Sunday, December 26, 2010

Experimenting with PUblic School

I've held the "option" of public school over my daughter's head for some time now. I know it's not totally healthy. When I can't think of anything else to motivate her into action, I would let her know that public school was only a phone call away. That was usually enough to get her busy again.

THen one day, we had an argument. It was fairly poignant. It stung on both sides I think. Something inside me went a little cold and I just felt that public school was no longer a threat to keep her in check, but a viable option that needed to be explored. I felt tha tmy stress load with the new baby was ever mounting. I Felt that homeschooling had become less attractive as I felt more and more overwhelmed. It was really hard to monitor behaviour while nursing from the couch or in the baby's room and when I finally got up to discover that the Wii had been on the whole last half hour instead of doing (what ever I asked) I generally would flip out because I was so tired, so sleep deprived, so short on patience.

So, that day, I really did make the phone call. We went down tothe school and I enrolled her. We started classes the next day. I had mixed feelings. I know my 7yo did too. She was excited to see our neighbor boy would be inher class, yet nervous and anxious about the unknonw. KNowing my daughter the way I do, I was sure she woudl love school. I just wasn't sure if I WANTED her to love school.

Well, I was right. When I picked her up on the first day she had the BIGGEST smile you ever saw to go with a red stain mustache that was evidence of a classmate's birthday party. Ugh. I felt like a failure. She loved public school way more than homeschool. I had given it my heart, my all, my soul. And failed. AFter all my strong feelings and convictions about the benefits of homeschooling, here I was having to admit that "government" really could make school more enjoyable for my child. It was a hard pill to swallow.

That was Dec 1 of this year. So she's had 3 weeks of public school. In that shor ttime, we've both learned a lot. Here's what's good to say about the experience thus far:

My daughter has learned to use an alarm clock. I don't have to nag her to get up and do anything. She gets up on her own and is ready for school without any nudging for me. She comes home with a smile! She enjoys her homework. She has made new friends. I have oodles more time. I can focus on my other children rather than squeezing them in between lessons with my oldest. It makes me feel like a better mom. There is more peace at home as we have no arguments over school work anymore. Her teacher is a doll. She really cares and does the best with the resources she has available. So, lots of positives right?

Obviously, I was concnerned about academics. We did second grade lastyear. Putting her into a second grade classroom felt very backward. They tested her at a 4.5 grade reading level, but dont' really have the time/resources to help her progress from that point. She'll be in the "top" group fo course. But that doesn't really mean she'll get the customized education that I'm used to providing her with. Theyactually told me that they stopped the reading test because she had done so well, but the third grade teachers didn't want the second graders moving beyond a certain point before coming into their classes. AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I had to squelch a big scream when I heard that.

Of course, personally I have a hard time with the school politics, the rig-a-ma-role of having to be part of sucha large system and play by their rules. Being controlled by their schedules, and subject to their policies is hard for a mom who's never experienced that. It feels like I have to just roll over and play dead.

A friend at a Christmas party explained it very well. She said going from homeschool to public school is the same as going from self employed entrepreneur to subservient employee. It's a super hard transition.

Well, my duaghter contineus to enjoy public school. I am trying not to show my distaste for the "big box" education they provide in her presence. HOWEVER....there's been a change, which I will explain more about down the road. But suffice it to say for now, that I think we'll be back at homeschool in February. Details to follow....

Story of the World - Mud Bricks

I've been really bad about posting on this site. Most days I feel like what we're doing is pretty run of the mill and not exciting enough to post here. That and a significant time shortage translate into very few posts.

But, better late than never, I say. So here are a couple of "fun" things we did back in November.

1) Making outdoor art.

And for Story of the World, we went outside to experiment with making mud bricks during our unit on the Indus Valley Civilizations.

We also had a pretty good time making up our own story about what could have possibly happened to the Mojenjo Daro city. I think our version of its disappearance involved alien abdutions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Science Fun: Acid-Base Indicator with Red Cabbage Juice

I'll be the first to admit that school this year is pretty unexciting. Adding baby #4 to the family 6 weeks ago has taken its toll. And yet I'm still pleased with the progress we're making and the steady pace we're somehow keeping up.

So here's one of the funner things we did last week for science:

We used red cabbage juice as an acid base indicator to test various household liquids. Fun!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Club: A Lion to Guard Us

Our Family book club had another meeting this morning. This time it was at our house and we discussed A Lion to Guard Us.

