Thursday, March 31, 2011

Geography: Europe board game

We've done a lot with geography of Europe this semester. That's in part because three of our unit studies have focused on Europe -- our world music class, the Middle Ages unit and our fairy tale unit.  I ordered this game back in February, but with the flu and pneumonia descending upon us we never got to it.  We've had a blast with it the past week or so.

Here's the set up. Each player has wooden slots and gets 10 cards which they set in one by one.

There are three discard piles and one pick up pile.

On a player's turn they can pick up a card from any of those four piles.

The official rules say you can't move the cards around. That would be too long and hard for my kids (5 and 7), so the kids move the cards around freely.

The object is to travel through Europe going from country to country in 10 days (10 slots).  You can connect by plane if the countries are the same color. You can also take a ship if that country touches the appropriate water body (the Mediterranean, Baltic or Atlantic Ocean). You have to begin and end in a country (not on a ship or in a plane).

LD won the game and is showing how he made the connections by car, ship and plane.
LD started in Italy took a ship to Portugal, traveled by car to Spain,  took a plane to Austria, took another plane to Belgium and took a ship through the Baltic Sea to Latvia.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spelling: ou, ow word sort

I got this cute word sort mat from Finally in First.  Thank you, Jenn!

There are other cards that address this ou/ow spelling/pronunciation pattern here and  here. Worksheets (like fill in the blank, etc.) that use the oi/ow diphthongs -- here.

Online spelling game with ou/ow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fairy Tale Unit

These are the two fairy tale collections we've been reading from. I strongly recommend the one on the left. The pictures are beautiful and there are more illustrations. The one on the right is good as well, but it's a little more difficult for ED to follow.

**One thing I didn't think to add when I first wrote this post was that we LOVE LOVE LOVE the stories read by Natasha at  You can listen to them free online or you can download them (free) and burn them onto a CD to listen in the car (or wherever) as we do.  It is an AMAZING website (and I love Natasha's voice). I feel like most people must know about it, but if not -- check it out! She has a huge selection of fairy tales, plus Greek myths, Oscar Wilde, Alice in Wonderland, Bible stories, Knights of the Round Table and more.

After reading this story, I taught the kids to braid (a skill we never tackled before) just as Rapunzel's hair was braided for the witch to climb up. LD eventually caught on fairly well. It was harder for DD.  I thought we might do a craft where Rapunzel peaks out of the top of the tower/paper towel roll with her braid draping down the tower.  It was too busy at the end of the week last week, though.

Hansel and Gretel
After reading this story, we decided to make our own a bread crumb trail. We let some time go by just as Hansel and Gretel had to wait for their father and step-mother. Then we tried to find our bread crumb trail and realized just how hard it is  since the bread blends in so well with the leaves, stones and other forest debris.

It took a lot of hunting, but we finally found one lone breadcrumb out in the woods (next to the leaf).  No wonder Hansel and Gretel had such a tough time out there!

The Three Little Pigs Puppet Show
Followed by lots of new fairy tale performances put on by the kids!  In LD's version the knights had a long extended battle!

We've talked about where these fairy tales originated (mostly from England and Germany) and we've been locating them on our map of Europe.  I printed out an outline map from activity village one day to color in some of the countries. We've also been playing a geography game of Europe, but it's such a good game I'll make another separate posting about that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gardening with the Kids

 We have been outside working in the gardens almost every afternoon (for 2-3 hours). This is such a huge part of our life right now, I just had to write a bit about that again.  I thought the girls looked particularly cute yesterday.  Yes, I let my girls garden in velvet dresses!!  They are looking intently for grubs because I mentioned that that they aren't good for the garden.  When I told them they could put the grubs in a jar to see what they turned into they were very excited.  ED was there for well over an hour and found at least 20 grubs!

The kids and I are getting a large vegetable garden ready (we already started some lettuce plants).
Below is a picture of the veggie garden. It was quite beautiful when we moved in last summer, but I had absolutely NO time to do anything about it in the fall.  In fact, it was so hectic and busy when we moved in that many of the beautiful tomatoes and red peppers rotted on the vine. :( This entire garden turned into one giant weed patch.  So, we've had a lot of catch up work this spring.  This photo was taken two weeks ago.  The black cloth is weed cloth to stop weeds from growing in the areas we had worked on.  Now two weeks later, pretty much the entire garden is weed free.
Today I/we finished clearing the weeds out of yet another bed (this picture to the left). The previous owners used it for tomatoes last year.   I think we might use for more berries (raspberries maybe?) since that's less work than a flower or veggie garden.  I can plant the bushes, spread mulch to stop the weeds and then do very little til it's time to drape over the nets.  

