Friday, December 30, 2011

Mt. Vernon, George Washington's Home

A couple of weeks ago we lucky to be able to take a trip to see George Washington's home, Mt. Vernon. It was a full day and the kids were asleep by the time we got home with the hours of walking we did (and the warm, cozy car ride home!) I hadn't ever been there, but we were impressed with all there was to do there. The museum was wonderful. I love that hands-on learning!

Slave Cabin and the interior (below)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Astronomy Unit: The Moon (Day 2)

On this day we read about the Moon and did the lapbook components to add to our science notebook. What's perfect about these lapbooks for us right now is the writing is not overwhelming and  reinforces the main points we've gone over.  We used the Moon -- Speedy Lapbook by Homeschool Bits (which was on sale for 25cents).

Moon Craters: Our activity that day was to talk about why the surface of the moon has so many craters.

We made a play dough like surface and covered it with aluminum foil. Then we got some marbles and fired our "meteors" at the "surface of the moon."

We looked at some actual photos of the craters on the moon and read a bit more about it too.  The kids liked this activity!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Astronomy Unit: The Moon (Day 1)

 The moon is very far away (225,622 miles to 252,088 miles depending on its position in its elliptical orbit around the Earth). NASA had to be very careful about the calculations they made to send someone to the moon especially since the moon is a moving target.  In this activity, the kids are trying to hit the moon (a nut suspended on a string) that is swinging back and forth. They found it very difficult to hit the moving target!
We set up a bright lamp (our sun) and DD is moving the ping-pong ball around the earth (orange).  Meanwhile LD is slowly moving the earth/orange around the sun/lamp.
 Objects appear larger, the closer they are to you:
In this activity we showed that our hand can block out the entire wall on the other side of the room from top to bottom even though our hand is much smaller than the wall itself. This is what the moon does when it blocks out the sun in an eclipse.  The moon is smaller, but closer to Earth.
Now the kids are blocking out the orange with the smaller ping-pong ball.
The umbra and penumbra: We set an orange under our bright light and looked at the shadow.  There was a darker shadow (umbra) and a lighter shadow (penumbra).  Then we took turns showing where the penumbra starts (the pencil is not actually touching the orange, but in the picture it looks like it is). Then below we took notes for our science notebook (below is mine)...
We drew pictures of the sun and showed how there was a small area where light got through with a bit of light (penumbra) and only a small portion where the sunlight couldn't pass at all (umbra).

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Since we are taking a couple of weeks off, I have some posts scheduled to post automatically.  I'll be sharing more pictures of our astronomy unit on Wednesday and then over the course of the next week or so. Today, though I wanted to come on and wish you all
Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year.
Each evening at dinner, our family takes a few moments in silence to be thankful. Then we go round the table and each talk about what we're most thankful for.  The kids often come up with the sweetest things... "I'm thankful for the sun." or "I'm thankful for the picture Abby (a friend) gave me." Well my blogging friends, I am very thankful for the blogging community. I'm very thankful for all the ideas that are shared so freely.  I'm looking forward to another wonderful year of learning, exploring, growth and new memories. And to all of  you, all the best for a great New Year!  ~ Liesl
P.S. Hubby got me an Ipod nano this Christmas and I've been downloading lots of podcasts from Itunes. Does anyone have any great recommendations of podcasts... I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the choices!! I like listening to things when I'm in cleaning/clean up mode so I'm pretty excited about my new toy. :)

Oh and on the gift topic... My girls received dolls from Santa. Personally I don't much like Barbies, but Santa scrounged up the beautiful Madame Alexander dolls of my childhood and left one each for them (around $30 on ebay). The best thing is that when I was little my Auntie Barbara made lots and lots of doll clothes for my "Liesl, Sound of Music" doll (the doll with the striped apron in the bottom right picture below).  So my girls should have a lot of fun dressing their new dolls up. DD is also keen to learn to sew, so we may give doll-dress-making a go!  DD got 'Cinderella' (left) and ED got 'Alice in Wonderland' (blue dress). Alice was what my older sister had when she was little.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Crafts

 This is by far my favorite craft we did this year!  You glue toothpicks onto a star (cut out from cardboard or poster board).  Then you spray paint it with gold paint and glue a toilet-paper roll on the back.  Easy and quite beautiful!

 DD loved the cardinal art lesson from Art Projects for Kids.

Below the kids made a few ornaments for the tree this year: little reindeers, a candy-cane God's eye and various sun catcher ornaments.

Sun-catcher Ornament
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Astronomy Unit: Inner and Outer Planets, The Asteroid Belt

We seem to talk about the planets about once a year, don't we?  This time we did a little activity that showed the four inner, rocky planets, the asteroid belt and the four outer planets, the gas giants.
In this picture you can see that the asteroid belt has two layers as well!
We did the inner and out planets speedy lapbook by homeschool bits (25cents) -- and even ED was into the cutting/pasting!