My kids all really enjoyed this book, as did I. There was SO much to explore in this book and I could've taken a lot of different angles. For time's sake, I had to leave out things like famous places/icons in London, the Bermuda Triangle, island vegetation and wild life, and building a model of Jamestown, VA.

Well in advance of the meeting I asked parents to help their kids create a diorama depicting one of the many settings in this book. Here are the dioramas that my girls did:
This one depicts an island setting with palm trees (above).

Here's another (below) depicting the night the kids were kicked out of Mistress Trippet's house and ended up on the docks at night where they met a crazy woman who wanted to snatch Meg away.

Other settings could include Miss Trippet's house, Dr. Crider's home, the ship, or Jamestown.

So here's how our 1 hour meeting went today:

We started by discussing a few lead in questions from below until we had established the living conditions of the children and their plight in life. Then we made biscuits (the ones Jemmy and Meg may have eaten on the steps with their stew behind a closed door).

Baking Powder Biscuits (makes about 1 dozen)

1/3 cup shortening1

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut shortening into flour, baking powder and salt with pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in just enough milk so dough leaves side of bowl and rounds up into a ball. (Too much milk make the dough sticky, not enough makes biscuits dry.)Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart for crusty sides, touching for soft sides. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet.

We continued to work our way through the critical thinking questions/activities as we prepared the biscuits. THen while they were baking we had each child present their diorama.

We then held a character vote. I listed 5 main characters on the board and provided each child with a ballot to vote for one of the five as their favorite. We discussed "characters" and the voting process. The ballots included a space to draw a picture of the favorite character. The ballot box was an empty kleenex box.

By then our biscuits were more than ready so we ate and discussed a few more critical thinking questions from below.

I had planned to do the copper polishing experiment, but we ran out of time. Our family did this experiment on our own today instead of our regular science lesson. See below.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. What is the father’s name? Why did James Freebold travel to Virginia? He was a carpenter and they asked him to help build houses in VA. Why did the rest of the family have to stay behind in London? Because VA was a wild place not ready for women and children.
2. Why is the brass lion’s head door knocker important to the Freebold children?
5. Why does Amanda decide to journey to the New World?
6. According to Ellie, why does Mistress Trippett want to keep the Freebold children in her home?
7. Why does Mistress Trippett feel she is entitled to Amanda’s money? Why does Amanda disagree?

Fainting: Read and discuss the following information. Can your student determine the cause of Mistress Trippet’s fainting?

Fainting is a temporary loss of consciousness due to a drop in blood flow to the brain. The episode is brief (lasting less than a couple of minutes) and is followed by rapid and complete recovery. You may feel lightheaded or dizzy before fainting.
When you faint, you not only experience loss of consciousness but also loss of muscle tone and paling of color in your face. You may also feel weak or nauseated just prior to fainting, and you may have the sense that surrounding noises are fading into the background.
Fainting may occur while you are using the bathroom, coughing strenuously, or when you have been standing in one place too long. Fainting can also be related to fear, severe pain, or emotional distress. A sudden drop in blood pressure can cause you to faint. This may happen if you are bleeding or severely dehydrated. It can also happen if you stand up very suddenly from a lying position.
Ask the kids to act out Miss Trippett’s fainting spell.

9. How does Dr. Crider help the children on the night they are chased out of the Trippett house?
10. Why do the children have to travel in the hold of the ship? What are the living conditions in the hold? Dark, crowded, smelly, no place to lie down.
14. Who is it that often carries the lions head and polishes it? (Jemmy). Why do some people aboard the ship think the lion’s head door knocker is made of gold? (Jemmy told the children it was gold because he wanted to show them he had something even more important than their toys).

