Growing Every Day

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Antarctica – a frozen field trip

Princess has been studying the continents and oceans.  The continent of study last week was Antarctica.  I have been using a well put together unit entitled It’s a Small World by Molly Lynch.  Mostly, I try to use free resources I find around the web, but this unit I would purchase again in a heartbeat.  Builder went through this unit a couple of years ago, and is having fun going through it again with Princess.

small-world

Back to Antarctica…

We went over the information in the unit regarding Antarctica.  Since there is not a population to speak of, we concentrated on mostly the animals and the ice!  We took a look at all the different kind of animals that live there.  We watched The Magic School Bus episode In the Arctic.  (I know it’s not the Antarctic, but the info translates!)  This gave a lot of information as to the adaptations of animals to live in such a cold harsh environment.  The unit mentioned above has a fun experiment using shortening in between two zipper sealed sandwich bags to make “blubber gloves” which allows you to keep your hand in ice water for quite a long while.  We didn’t have enough shortening on hand so we did a few different activities.

We used Google Earth to zoom in and take a look at Antarctica.  The free part of Google Earth is all we use and is enough for us.  It really helps Princess bring into perspective where the continents are and get a “real life” look at the different environments.  She has had a blast investigating the earth.  Now, when she colors the continent on her worksheet she wants to see it on Google Earth so that she can color it correctly!

After exploring with Google Earth, Princess and Builder did some ice excavation!  I had prepared two containers with objects placed in water and frozen it for a few hours.  So the kids used pipettes and syringes with warm water to melt their ice blocks.  Builder decided they needed forks (a.k.a. pick axes) to explore and excavate as well.  I placed the ice blocks in a larger tray so that as it melted the water was contained.  This gave us a chance to talk about what would happen if all of Antarctica melted.

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They had a blast with this activity and went on to create two more of their own ice blocks.  So much fun!

Your Turn ~ What activities/units have you enjoyed doing more than once?

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Soap and Shaving Cream

It is so nice when those days come that things actually work!

This, for me, is a lovely thing mainly in the realm of science and crafts.  I am learning that most of the time, simpler is better.  The simpler the experiment the more chance it will work as it should.  The simpler the craft the more chance it will actually look like the example!

I must say, I am also learning that those two things don’t matter as much as I thought they did.  So we have to modify a craft to make it work…ok.  So the science experiment doesn’t work as it should, or not at all…ok, we can still learn from it.

In this homeschool process, I am being molded and stretched as much if not more than my kiddos.

With M2 (my youngest, 3-year-old daughter), we have started doing an “unofficial” letter of the week focus.  Lately, she is getting “bored” more and more, so we needed to do a few more “structured” learning activities to help challenge her.  One of the success projects comes from this letter focus.

Some time back, I happened upon a free preschool letter of the week curriculum – Look What I Can Do! Preschool Curriculum.  It is in e-book format and in my opinion it is nothing fancy.  Personally, I wouldn’t pay $20 for it, but if you can nab it for free or at a discount, it is worth it.  It helps me to have a letter schedule to follow for each week.  I have learned that it is easier to change a curriculum than to start from scratch and come up with my own.  So, I have been following their letter schedule, but skipping some activities and adding others.

The first successful activity for the day involved soap “exploding” in the microwave.  The letter focus of the week was ‘S’ so we called it Soap Science.  This is one of the activities listed in the curriculum mentioned above.

Successful Activity #1:  Soap Science

materials needed: medium or large glass bowl, knife, bar of IVORY soap, microwave, sensory bin (optional)

Step 1:  take all paper off the bar of IVORY soap

Step 2:  cut bar of soap into 3 or 4 pieces and place in glass bowl

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Step 3:  place in microwave and heat for 1.5 – 2 minutes

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Step 4:  let your kids watch and be amazed

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The soap will be too hot to handle at first.  After the soap cools, it has a really neat crumbly texture so we added it to our sensory bin for the kids to explore.  We ended up doing three bars of soap and had a decent amount to play with in the bin.

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You can find this experiment on YouTube here.  Note:  On the YouTube video she uses a paper plate.  I found a glass bowl does much better at containing the expanding soap.

I will say that the only thing I would warn about is the strong smell of the soap in the sensory bin.  If you or your kiddos are smell sensitive, be ready for a strong aroma.