We also did the asteroid speedy lapbook. It was the perfect amount of writing for my two -- and it reinforced some of the basic information we had covered. We added those pages into our science notebook.
We also did a couple activities. One was a TOTAL flop (showing the elliptical orbits and how sometimes Neptune is the farthest planet)... except that I couldn't get it to work 5 of the 6 times we did it!  The activity above shows how an object in motion (the suspended nut) moved in the same direction despite being rotated on the lazy susan.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Astronomy Unit: Refraction, Vacuum, Saturn's Rings

The kids have been begging for some hands-on science experiments. I have a bigger unit planned, but since December and January will be a bit broken up as far as our schooling goes, I decided to delve into a short unit with lots of experiments based on one of Janice VanCleave's books (202 Oozing, Bubbling, Dripping, Bouncing, Experiments) and lots of notebook/lapbook pages from Homeschool Bits. Here's some of what we've been up to so far:

1. Bent Light - Refraction
We placed a penny in two cups and poured water in one cup.  Then we put a pencil on the ground when we couldn't see the penny any more.  For all three of us we could see the penny that was in water longer than the one with air.  We talked about "refraction" and LD made a great connection to Brian in Hatchet who tried and tried to spear a fish unsuccessfully. Finally, he realized the water made the fish appear in a different spot and he was able to spear them.
We measured the distance between the pencils for the three of us.  For me it was 6 1/4 inches, for LD it was 5 1/4 inches and for DD it was 4 1/4 inches. We talked about why that was the case (the differences in our heights and the angle of our eyes to the penny).

The kids all wrote down a few key words for each science experiment to put in their science notebook.  I thought it was lovely that ED demanded a paper and wanted to write letters on her sheet as well. She was so diligent!
2. Vacuum as a Heat Shield
This experiment also led to some fascinating discussion.  We boiled some water and checked the temperature. Then we poured some of the water in a thermos and some in a cup.
Next we talked about the vacuum in space and the fact that it is very cold.
I explained to the kids that the thermos had a partial vacuum.  Then I asked the kids to predict which water would cool down more quickly.
LD predicted the thermos would cool quickly because space (the vacuum of space) is so cold.  DD predicted the water in the cup would cool more quickly.
We went on to our last experiment and came back 15 minutes later to check the temperature.  The water in the thermos was nearly the same as it was originally while the water in the cup had cooled significantly. We talked about the fact that space is a poor conductor and thus acts as a heat shield whereas metal (we felt the end of the thermometer is a good conductor, transferring heat easily).
 3. Saturn's Rings
We have gone over the planets numbers of times in our homeschooling adventures here.  Today we reviewed the planets, their locations and sizes.

We got a piece of paper with two circles on it (the inner one for the planet, the outer one for the field of debris icy particles and rocks, that encircles Saturn). They sprinkled sand evenly on the paper. Then the kids placed the end of a Popsicle stick down which represented one of Saturn's moon. I turned the tray around and we watched as the sand was pushed away. Scientists believe the moons push the icy particles around into separate bands which make the separate rings of Saturn.

Last year we did a hands-on unit on Earth Science if you want to see some of the activities we did related to that.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Preschool Life

I feel like I haven't written a long post about ED's preschool work in forever. That's because she's been such an integral part of all our latest activities. She did all the owl crafts in our forest unit, did the dissection of the owl pellet. She takes notes and writes out her letters when the kids are taking notes on their science activities. She gets her own lapbook pages and carefully cuts things out.  (I'll be posting about our astronomy unit over the next couple of weeks.) She's right in there doing all our experiments and INSISTS (I say with a smile!) on being a part of everything!  She is right there snuggling with Mom to read during independent reading time. We tend to go over letters and letter sounds while snuggling (not as a separate activity at the moment) because we're spending a lot of time "SMASHING" sounds together (with a dramatic clap... "kuh..."--"Aaaa...ttttt"" "CAT!") All that makes for very dry posts I suppose!
So here is ED diligently writing out the answers on this science page. I tell her the letter (sometimes remind her what it looks like) and she writes them down!

Some of the time ED just finds her own things to do.  At this moment I was playing  Bump-Division with LD.  ED took the erasers and carefully separated them all into different categories!

ED also has her own black notebook. She LOVES coloring pages and I keep that topped up (as much as I can!) with new pages. So, when the others grab their spelling, science or math notebooks, ED also runs over to check out what's new in her 3-ring binder! I love the bright colors she uses. Below is a collage of some of her latest creations.  In fact, just this morning she was coloring the two new "pokemon" coloring pages in the bottom  left of the picture!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Forest Unit (3rd Post): Owl Lapbook

 Often while I'm reading aloud (in this case we're still reading Little House in the Big Woods) I have the kids working on other things. A few days ago I had them cut out the pieces of a quick owl lapbook (All Owls, a 50cent lapbook by homeschool bits). It had great tidbits of information, reinforcing all we had read last week.  They put it together and were so excited to share all they knew with Dad when he got home!