Copper Cleaning Experiment

While she is sitting in Dr. Cinder’s kitchen, Amanda thinks to polish the copper pots and pans. What is copper and why do copper objects need polished? Copper is a rock found in the ground. It is a kind of metal and looks like a brownish reddish orange rock when it is found. Copper is a good conductor or carrier of heat. Copper is used to make wires, plumbing pipes, doorknobs, faucets and even lamps and jewelry. Copper in small amounts helps plants grow. Copper tarnishes or changes color and looks dirty when it is exposed to air. Did you know pennies have copper in them? They do, and copper pennies, like copper pots and pans tarnish. How do you clean copper? Let’s do some experiments to find out? Our question to answer is What kind of cleaner will work best to clean copper? Create a chart and make a prediction or hypothesis about which cleaner: dish soap and water, vinegar and baking soda, lemon juice, household cleaner or toothpaste, will clean copper best. Then set to work testing your prediction. Results: The lemon juice and vinegar and baking soda should work to clean the penny the best. The acids in the vinegar and lemon juice react with the metal (copper) in the penny and clean the tarnish off.
Alternative: silver polishing.

16. Why do you think the composition of the lion’s head door knocker is so important to the ship’s passengers?
19. What do they find to eat on the island? Eggs, fish, wild pigs (pork) served on leaves. What do they build their houses with? Rocks, Logs, Branches, mud, and palmetto leaves for roofs.
Do you think the children enjoyed living on the island? Why?
20. Describe Mr. Freebold’s condition. Will he be okay?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jump Start

Baby #4 (another lovely little girl) will be joining us the week that school officially starts around here. So, I've been tryin go get a jump start on our next school year so that when September comes, I won't feel totally lame for taking some time off with the new baby.

I have to say that this little experiment has really made me consider being a year-round-homeschooler. It was so refreshing to take all of July off. But then as August crept on, I really didn't mind spicing up our slower days with a little schooling here and there. It's been gentle and gradual. If the weather was nice, we played outside. If it wasn't we got more school done. That simple. I like the pace we're at and if we kept it up year round, then there really wouldn't ever be aneed to "cram" or hurry or skip over. We'd just ease our way through all the info as we go through the year. Hm....something to consider.

Anyway, just thought that I'd share some of the stuff we've been working on lately. AFterall, this is something of a photo journal to supplment our portfolio and a great way to log some of our projects.

So here, below, is a model of the Nile River. We're doing Story of the World Book 1. Grass represents crops and it was fun to flood the river to water our crops.

We talked about early writing including Hyrogliphs and Cuneiform. Here are the girls' names written on clay tablets in cuneiform, well one of them.

We're in the process of making a mummified chicken so I'll have pics of that in about 3 weeks.

Here are the models of Cheop's Great Pyramid that we made tonight:

We're LOVING this history program. So fun.

In science, here's our model of a Helium atom: By the way, we are not using K12 online school for science as I had previously planned. We're using Real Science 4 Kids and we've started with the Pre level 1 chemistry. It's fun so far!

For Art, we're doing Great American Artists for kids. I only have 1 pic of the projects we've done so far. We talked about THomas Jefferson's love for arches and architecture. We discussed keystones and then made our own arches with (scented!) playdough.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Comments on this Blog

Thanks so much to those of you who choose to step up and share a bit about what I've posted here. I apprecait input...I really do.

However, I don't speak, read, or write any eastern languages. Comments in languages that I cannot decipher will be removed. I'm sure you can see why: I simply have no way of moderating content if I can't read it myself.

I'm all for diversity and cultural awareness. I married a foreigner! But we can understand each other, and that makes a HUGE difference.

Thanks for cooperating. Not trying to put a damper on the fun, just letting you know that if I can't moderate it, then the comment will simply be removed.

I appreciate your understanding.


Gearing UP!

It's that time of year when homeschooling parents are cleaning out, brushing off, fixing up, and getting ready for the big "firstday" of school. That is, unless you're a "year-rounder" , in which case you're still plugging away steady as ever.

We do take summer breaks. Our sunny days in WA are way too sparse and precious to be spent inside doing school so we're pretty lax in the summer. However, this year is a bit different. See our "big first day" will be fairly anti climatic, since our little Ruby will be joining us that first week of Sept. When everyone else is off to the races, we'll be at a screeching halt.

So, I'm doing my best to get ready, get set, and go go go as much as we can during these beautiful and precious summer days, without depriving my kids of much needed and much deserved outdoor summer fun. It's a tricy balancing act.

