make you feel like a failure.

At least the string turned blue this time; getting
 Ian came down and showed me what he had been busy building while I was outside trying to get our science experiment to work.  He had watched Gold Rush again this morning and was inspired to make his own gold dredge like Tony Beets' dredge.  He did an amazing job.

He showed me how he had to redesign the screen deck a few times and improvise with other parts to make it long enough.  If nothing else we all learned to keep trying and redesigning our original ideas!  He explained how it would work, what he'd add to the Lego pieces to make it better if he could design Lego's and the similarities and differences between his dredge and Tony's.

I think it's amazing that he can build just about anything he can think of using Lego pieces.  It's very creative and he has so much patience to be able to build, re- build, fix, and tinker with them.

From the side

From the front 

Ian's basketball team played hard and lost by two points.  They're definitely getting more competitive as the season continues and I've seen improvements in most all of the player's skills and certainly in their ability to work as a team.   While I don't see Ian loving the game as much as year's past I know he's had fun becoming a part of the team and learning to work cooperatively.  

 As soon as Ian's game ended we zipped right home so he could change and the boys could grab a quick snack before heading out to a birthday party.  All three boys were invited to a bowling party.

We've become quite close with this family since they've started homeschooling and all three kids were eager to get there.  They had a ball bowling and even though the machine keeps score for them automatically they still apply all sorts of math concepts to the game.  

They play with the speed and trajectory of the ball, the placement of their feet and body, they compare scores, figure out how many more pins they need to catch up, they subtract the remaining pins to see how many they knocked down, and even keep track of how many turns they have left.

Of course, to them, they're just playing and having fun.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Viking Crafts and Other Subjects

Today was one of those amazing days where we worked hard, got everything done we wanted to and no one complained!

It's always refreshing to have one of those perfect homeschooling days where the work gets done, the kids were willing to work, and we all had fun.

Of course, the definition of a perfect homeschool day often varies but today sure felt like it was perfect! I had pulled out a few things for them each to work on and was amazed when we were all done an hour later.

Amazed because I felt like we did more work than usual and no one complained or dragged out their work!  We covered quite a bit today too!

 Evan completed all 7 pages that were left in his Phonics book. He knew we were headed to Target today to buy some gifts for the birthday parties we have lined up this weekend and he remembered that I had agreed to buy him a small Lego set when he finished his workbooks.  He was determined to finish and buy his set today.  He filled in all the words, read me the sentences and beamed over the fact that his book was done!

 He then asked to read Puppy Mudge Wants to Play.  

Alec wanted listen to some more Tom Sawyer on CD.  He asked if he could count that as reading and since he reads so much I had no issue with that.

Ian went to read Sequoia.  I know he read the whole thing; including the non- fiction page in the back because when I was reading the book to Evan later on Ian interjected some facts he remembered. Ian also worked on a page in his new spelling book.

Evan worked on a couple of pages with place value up to the 100's in his Star Wars math workbook and he thought they were so easy; he just loved them.

 Alec picked two pages in his math book working on area and multiplication skills.  He's so confident in his work that he often works in pen and marker.  I don't mind and he rarely makes mistakes for me to worry about.  I'm all for whatever works.  He finished up in about 10 minutes!

Ian's new books came in yesterday so he abandoned his fractions book and worked on three pages in his new Key To Measurements book.  He did great and thought it was pretty fun and easy.  He learned about non- standard measurements and made up a non standard measurement of his own-- watch length.  

We read Eric the Red and learned a bit more about the vikings.  While I was reading I asked the boys if they wanted to color and make either a viking ship or a viking mask.

 Ian worked on making a paper viking boat while Alec started coloring a viking mask.  We stopped part way through the book (after the third or fourth mention of a battle and a death) and I asked the boys if they now understood why I was having such a hard time finding a viking movie for them to watch.  They tend to be a little violent.  Alec (quite sarcastically responded) "A little?  Jeesh! They're always fighting and killing!"

