Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Homer Price Family Book Club Activities

We actually listened to this book on CD while driving in the car, which is how we roll these days (literally) during my last trimester with our 5th child.

As in past book clubs, we had planned to host this meeting with 2 other great families, but due to illness and difficulty rescheduling, combined with an impending due date, our family decided to go it alone tonight and do the activities with just our six little selves.  We still had a lot of fun and even learned a few things, I hope.

Since I didn't have the actual book in my hands, it was hard to recall the order of the chapters, the names of the characters, and even some of the side plots.    But with the kids' help I think we pulled off some relevant activities.

DISCLAIMER:  Our camera went Kaput!!  So my 10yo used a cell phone to take the pictures in this post.  And they were all taken AFTER the evening had ended so...they aren't the best. Sorry.

One of our favorite parts came at the beginning of the book when Homer devised a pulley system to bring his pet skunk up to his room.  What a great introduction to pulleys!  And it just so happens that our science class this year is all about simple machines, how they are used, as well as famous inventors and their impact on science.

I've been using this book to help me teach the class to the kids:

And we love our science classes!!  Anyway, there is a lesson on fixed pulleys so I used parts of it to help explain this activity.   Those great little pulleys you see there are available on Amazon.  Click the photo for a link:

I didn't have a stuffed skunk, so our stuffed raccoon (that I've had since I was a kid) had to substitute.

Here's how we ran the experiment:
1. Review the definition of a tool.  A tool is anything that makes work easier.  Review some of the simple tools we have discussed to date.
2. Using  a force meter (in this case I used ), determine how many pounds of force are needed to lift the bucket by hand.  We found that it took 1.45 pounds of effort to lift the load.
2.  Ask for hypotheses about how the use of pulleys will affect the amount of force needed to lift the load.
3.  Using the single fixed pulley, lift the bucket again to determine the effort required to lift the load.  You should find that it takes about the same, or even more force to lift the load.  In our case it took about 1.53 pounds of force using the single fixed pulley.  Why more force instead of less?  Because there is still only one "rope" lifting the bucket.  The tool, however, does make work easier by changing the direction of the input force.  Rather than lifting up, we are now pulling down. This feels easier, even though it apparently was less efficient.
4.  Unstring the single pulley, and string up the double pulley system.  Point out that there are now TWO ropes pulling on the bucket and two pulling down.  Ask again how this might affect the input force required.
5.  Get a reading using the double pulley system.  It should be at least half the initial input force.  I can't remember our exact number because I didn't write it down (like a good scientist should) but it was amazing to read the result on the scale.  It was at least half as much effort.

The kids really enjoyed that, although it was the most difficult part of the night to "pull" off (ha ha) because these little plastic pulleys don't always cooperate and it was hard to get accurate readings. If you can get your hands on some real pulleys, I would recommend it.

Next, we had fun talking about the Sheriff and the Uncle who both wanted to woo Mrs. Terwileger (an avid knitter) by having the largest ball of twine.   We used an idea from this cute blog: http://delightfullearning.blogspot.com/2010/11/homer-price.html  to have a family yarn winding session.

Ok, my original idea was to have each of the 3 families with their own skein of yarn wrapping a ball of "twine" and then compare the size of each to see who could make the biggest ball in a given time period.  But since it was just us, I came up with a new plan.
We each took 30 seconds wrapping the ball as fast as we could, keeping the ball as symmetrical as possible. We then passed the yarn to the next person and they took a 30-second turn.  We had three rounds of this process and then measured the AREA of the  ball using the following steps:

1. Measure the circumference and divide it by pi (3.1416).  This gives you the diameter.
2.  Divide the diameter in half to get the radius.
3. Square the radius.
4. Multiply the squared radius by pi to get the area of the sphere.

This was fun math!  My older kids know how to find the area of a flat shape, but not a sphere.  So just  casually introducing them to the word "pi" and helping them through those steps above was a fun painless way to prepare them for future math lessons. In fact, my 10-yo said,"COOL!  PI! When do I get to learn more about pi??"  Soon, my dear.  All too soon.