Also, we came up with a name for our school. Since this is our third year of homeschool, I figured it was time to take the plunge and fully identify ourselves as part of the formal homeschooling community. OUr new school name is.....drumroll...
Cedar Heights Home Academy. Like it? I kinda do. Our back yard is loaded with cedars so it seemed to fit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Standardized Testing

Remember the Iowa Tests that we had to take in elementary school? I do. I remember the preparation, then the actual taking of the tests (it took DAYS) and then anxiously awaiting scores and wondering what they meant as far as my "smarts" went and how it would affect the teacher I'd be assigned to next year, the reading groups I'd be placed in, and mostly...what my parents might think. Yikes. Way too much stress for an elementary school child if you ask me.

But then, nobody had ever told me that you didn't have to take the test. We all HAD to take the test right? OR so they would have us believe.

So, I think the very last standardized test I ever took was either the ACT or the SAT (both?) to get into college. And I've never needed or wanted to take another standardized test since then. The irony is that, for all the importance placed upon these tests, they have ever ever ONCE had any bearing on my "real life" experience after my schooling. How about you?

Did any of your employers ask for your ACT results? Did the OB ask for your SATs before they'd consent to help you on your way to parenthood? Did your neighbors ask for the scores when they were getting to know you? How about your church community or your children's school personnel? What? You mean there's no relation to real life and those silly standardized tests?

Then WHY on earth do we care about them so so much?

Let me tell you about my most recent encounter with testing. I'm due with our fourth child on Sept 7. Given that this coincides with the beginning of the school year, I had serious doubts about whether or not I could continue to home school this coming year. So I began to search out other options for my soon-to-be second grader, who has been doing second grade work all year long. She's 7 now and is a terrific learner. She excels at reading, logical reasoning, and math and science. Although she claims her favorite subject is history. She recently devoured several books on mummies and pyramids. Ever since she's been regurgitating the most interesting facts about ancient Egypt. Stuff I certainly never knew.

Anyway, I knew my daughter was "gifted" (public school word) and I didn't want her thrown into the masses. So, I thought that if I could get her into our district's "gifted" class room she'd at least have some chance of surviving the year without withering in boredom. The acceptance process for this very elite, select group of young scholars required several letters of recommendation, and survey, evaluation and MOST importantly testcores above 92% in all subject areas. wow.

I decided to give it a shot. If for nothing else, I just wanted to see the public school system in action...testing, evaluating, categorizing and compartmentalizing. In other words, standardizing. How the heck can you standardize intelligence anyway? Isn't that what they were looking for? The SMART kids? The GIFTED kids? How the heck can a test tell you that? Anyway, I thought I'd find out. We had already missed the main test date, but they were told we would be lucky to get into a special testing date held especially for private and homeschooled children. ooohhh, thank you so muuuuuuch for accommodating my little fam.

I made no big deal about the test. I didn't make any effort to prepare her or tell her why we were taking the test, other than it might help us decide if we would be homeschooling again next year or not. that's all. No stress. No "GOOD LUCK", no "DO YOUR BEST", no "GO GETTEM TIGER". Nothing like that. She calmly followed the staff into the testing room with a quick smile and a wave over her shoulder as she went. OF course, I was barred from the testing room. Heaven forbid she have any family support.

The test lasted four tedious hours. And I stayed on site waiting for her with my 2 and 4 year olds. I was equipped with food and toys to last that long. There was only one other boy there form a private school who promptly informed us that he had been studying and practicing for this test for WEEKS. Thanks kid. We needed that.

Anyway, as the test wore on, my daughter stopped coming to visit me on her breaks. She preferred to socialize with the other kid and play board games during break time. No surprise. My kids are all very social and enjoy making new friends everywhere they go. (So much for socially crippling my homeschooled children, eh?)

All right, we took the test. And to my relief we finally left and went home. Then came the months...yes I said MONTHS...of waiting. It was more than 2 months actually. I opened the envelope with some excited curiosity, I confess. that all faded into disbelief, outrage, and then complete disgust for what I had just allowed the public school system to do to my child.

The scores were not "good". They would indicate that my child needed remedial help in all subjects. So needless to say she was not accepted. There was a pity letter included, stating that I could repeal the process if I liked and try to convince the board that my daughter was smart enough to join the gifted class. No thanks.

I was so completely appalled by the system's inability to correctly identify a child's level of ability that I no longer wanted any part of it for me or my children...EVER. So, my decision was made then and there. They had already made a box for my child. And I knew that if I ever put her in public school, she would be labelled and crammed into that box for good. There would be no hope of breaking the cycle if I ever allowed it to begin.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Every mom wants to believe that their child is special, smart, gifted, talented, super uper duper the bestest in the wordlest. Right? And maybe you think I should really look at those scores and reconsider the path I'm taking with her.