A great extension for this activity would be to use other brands of soap and observe/compare how much or how little the different soaps expand.  (Evidently, the soap expands due to the content of air in the bar.  The air heats up and expands, causing the soap to “grow”.)

Our other successful activity comes from M1’s (my oldest, 5-year-old son) science unit.  He is studying Jupiter and over at It’s A Boy’s Life,they made a fun paper Jupiter using liquid starch and food coloring.  I didn’t have any liquid starch on hand, so I used food coloring, shaving cream, and white cardstock.

Successful Activity #2:  Shaving Cream Jupiter

Materials needed:  pie pan (or something to contain the shaving cream), shaving cream, food color (we used brown, red, yellow, for Jupiter colors), white cardstock cut into a circle, ruler, parchment paper or cookie sheet (something to scrape shaving cream onto), pencil or something to stir with

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materials needeed

Step 1:  fill pie pan with shaving cream and level off

Step 2:  put a few drops of each food coloring onto shaving cream

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shaving cream with food color

Step 3:  stir the colors to make a fun pattern (we use this time to talk about how Jupiter is a windy planet, and they can pretend to be the wind)

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a windy planet

Step 4:  press firmly (but not too hard) the cardstock circle onto the colored shaving cream.  I like to rub my fingers over the paper to make sure the color is adhering to every part of the paper.

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forgot to take a picture of the circle being pressed into the shaving cream, we used the scrap pieces as well

Step 5:  lift cardstock circle off the shaving cream

Step 6:  place the cardstock circle on the parchment paper and use ruler to scrape off shaving cream

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scrape off shaving cream

And now you have your Jupiter!

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M1’s Jupiter

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M2’s Jupiter

The color adheres immediately and will not smudge or smear.  Here is a YouTube video that can also help…click here.

These were really great activities that captured the kids (and my) imagination and creativity.  Not everyday is like this in our little homeschool, however, when it happens it is a marvelous thing.

 

 

P-Week, Passover

One thing I remember and adore about the ten years teaching in the public school system is all the times I remember seeing the Lord Himself leading my lessons.  He came as words of explanation I never would have thought of, lesson plans that tied together when I didn’t plan ahead that way, or words spoken to a student that you could tell went straight to their heart and soul.

These were beautiful moments.

Up until now, I haven’t really had that type of experience.  This “jumping in” year has been a lot of wading through days to find our identity as students and teacher.  Don’t get me wrong, the Lord has helped me tremendously in sorting through paradigm shifts in my thinking and expectations.  He has definitely been present in that way.

This week has been different.

Come Monday of this week I was already two steps behind.  I only had Monday and Tuesday mostly planned, with hopes that I would have time to finish planning the rest of the week (insert hysterical laughter here).  As expected, I didn’t have time to finish planning so it has been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of week.  Our printer stopped working and our math units are primarily printed out.  This almost sent me to a place of annoyance and frustration until the Lord reminded me that people have been learning long before printers were around!  We have also started doing a Letter-a-Week focus for Madison (3 yrs).  Lately, she has been trying to find things to do and so I have been having letter activities waiting in the wings.

Not a hard thing, just one more thing.

This Letter-a-Week focus is where the Lord showed His presence just like I had experienced in the past.  I picked a random letter order from something I found online.  This week’s letter is P.  So I set up our sensory bin with P objects, had some ‘pig’ and ‘pumpkin’ crafts ready and waiting.  All well and good.  It took me a couple of days to realize we were also making daily crafts to celebrate Passover.  Hello, the ultimate ‘P’ focus.  Since the printer is not working and the plans were not made, there have been days this week where all we do is focus on the Passover crafts.  The entire time we have been making these crafts, I have seen how the Lord had this week set in all of time and history…

our own personal P-week focus…Passover

I was contemplating how to teach my kiddos about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I tossed around thoughts of focusing on each day leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  I just wasn’t sure, so I decided to ask the Lord!  He told me to focus on Passover, including letting the kids know that Jesus died and raised during Passover.  He told me that if I focus on teaching Passover, when the time comes to focus on explaining Jesus’ journey to the cross and tomb, it will be that much richer, make so much more sense, and be effortlessly internalized.

Passover is the framework on which the crucifixion and resurrection are built.