Evan predicted where Eric the Red's boat would land and told us that he already knew vikings lived in Greenland.  I have no idea how he knew that.

We also talked about the Norse gods a bit and I reminded the boys of Odd and the Frost Giants that we read last winter.  Evan immediately started in on a discussion of Lotke and Thor and Odin.  I was glad to have them so involved in a discussion about a history story!

When we were done our viking book and craft I put in a movie called Families of Israel for them to watch while I made some quick lunches.  We first found Israel on the map and talked about what we thought their climate might be like.  The boys watched through lunch and we paused now and then to answer questions, ask questions, or even just clarify what was being said.  It's a good series of movies and we've enjoyed watching many of them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Balancing School Work and a Field Trip

Today we decided that we'd do some schoolwork while eating breakfast and head out for a half- day field trip.

It's not always easy balancing schoolwork with field trips.

We often go whole weeks without leaving the house and become quite focused on book work and traditional schooling.

Other times it seems like we're hardly home and running from one field trip to another.

We try to strike a balance and make sure we're getting in a lot of life learning opportunities while staying on top of our schoolwork.  Today's compromise worked beautifully! I had no idea how much work we could get done in less than 2 hours!

Traditional Schoolwork: 

    Evan:  We filled in another page in his Hold That Thought for Kids book and then he worked quietly on finding domino doubles.  He picked out the domino doubles that matched the answer on his printout.  At one point he could not find 9 + 9 for the 18 slot but told me it must be three rows of three since that was 9.  I was impressed!   He then worked on another 4 pages in his phonics book.  He filled in the missing words in the sentences and then read them all to me.  He's so excited that he only has 7 pages left.  He asked me to read a book with a him and chose Biscuit Wins a Prize.  His reading is coming along so nicely now.  Last night at bedtime he picked up the book Mice on Ice and read it through to me.  We had never read that book before but he really enjoyed the word family/ rhyming text and the short sentences.

Evan's completed work 
Alec: Worked on two pages in his math book.  He worked on finding the cubic volume and reading charts to answer questions. After math he went to get ready for the day and read Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and their Parents.  Alec worked on a part of a lesson in his Verbal Math book with me and then wrote 5 sentences about his best friend.  I couldn't believe we found a writing topic that didn't get ANY grumbling!  He also read aloud the rest of the Harry Potter chapter that we had started last night.
Ian:  worked with me in the Verbal Math book.  We also completed two pages in his fractions book.  He also wrote 5 sentences about his best friend (without complaining!).  Ian decided to plant his orange seeds and see if he could grow (or start to grow) an orange tree.  He pulled out a plastic cup and some potting soil and decided to give it a try.    I loved this self- guided science experiment.

Field trip to the Ecotarium: 

Once there we had a great time and spent over 4 hours exploring, reading, learning and playing.

We went to see the otters, the bald eagles, and the barred owls as soon as we arrived.  The otter was sleeping (and we were dismayed to only see one; we're still uncertain if the Ecotarium lost one since we were there last) and so we decided to try and check back later.

 Ian enjoyed playing with the time elapsed camera of the drive up Mount Washington, Evan jumped from rock to rock and tried his hand at their rock wall.  Alec played with fog and the effects of mountains and valleys on fog. They all enjoyed the wind tunnel and trying to alter the direction of the wind.

Blown away!

We headed to the bottom floor and found ourselves in Keva heaven.

We have a few boxes of these blocks but they had mountains of them!  There were many displays around of professionally set up designs, there were challenge cards, illustrations of architecture, art, and even more Keva designs.

We all started building.

Ian wanted to make a tower that was taller than me.  I thought that might prove to be to challenging but I was wrong.  He ended up with a tower that was, in fact, taller than me.

Alec had fun making patterns with his building.  Evan, whose more intimidated by these blocks stuck to simple structures like squares and made a rectangular portal of power for his Skylanders.  He helped his brothers here and there and cleaned up blocks left behind by other kids who had been playing.