Ohhh boy. If only I had recorded every comment I've had from Sunday school teachers, piano teachers, neighbors, relatives, preschool teachers, swim coaches, and the like regarding my child's unusual maturity, level headedness, brightness, ability to learn, ability to lead, ability to empathize and show compassion, etc. Not to mention the fact that I myself have been schooling her in curriculum considered to be well beyond her age level for nearly two years now. I'm pretty sure I've got a kid who would qualify for a "gifted" program. But that's neither here nor there.

My point is this: If I wasn't convinced before that standardized testing is a bunch of hooey, I certainly am now. It's meaningless. And how much time, money, effort, worry and stress does it cost our communities and our kids every single year! It's wasteful and wrong.

I've just read John Gatto's book Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling in which he confirmed my feelings that standardized testing is absolute nonsense. I recommend you read the book for a number of reasons. It's very enlightening. He makes the point that we could each be part of a revolution in which standardized testing is done away with in all schools, simply by refusing to take them. Interesting.

As for me and mine, I'll make every effort to avoid them in the future.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I thought I'd never do it...but I did. I agreed to let the kids raise some chicks. I figured, if we're going to spend money to feed and care for a pet, at least we can get something out of it, right? Some fresh eggs would be great! And I have to admit, they're pretty darn cute right now.

We've had them for two weeks, so they still live inside under a heat lamp while they are feathering out. The kids have been helping me retro fit an old plastic play house into a chicken coop so we'll be ready for them when they move outdoors. The neighborhood kids keep streaming in to see our baby chicks. And we've already had several neighbors offer to pay us for fresh eggs, which I had not expected. I'm not sure what our egg production will be like, but even if we only get enough to feed our own family and then some to sell so we can pay for their feed, I'll be super happy.

So, I admit that the kids weren't the only ones who wanted these little fuzz balls. After all the reading I've been doing, and the class I'm taking online at the TJed Academy and Prep school, I'm very very motivated to increase our self reliance. Especially given the current state of global economic affairs.

Greece is down and out, and our country is close behind. And you know what they say, the bigger they are the harder they fall. I fear it will be especially true in the case of our great land, unfortunately. Maybe not. But in any case, I want to be prepared for ANY thing that comes my way.

And it's been great fun, really. The kids have been eagerly watching me and anxious to help as learn to be more self reliant. Here's what I've been up to in that area:
Beefing up our food and water storage. I'm currently shooting for three months and will expand from there.
Expanding/planting this year's garden (pumpkins, peas, corn, tomatoes, beets, onion, carrots, green beans, radishes, pickling cukes, zukies, and broccoli)
Learning to compost
Making my own toothpaste, laundry detergent, hand soap, and home cleaners
Baking more bread (I took a class on making sour dough bread too!)
Planting more edibles around the yard (I've added 3 huckleberries, 1 raspberry and 2 blueberries to the yard so far this year).
I bought myself a pressure canner for my birthday (AGH, I'm almost 34) and scavenging canning bottles where ever I can.
There's more, but I'll stop boring you there.

I feel this urge to get as much done before baby 4 comes. It's a girl by the way. And if I have my way, her name will be Ruby.

I gotta tell you, it feels REALLY good to be able to DO something about the situation by taking control of my family's own food security rather than just fret and hope for the best. For me, action has led to hope and optimism. I guess it just goes to show you that if you are prepared, you shall not fear.

I've got a long way to go and TONS to learn, but I'm so enjoying this journey and SO SO glad that my kids can take this journey with me. I wish I had grown up learning this stuff easily and comfortably via normal daily living instead of taking a crash course in it. But it's never too late, or too early to learn self sufficiency.

Oh, and by the way, if you notice to the right here, I've been reading lots of Sharon AStyk's book on this very topic. She has been inspirational to me. HOWEVER....I must submit a personal disclaimer here. I do not totally endorse her premises for pursing self reliance. She's all about climate change and peak oil. I am not. But the great thing is, that regardless of our differing values and motivation, we come to the same wonderful conclusion: That our country MUST increase its self reliance and we must start with individual households and communities to do so.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Off Topic: Self Reliance and the Home Mini Factory

This may or may not fit completely in line with the homeschooling theme of this blog. But if you're a TJed fan, like me, then you'll have already read (or be plannign to read) The Coming ARistocracy by Oliver DeMille. It's a short, power-packed book that will really get you thinking about your current lifestyle and how you can change it to empower your own freedom through self reliance.