So, I found this great Passover craft at Creative Jewish Mom website that showed different placards for each of the plagues leading up to and including the Passover.  We didn’t have dow rods or pipe cleaners so we went with tongue depressors and construction paper.  We did two plagues a day and read the account each day from their Beginner’s Bible.

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1st plague – water to blood; 2nd plague – frogs

 

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3rd plague – gnats; 4th plague – flies

We changed the fourth placard from the website.  There is debate over the Hebrew word used for this plague.  Some interpret it to mean “mixed or swarm of wild beasts” while others interpret it as “swarms of flies”.  Since the Bibles we have read flies, that is what I went with, informing the kids why we changed.

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5th plague – Egyptian animals died; 6th plague – Egyptian skin broke out in sores

I also changed up the 5th plague just a tad.  She had pictured an elephant upside down, however when reading the account it doesn’t mention elephants.  So, we went with a horse/donkey.

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7th plague – hailstorm

*We are working on completing the 8th-10th plagues.  I will add the photos when we finish.

They had a lot of fun acting out the plagues with their placards each time we read the account.  It has been a lot of fun, and I have learned along the way as well.  Always.

First Day of School

When I was teaching in the public school setting, the first day of school was always looked on with great anticipation and excitement.  New supplies, fresh faces, all new possibilities for the year.  It was also accompanied with a multitude of preparations – decorate room, make sure all papers needed were copied, start learning names, PowerPoint presentations completed, etc.

The first week was not my favorite.

Yes, I enjoyed getting to know the kids.  I enjoyed helping them find their way around the building, but not so much the policies and procedures.  The fact that we had to spend the first 4 or 5 days getting used to school routines and classroom procedures never got better for me.  I just wanted to jump into the learning process.

As our first day of home schooling approached, I realized it was my dream come true!  We didn’t have to do policies and procedures!  I didn’t have to spend time “training”  Mason to get a tissue by himself or sharpen his pencil as needed, or how to properly check out of the classroom to go to the bathroom.

I was free!

We could get right to learning all about Forces and Motion, US symbols, skip counting, and silent e words.  I thought about the day and how it would be full of learning and increase of knowledge.  Then a thought hit…

This is the first of a first.

All of a sudden, I realized this was the first, first day of my son’s school journey.  We couldn’t go through the day without celebrating and having some fun to commemorate this amazing day.  However, this epiphany came to me the night before, of course.  So my brain began to reel…What should we do?  Do we do any work?  How do I make this special?  Enter Google and Pinterest.  Hello, where would we be without these beauties.

At the same time that the internet helps, it can also hinder.  In just a few minutes I was swimming in a wealth of homeschoolers first day traditions, more confusion.  Then I calmed myself down and remembered one of the lessons I have already learned regarding teaching/learning at home:  whatever we do it needs to be totally and completely “us”.  This helped me begin to weed out activities, resulting in a half plan that I trusted would fill itself in as we went forward the next day.  Here is a bit of what our first day looked like:

Breakfast

Mason loves doughnut shops so I planned to start our celebration by visiting his favorite.  He surprised me by requesting to go through a different drive-thru doughnut shop, but it was his day and that was easier anyway!

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Not so healthy, very yummy!

School Supplies

I wanted to have a fun basket of school supplies waiting for him on the table when he woke up.  That didn’t happen, so we decided to go and buy school supplies together.  We all had a blast and I believe a First Day of School tradition was started.

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A fun find.

Socks!!!

Picking out school supplies didn’t really take that long.  Since we start our school year in July, I knew there would be great sales coming after public school started.  So, we grabbed a few basics and a couple fun items as well.  Wandering around Wal-Mart we came upon some Angry Bird socks that Mason thought were the coolest.  Aaaannnd, another new tradition was created…fun new socks on the First Day of School.  (P.S. I love fun crazy socks, so this was perfect!)

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Woot! Fun socks!

All About Me

I really liked the idea of this four page packet “About Me”.   At this point, it is probably more for me than Mason.  However, doing this at the beginning of every school year, I am betting it will be fun to look back on these when he is a Senior.  We did one page a day for the First Week of School.  I’m sure it will become a one day project as he gets older.

All About Me - blog

Click Here to find download

 

Yummy Graphing

This was a fun little graphing project that I had seen on one of the First Day tradition websites.  Of course, they loved eating the manipulatives at the end.  This was fun, but I’m not sure that it will end up in the “tradition” category.