When the boys were all done they wanted to measure their towers with measuring tapes. We converted the inches measurements to feet and inches-- all self guided!   Ian's tower was 6 ft 3 in. tall and Alec's was 1 ft 17 in.   The older boys then decided to use the blocks to spell out their names near their buildings.  All three boys took turns using my camera to capture our fun and I was impressed with how well their photography skills are developing too!

 Later in the day they saw another tower that they thought might have been taller than Ian's tower (which had since been destroyed) so they took the tape measures again and measured the new tower.  They figured out that it was a good foot shorter than Ian's tower.

Starting his structure 

Evan's creations 

Evan measures himself against  Ian's building 

Evan photographing Alec hard at work 

Alec wanted to photograph the INSIDE of his tower; it did look pretty neat!

Ian takes my picture with his tower; it's taller than me! 

Alec offered to take a picture of both of us
with the tower 

Measuring the building 

We went to a room with dioramas of animals.  We've been in the room many times and my boys have made up their own game to play.

Near the animals there is a board that lights up and labels all the animals and a few of the planets shown in each depiction.  They like to take turns quizzing each other to find each of the animals and plants.

It's pretty tough too since many of the animals are not commonly known.  We stopped to see the perpetual motion machine, watch the time elapsed camera on the crab tank, and watch the staff care for the ferrets.

We took a break to eat lunch and ended up learning right through lunch too!  We pulled out the map to see what was new since our last visit and saw that there was a new planetarium show called Mysteries of the Unseen World.

Not knowing what that was, since the description was vague, we looked it up on my phone.  We spent the lunch hour checking out all the different electron microscope pictures on my phone trying to figure out what they were.
After lunch we found these iPod's that were connected to these special cards.  When you scan the cards they show a hugely magnified portion of the picture.  You can zoom in further, zoom out a bit, rotate the object and read about it.

It went along with the new planetarium movie and the boys were intrigued with them and tried out every picture.  We explored the rest of the second floor playing with heat thermals, watched the parrot, checked out the painted dome ceiling, and looked at the plants and animals on display.

Add caption
 We saw that it was close to a presentation on snakes and sat down to enjoy it.  The boys all had a lot of fun learning about snakes.

They talked about how to handle snakes, the different types of snakes, the difference between poisonous and venomous, how snakes smell, and many more facts about snakes and reptiles.  The question of snakes in Hawaii and Alaska came up and Alec asked me to look it up on Google.  He shared what he learned with the whole room at the end of the show using the microphone.

Alec, of course, impressed the three presenters so much they stopped me to talk to me after the show.

He had many unanswered questions after the show and spent the next 20 minutes walking around using Google on my phone to find out the answers.  We discovered that there are no native snakes in Alaska (which is what he thought).  And then spent a bit more time reading about the three types of snakes found in Hawaii.

stretching out the snakeskin model of the largest
snake ever found 

We finished up the entire inside of the building and headed out to see the rest of the animals.

We saw the foxes and owls and decided to try one last time to see if the otters were out.  The otter was out and was playing in the snow; burrowing under the snow, popping up, sliding down the hills, making chirping noises and diving under the water and under the ice.

We observed the ice from the underside and watched the otter suck up air bubbled that get trapped under the ice as he swam around.  We guessed he did that to allow himself to stay under the ice longer.

the otter was so playful 

sliding down the hill 

Look at that cute otter face! 

On the ride home, Alec asked to use my phone and Google one last time.  He wanted to read about the world's longest snake (since they had laid out a model of the snake skin but the lady knew next to nothing about it).

He read most of it out loud and I was blown away by the ease with which he read words like metabolic temperature, exothermic, ambient temperature without pausing or stumbling.  He wasn't sure what metabolic and ambient meant so he asked me but he sure knew how to read them.

All in all we did a good job balancing schoolwork with field trip learning; but looking back they sure learned more from the field trip than they did from their traditional schoolwork.

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