In fact, I'm in the second week of an online TJed online Academy class about creating your own Mini Home FActory as a means of promoting freedom through self reliance. I feel like this is the class I've been wanting to take for YEARS but wasn't really sure how or where to get the information. I'm loving this class! It will be offered again in the fall, so if you're interested, let me know and I"ll send you the mentor's email so you can get the details.

Anyway, I'm learning a LOT and I just thought I'd share some of the fun links from our class discussion last night. I won't comment on them very much except to say that No, I am not a hippie. I consider myself to be the ultra opposite of a hippie. I'm a conservative through and through. HOwever, I do believe in freedom from the government through self reliance. And through that paradigm, all of this "tree huggin, land lovin, DIY" stuff really makes a ton of sense to me.'s some links to check out and get you thinking about how dependent or independent you are within your own home, and what that means for your family today and in the future. (YUM. Our mentor shared the recipe for Hearty Oatmeal Soup from this site. Look it up.) Incredible!

AS pointed out in the above clip, there was a time when it was cool, and even politically correct, for everyone to grow their own food at home: Yeah, that's what I'm talkig about!! Most of us don't live in UT, but could find something smiliar closer to home if interested???

Here's what I really came away with last night: Think local, think close to home. Free yourself from imported goods that you could find closer to home or make yourself. Example: where were your shoes made? CHINA? Probably. Here's an alternative source for shoes:
Something to think about!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Planets Preschool Lesson Plan

Well, since becoming pregnant in December of 2009 with baby #4 this blog has certainly suffered. Not because I wasn't thinking about posting everything that's been going on, but because I was simply too tired! I'm sure you can all relate to first trimester blues. Yikes. Glad that's mostly behind me now.

So, let me get back on track by posting about one of my more successful preschool lessons that I taught today for my daughter's coop. There are five kids in the coop, so it's a nice cozy group. Here's what we did today:

Space lesson plan

Imagine you’re climbing a ladder into the sky. You can look down and see the top of your house. The cars and people are so tiny! The ladder keeps going so let’s keep climbing. Look down. All we can see now are the tops of the clouds and the big blue sky above us. Keep climbing. Now we are above the earth’s sky and it’s very dark. We are in Space! What is space? (Definitions may vary, but you might explain it as everything beyond our own planet earth and the bubble of air that surrounds our earth).

Hm....wait a minute. How do people usually get up into space? Do people climb ladders to get into space? No....that’s silly. You have to be trained as an astronaut, kind of like a pilot, so you can fly a space shuttle into space. (Show a picture of a space craft if you have one. Pg. 28 of Look into the Stars by Buzz Aldrin could work).

Now we’re going to pretend that we’re taking our own space shuttle to explore space, just like a real astronaut.

Sing It's A Blast
Sung to the Eensy Weensy Spider.

Put on your spacesuit. We're going to the Moon.
(pretend to step into pants and buckle boots)
Climb aboard your rocket ship.
We're gunna blast off soon.
Put on your helmet.
Strap yourself in tight. (pretend putting on helmets and buckling your safety belt)
You better check your controls.
Get ready for the flight. (pretend to turn on switches)
(You may wish to teach this to the kids line by line so they can sing it though all together before doing the blast off)

Say: The countdown has begun! (wave and salute)
Here we go, Get ready, Get set!
5, 4, 3, 2, 1
(slowly rise from seated position)
Blast off!
(jump up)

Now we’re up in space. What do you see? (let the kids imagine and role play) Talk about the way you’re floating because there is no gravity. Explain gravity as something invisible that holds you and everything else to the ground. Point out the sun, the immense expanse of darkness, large chunks of rock or asteroids. Pretend to see the planets and then direct their attention to
As an alternate for the Styrofoam ball and CD, try using homemade play dough and discs cut from poster board. It worked great for us. I also let the kids decorate teh paper disc with water colors before adding the glitter glue.
Here's what mine looked like:

And here's what the kids made:

Snack: Astronaut food. Give kids a plastic bag with half a box of pudding poured in. Add appropriate amount of milk to each. Seal the bag. Let the kids mush it in their hands till thickened. Cut off a corner and let them suck it out the way an astronaut would to prevent liquids from floating away.
Show them pics on page 18-19 of Exploring Space: Astronauts and Astronomers by Judy Monroe Peterson. Read about life as an astronaut as children are snacking.