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Click Here to download

 

Overall we had a wonderful first day.  I’m sure our First Day of School traditions will morph through the years, but I feel this was a great start.  I am very glad that we took our first, first day of school to celebrate instead of hitting the books right away.  I thank the Lord that he placed that seed of a thought in my mind the night before our First Day of School.

Science Session 1

Science…not my favorite.

That may be an unfair statement. As a child, I was never really interested in science class, but I was always asking my Dad questions about the world, be it nature, mathematics, computers, etc.  Looking back this is more science than I realized.  The ability to formulate questions,  test those questions, and find answers is science – from there you have scientific topics.  However, they are all based on asking questions, testing, and finding answers about the world around us.  Therefore, I believe we are all “into” science at some point – whether it be physical science, life science, or social science.  We are all constantly observing that which is around us in the world and trying to make sense of it and the intricate interactions that happen every second of every day.

Now, curriculum…

As mentioned in the previous post, Dream and Provision, I am not always the most frugal.  However, I also understand that finding those freebie gems and discounted goodies is a wonderful thing.  And so, my first science unit came from a discounted science bundle (I believe through educents.com).  It was a bundle that came with four or five separate science units.  One of which is a Kindergarten/1st grade level unit on Force and Motion by Christina DeCarbo.

Forces and Motion snap

Click the Pic to Preview

I have organized our lessons into a weekly focus and then also into lessons for the day.  This way I can follow the days in succession even if we get a little “flowy” with the week schedule.  We are planning on three days of science a week.  The following list is an abbreviated version of what we are doing throughout the week. If you are interested in the daily, more detailed notes comment on this post or email me at thelearningleaf.mail@gmail.com.  I have not gone into detail on some of the activities in order to honor copyright of the unit purchased.  All I can say, is that I believe it is a very worthwhile investment.

Week One – Motion, Force, Push/Pull, Directions

  • define motion, force, push/pull, direction (spread out throughout the week)
  • Play “Red Light, Green Light”, but use the wording “At Rest, In Motion”
  • Push/Pull several objects around the house, observe and record what happens with each object
  • Go to the playground to see what equipment requires pushing or pulling
  • Go outside and have students exhibit different directions an object can move (i.e. zig-zag, diagonal, circular, straight, etc)

Week Two – Energy, Work, Friction, Roll/Slide

  • Experiment with several household items, (hot wheels, paper clips, a small box, etc), to see which items roll and which items slide.
  • Ramp Fun to focus on the subject of energy.  Build ramps (using books and a ruler or something the like) and experiment with different height ramps to see the differences in how far the object goes.
  • Define friction, use ramps with different surfaces to explore the concept of friction (wood ruler, sandpaper covered ramp, towel over the ramp, etc)

Week Three – Motion/Forces Review

  • “Motion Mania Mission” – an activity from the Froces and Motions unit mentioned above – several small quick activities to revisit the concepts of motion, force, push/pull, direction, energy, work, friction, roll/slide
  • Motion Memory – cards with pictures representing these concepts, cards are placed face down and the standard “concentration game” is played to find matches.
  • Push/Pull website – click here to view
  • Balloon Rockets – a fun activity to experience the “pushing force” of thrust.

Week Four – Assessment and Gravity

  • Push/Pull assessment – pretty informal to see what has been retained (included in unit)
  • Introduction to Gravity – video of astronaut Chris Hadfield – this video is of making a peanut butter sandwich in space.  If you go to YouTube and search for “Canadian astronaut”, you will find many different fun videos of Chris in space.
  • Gravity Art – a fun marble and canvas art with a focus on gravity in as much as the marble rolls down because it is always being pulled to the earth.
  • Gravity Art II – Ramp Racing Art , again focusing on the force that is pulling the cars toward the earth
  • Play with water balloons throwing them and watching for the point that the force of gravity begins to overcome the pushing force from your arm.