We should be getting our fruit trees in a couple of weeks.  We'll be planting two apple trees and a peach tree out on the side yard next to the driveway area.  Last weekend we planted 50 strawberry plants in another bed. 
We came upon this spider (a wolf spider, I think) holding her egg sac.  She fell off the trowel as I was moving her out of the garden onto the trash can lid and dropped her egg sac. She spent a minute or so hunting for her egg sac, then picked it and held it under her body.  We walked out into the woods to let her and her egg sac go (LD had very fond feelings about this spider because we so recently finished reading Charlotte's Web).
Do you garden?  Are you working hard on yours yet or you waiting for slightly warmer weather? I'm curious to see how many of you manage to balance gardening with homeschooling and all the other stuff.  I can tell you that other things have to slide when I'm devoting this much time outside.  But it sure is satisfying to work outside and to watch the kids enjoying the outdoors so much. And at this age, watching Mama spider carry and protect her egg sac is a valuable lesson, right?!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recommended Science Books: "Totally Amazing" Series

 I was telling my friend today how much LD loves this series of books.  We first got a couple of these in a lot/group of science books that we got off of ebay.  But LD loved them so much that I wound up getting them all. There's not a week that goes by that LD doesn't pick up one or two of these to read through. They tend to reside on the kitchen table!! With that kind of enthusiasm I thought they'd be worth mentioning to others with science-loving kids!

Below I included a few close-ups so you could get a feel for the layout. Each book is 32 pages including the index.

The titles include
Totally Amazing...
Sea Creatures
Natural Disasters
Rain Forests
Night Animals

These books have a different title in England.  The series is the "Totally Weird"... Mummies (and so forth).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fairy Tale Unit: The Emperor's New Clothes

Emperor's New Clothes Craft:
Shopping for the Emperor's New Clothes
This activity was a big hit!  I cut out a felt emperor, shirts, pants, shoes, a robe, and a crown.  Each had a set price (see the sheet below). Then I gave the kids $5.00 or $8.00 to go shopping for the emperor.  A great review of money and DD in particular has learned a lot and done this activity again and again!
Prices: shirts $.0.25, pants $.050, a robe $1.25, shoes $1.75, and a crown $2.50

This place value game is from St. Patrick's Day, but DD had strep and so we never got around to it last week.  It's from File Folder Fun.  You take turns choosing a digit and placing it on your board.  Whoever has the largest number in the end wins.
Secret Messages for the Emperor
We made up two solutions to write secret messages and to make the emperor's clothes appear.  The first was equal parts baking soda and water. The second was straight lemon juice.

We spent a long time writing secret messages and also painted clothes on the emperor.

We had read you can use a hair dryer to make the message appear, but this didn't work for us.

So, we placed them in the oven for 3-4 minutes on broil.

Ta-Da!!!  Both methods worked well, but the baking soda became quite dark.

This wasn't as big a hit (grumbling from LD), but we did some story sequencing.  DD put the pictures (from Jack and the Beanstalk and The Emperor's New Clothes) in order and retold the story.  LD had to put the sentence strip in order.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So Many Toads!

The other evening I came home during a thunderstorm.  The toads were covering the road leading to our house. Not one or two, but so many that I couldn't drive the car around them.

I went back a little later and there weren't nearly as many, but still saw at least 50 toads! And saw that even though I was driving about 5mph and swerving wildly from side to side, I squashed more than a half dozen. :(  It's obviously the beginning of mating season as you'll see from the photos.  Fowler toads burrow into the mud/dirt and emerge when the weather warms up .  I know that well since I dug up quite a number last fall when I was creating our blueberry garden!

I invited LD to come out in his pjs to have a quick look.  Boy was it hard to convince him how late it was and that he did indeed need to go to bed!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fairy Tale Unit: Jack and the Beanstalk

Our first fairy tale today was Jack and the Beanstalk.  I set up this felt board the night before and had some coloring pages for ED since she's usually the first one up and she's always ready to dive into the day!  She was more interested in helping me bake...and sample... and mix... and sample!

We made graham crackers and cut them into castle and cottage parts that I hoped we would put together later in the morning for an edible scene. (Here's the graham cracker recipe I use.  We love graham crackers!)
We also made some wholemeal bread rolls -- and shaped one into the shape of a vine.
Once the kids were up, had eaten and the bread was rising, we headed into the schoolroom. I had some sheets with the main characters that they could color as I read the story.  They were very industrious! They were working on parts to a diorama they put together.
While I was reading, ED also did a number of her activities like bean counting (from Confessions of a Homeschooler -- J is for Jellybeans), the letters B and J, not to mention page after page of coloring.
After I read the long (wonderful, descriptive) version, I read this short rhyming version that I got from the Teacherfilebox.  I had taken all the rhyming words, typed them up and printed them out. DD and LD worked together to match up all the words.

They also did quite a bit of writing.  LD had to explain who the villain and hero was (and why).  He also had to write the ending to the story when I explained that after Jack killed the ogre someone notified the police....
Pretty soon we were all really hungry.  We had visions of making a lovely display (the cottage, beans, the vine and the castle), but we ran out of patience.  We all (me included) just wanted to EAT!! So, we propped the graham cracker cottage and castle up with a bread roll, snapped a picture and had tuna melts, fruit and graham crackers with white icing (see the clouds hastily globbed near the castle for the photo???)  for lunch!
I forgot to mention that ED also practiced the letters B and J and made them out of bread dough.

Here are the three dioramas of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack climbs up the  paper towel tube beanstalk. And below are closeups of their projects. 

You might be interested in our Fairy Tale-themed writing paper (over at our new location)

Don't miss this Huge List of Things to Do with Your Preschooler (100+ Activities) It's a free printable!

Other related posts you might be interested in:
Remember our blog has moved to See you again soon!~Liesl

Our next fairy tale is The Emperor's New Clothes.