I should add that even though there aren't any pictures ED worked just as hard cutting out the lapbook parts and making her own lapbook!

Excuse the misspelling :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Themed Math Downloads

Find the missing addend activity:
Do you ever get attitude when you do certain subjects with your kids?? For some reason, LD has been reluctant to do math from one of his books.  Playing games has turned that attitude around (for the time being) and he's really done some great math work in the past couple of weeks. (We start with games like our beloved Speed! Multiplication Game, the division games I made a couple of weeks ago or these new ones, then continue on to book work). Anyway, this is another activity he did quickly in this form -- yet on paper... oh my, you'd think he was in the dentist's chair! So I hope someone else finds this helpful.

You can download your own copy of the Missing Addend Game here. It's possible I'll add another page of trees and wreaths in a few days. In the mean time I'll make this first page available to those who could use it.
The other math activity I made is mental addition of three two digit numbers.
I hope someone finds them useful.

Double digit addition trees download here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Music Class: Cute Christmas Activities

I run two little music classes (for free) for our friends. We try to meet once a week (though illness, holidays, and travels sometimes gets in the way of that!!) For our music class last Friday we played a cute game that was a huge hit. Two parents made a bridge with their hands. The kids stood in a line and went under the bridge, circling back and going under again. We sang the words below to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down. When we came to the end of the first verse we trapped one of the kids, put a Christmas hat on him/her and moved our arms back and forth giving the child a "ride."  Everyone from the two year old up to my eight year old loved it!  Here are the words I made up:
Santa Claus is coming to town, coming to town, coming to town.
Santa Claus is coming to town. Do you see him?

Here's his cap let's give him a ride, give him a ride, give him a ride.
Here's his cap let's give him a ride, Merry Christmas!

Another thing we did in music class today (for the 4 year olds, not for the 6-8 yr old class) was to pretend to put on ice skates and skate around the room on paper plates. We did this to the Skater's Waltz by Émile Waldteufel (here's how it sounds), but you could choose any pretty music.

We sang lots of Christmas songs. Kididdles has a huge packet of Christmas lyrics and music for kids if you need it; you have to register to download it but it's free to register.  I also loved the simple songs (perfect for preschoolers) from Childcare Land with songs like S-A-N-T-A to the tune of BINGO or Christmas Trees to the tune of the Wheels on the Bus. They were catchy and the kids were able to sing them right off the bat because they were so repetitious. Here's Shelley's Christmas Song Book. Thank you, Shelley!

One thing that has been terrific about our music class (for the older kids) this semester is that at one point during the class, we have a concert. The kids in that class are all learning different instruments (trumpet, piano or glockenspiel). We talk about being respectful listeners, put our instruments in the rest position and each week the kids play a piece for their friends. This week, for example, LD played Jingle Bells on the trumpet while DD played We Three Kings and part of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Wow, has it been a terrific addition to our music class. My kids are so anxious to practice to get ready.  It is so great to see that self-motivation.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spelling: Plurals Game

DD just finished up a lesson on plurals in her spelling program (we use All About Spelling which we love, love, love!).  I saw this game over at First Grade and Fabulous which has the kids decide whether to add an -s or an -es.  We played over and over. It was absolutely perfect timing for us, plus it's really cute!  Thank you so much, Deanne!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Forest Unit: Fabulous Science Activity!

As I mentioned yesterday, we did a lot of reading about owls to lead into the awesome science study on owls!  We talked about the forest food chain (who eats whom) and then I asked them what owls ate. Owls eat mice, voles, snakes and other small animals. They swallow their prey whole and about eight hours later spit out the parts they can't digest in a pellet of fur and bones. We talked and read about this in some detail... and then I brought out owl pellets for them to dissect!  The kids raved and raved about this.  This was one of the highlights of our year so far!

So here are the pics... I was so excited that I took over 40 pictures!
The owl pellet as it was received. By the way, I know I paid a about two dollars per pellet but can't seem to find where I purchased it! Sorry.
Everyone dug right in -- ED was just as engaged and excited as DD and LD!
We were all so excited as various bits of the skeleton emerged. It tied in so perfectly with our earlier studies of (human) bones.  I've had these pellets since the beginning of the school year and it's been so hard to wait!! But, I'm so glad I did because they got so much more out of it having done the other studies first. 

We looked through our mammal book and concluded these were mouse skulls.
The kids were so engaged and it went on so long, they asked me to start reading more about owls.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend doing this. What awesome, hands-on science!
At first I couldn't remember where I got these. Just wanted to add, I'm pretty sure I got my pellets from I got the large ones for $2.95. Here's the link for the large owl pellets.

They have a free bone sorting chart here.

They state at their site: "Owl pellets have been carefully sterilized to ensure safety."