Week Five – Magnets

  •  Defying Gravity Shoe Box trick – (showing that gravity is a force that can be worked against by other forces)
  • Sensory bin – I am using a rubbermaid box filled with rice and objects that are both magnetic and non-magnetic, they will record that which is magnetic.
  • “House Hunting” – will explore the house with magnets to see what is magnetic (staying away from computers, phones, tablets, etc).  I will actually give the kids a camera to take pics of the magnetic and non-magnetic objects to place on this magnet mobile.
  • explore magnets attracting and repelling
  • use a Filing Viewer to observe the difference in the magnetic field when magnets attract and when they repel.

Week Six – Magnets

  • Magnet races – using magnets on top of table controlled by magnet under table to complete a course.
  • Magnet art – I will probably use a thin cardboard box, unless I can find some plexiglass in the garage!
  • Inspector Magnet – from the Magnet Mini Unit by Casey Dawson
  • Magnet Mini Book – which I will create closer to time and then post a link here!

 Extra Resources:

  • Motion/Force Children’s Books –
  1. Motion: Push and Pull, Fast and Slow
  2. Push and Pull (Rookie Read-About Science)
  3. Move It!: Motion, Forces, and You (Primary Physical Science)
  4. What is Friction (Rookie Read-About Science)
  5. And Everyone Shouted, “Pull” : A First Look at Forces and Motion
  • Gravity/Magnet Children’s Books –
  1. Gravity is a Mystery
  2. Magnets:  Pulling Together, Pushing Apart (Amazing Science)
  3. What Magnets Can Do (Rookie Read-About Science)

And now, Social Studies…

 

Dream and Provision

Before sharing what is planned in science for our first six week session, I would like to share with you some inspiration I received from the Lord this week.

ID-10092577I am by no means frugal.  I don’t spend frivolously; I simply don’t strive to find the best deal.  I am not a shopper at heart and that seems to carry over into the cyber world. When I find what I want, I simply want to purchase it and be done.  In the world of blogging where there are so many “frugal homeschool” posts, I have been tempted to feel guilty at outright purchasing a piece of curriculum, unit, or activity.

This is where God placed together two words for me…

dream and provision

It is truly a dream of mine to have the honor and privilege of educating my children. When I think about it free from fear and anxiety, my spirit jumps with excitement and anticipation.  I look forward not only to teaching my children, but to what we will learn together.   What the Lord showed me this week is that it is also His dream for me to educate my children!  Wow.  This was an amazing and over-the-top thought.  I had never really stopped to think what it is that God felt about this adventure.  I was simply worried about the right or wrongness of it.

Was it His plan?

I had asked that question, but had only been waiting for an approval or disapproval.  I hadn’t stopped to seek Father’s heart on the matter.

When God showed me this was His dream as well as mine, a shared dream, I began to see the tie with the other word…provision.  I had received this teaching earlier, but had not connected it with our homeschooling journey.  Breaking apart the word provision:  Pro – in favor of, and vision – goal, destiny, or dream.  God will fund His visions, His dreams.  When we walk in line with Him, He is our provision because He is for His vision that we are walking out.  He will provide.

He is pro vision.

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*Image courtesy of Michael Elliott / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Path of Grace

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The closer July 7th, the more excited I am becoming.  At first, I was simply overwhelmed with all that “needed” to be done to be ready for the fist session of school.  Then with some leading from the Lord in how to take it step-by-step, it got better.

In the past few weeks, the difficulty has been lies from the devil along the lines of…

“You have to get this perfect.  If you make a mistake

you are ruining your child and his education.”

This is a nasty, yucky lie that pulls on the very core of my emotions.  After all, I want to get it right.  I want it to be exactly what it needs to be.  With all the lies, emotions, anxieties swimming around in my head and heart, I cried out to the Lord for some encouragement.  Sometimes in life you just need to be encouraged.  A physical or spiritual pat on the back.  This came from a beautiful friend who I respect very much when it comes to early childhood education.  She read my last post and left the following comment:

You can do this!!!  God has your curriculum covered in His grace.

Of course!  God’s grace!  This revelation and reminder shattered through the fog swirling in and around me.  I had been caught up in the lies and forgotten about God’s grace!!!  These beautiful words from the Lord through my friend have come to me time and time again as I continue to decide upon curriculum.  Truly I can settle on a curriculum because the Lord will lead us through it and show us how to step out of the plans, when His plans supersede the “planned curriculum”.

Bottom line – I hear from the Lord and the Lord moves in and with me and my children.  Period.  So you know what, I think we got this.

Onto Science Session One…

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