Coloring Time:

Free/Exploration time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review - The 5,000 Year Leap

This is a must read for every US Citizen. Leon Skowsen has provided the world a great service by writing this book. My first thought upon finishing the book was, "How on earth did I make it this far in life wtihout ever having anyone lay out this information for me before?" This ought to be standard reading for every Jr. High kid out there!

Ok, a lot of the information was familiar. None of it was totally foreign, of course. I knew a little bit about every principle in the book. But never had anyone taught me the "whys" and the "hows" of freedom so clearly and simply as did this book.

I could list sevral things I learned from each chapter, and quote at least half the book for you (it was that good!). But I won't. I'll tell you about 3 things that come to mind right now that I've learned.

1. At the very beginning the author clearly defines the various kinds of government our world has experienced through out time, listing their characteristics and effects on the people they govern. I was shocked and sickened at how closely our current administration has aligned itself with the definition of total monarchy, and how close we have come to losing the gift our Founding Fathers bestowed upon us with God's help.

2. I learned why it is in accurate to describe America as a democracy (although we often do) and why we ought to be clear that America is a Republic. Remember the pledge of Allegance? Hopefully they still say it in schools. I know we say ours every day. Well, we say, "and to the republic for which it stands." There's a reason for that.

3. Separation of church and state does NOT mean separation of religion and state. While government is not to endorse any specific religion or show preference for any given faith, it is VERY much the obligation of governemnet to recognize the Creator's hand in all things and abide by the natural laws of heaven. This was huge for me. I finally have a concrete response to those who are all about removing GOd from every public place.

Those are just 3 of the many things I gleaned from this book. Overall, I have an incrased sense of awe and love for the men who sacrificed so much to build our nation and give us teh foundation for freedom. It is now our sacred responsibility to pass this knowledge on, to fight for its preservation, and oppose any effort to destroy these 28 principles of freedom.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Family Book Club - Indian in the Cupboard

First, I guess I should welcome myself back to the land of blogging after a nice long vacation. Hope it was a terrific Christmas/New Year for all of you. Lots of things going on here at home while absent from the blogosphere including house guests, toilet floods and plenty of "hanging out". This first week back in the groove was actually very refreshing and I think we're all glad to be back.

Anyway, last night was our turn to host the book club again (this was our fourth club meeting) and I think the meetings are getting better and better.

Here's how our meeting went:

I selected book discussion questions from this site:

From there, I could have really dug deep into Iroquois Indian life and explored that in detail. But we only had 60 minutes to work with so I chose to focus on the Three Sisters that formed the base of their diet: beans, corn and squash. I had chosen books from the library with pictures of a three sisters garden and we talked about Omri's lack of experience with squash. I had a butternut squash to show them.

Then, I had the kids put on blindfolds as I passed out samples of each of the three sisters. First I passed out small cups with a bit of corn and invited them all to touch and taste, but not to talk about it outloud. Then we set that aside and repeated the process with beans and squash. Then I asked them to guess which of the 3 sisters they had been fed first, second, and third.

After removing the blindfolds, we took votes to discovere which was the kids' favorite "sister". Turns out it was a tie between the corn and the squash, but I'll have you know I put in a generous amount of brown sugar and butter in the squash. Side note: I served the squash sample in a small cup with a popsicle stick so they wouldn't have to lick it off their fingers.

THat activity doubled as our snack. From there we talked more about the magic of the cupboard and its ability to transport the figures across time. I asked the kids to think about what time they would like to travel to if they could hop in a magic cupboard.

Each child was given an empty cereal box and scisors to create their own magic cupboard. Inside we colored pictures of a time and place that we would each like to visit if we could hop in the magic cupboard and go anywhere. OF course, the cupboard only worked with the magic key, so each child was given a laminated key with a red ribbon tied in it with the word "imagination" written on it. With more time, it would've beenf un to cover the box with paper and decorate it.

They each got a chance to show their magic cupboards to the group and explain the picture inside.

We had a great time and as usual, we are looking forward to the next club meeting!