There's a fun article about the world's biggest ball of twin HERE.

Here's my 6yo guy speedily wrapping the yarn.

From there our discussion took a slightly more spiritual turn.  We discussed Miss Ender's desire to express her gratitdue to the town of Centerburg by offering affordable housing to deserving families.   We discussed to scriptures on thanksgiving:

From the New Testament:
Psalms 95:2

Let us come before his presence with athanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

And from the book of Mormon:
  • Alma 34:38

    38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
We discussed the importance of recognizing our blessings, and their source, each and every single day.

We used this discussion as a springboard to talk about how Miss Enders manifested her gratitude through good works.  Her idea was a good one!  But then Homer's uncle had an even more ambitious idea!  We talked about how the 1940s was an era of automation.  People were fascinated by the prospect of making things faster, better, and cheaper.  We talked about the doughnut machine episode here as well!

On the note of efficiency and affordability, we introduced the concept of assembly lines.  And we had our own assembly line.

I showed the kids the "product" that we'd be making in our assembly line: 
I know it's difficult to see that little bug (above), but it gives you a general idea of what we were making.

Here are the 5 stations we set up in our assembly line;

1.  Making 3 small playdoh balls.
2.  Connecting the balls through the center with a toothpick and adding six legs with 3 additional toothpicks.
3.   Adding eyes (pinto beans)
4.  Adding antennae (1/4 of a black pipe cleaner, pre-cut,  bent like a V and curled at the tips)
5. Adding a tail (plastic beading string, pre-cut)  We gave this job to our 3 yo and it was perfect for her.

I set the timer for five minutes and we were off!  The goal was to make as many products as possible during those five minutes.  HOWEVER....there was also quality control.  In addition to quantity, we needed quality and uniformity.  So all the bugs had to have all the parts to count toward the final product.  And if we could make a bug that weighed the same as the original example (27 grams), the assembly crew would earn a bonus of 5 points.  I actually gave them a little 4 point range, so anything between 25 and 29 grams would earn bonus points.   I used a kitchen food scale to weigh each bug at the end of the five minutes.

I helped the first station person get started making the 3 balls, since this was the most time consuming part and all the other stations depended on speedy production at this one station.

Our first round was a learning experience.  We produced 9 bugs and 4 of them got bonus points for a total of 29 points.

Our second round was much better! We produced 15 bugs and 5 of them earned bonus points for  a total of 40 points!!  The kids loved it. Very fun.  When it was all over we had just as much fun disassembling all those bugs!  And it helped a lot to have a very large tub of playdoh.  Here's the kind I used:

I had prepared 3 little trophies to award to the families based on the total points they earned in this activity. But since it turned out to be just us, the 3 younger kids each claimed a trophy of their own.  Here's what they look like:

Remember the chapter about the Super Duper comic book hero?  We made our own comic book hero.  Her name was SUPER KNITTER (must have been the influence of the yarn).  We made a six-frame comic strip about her.  Each family member got to draw their own frame and tie it into the story being told.  The last person had the challenge of ending the comic strip and making sense of the whole thing.  Our story was pretty wild!!

When we listened to this story on CD, we all got a huge kick out of the "edible fungus" song at the end of the book. The narrator did a great job singing it and we still sing it to each other.  Here are the lyrics of the chorus:
42 pounds of edible fungus,
In the wilderness a-growin,
Saved the settlers from starvation,
Helped the foundin' of a nation.
Again, my original idea was to play game with the 3 families called "mushroom match up".  I was going to pick up various edible mushrooms at the local grocery store, and have family teams match them to their proper name.  But after our club was called off this morning I skipped the trip to the store for mushrooms, and we didn't play this game.  Not yet anyway.  I told the kids about it and they really want to do it so we'll see.

Sidenote:  Being 35.5 weeks pregnant I had fun making up new lyrics to this song.  They are as follows:

42 pounds of baby fat growin'
On my body, they're a-flooooowin'

Yep, that's how it feels.

For snack there were DOUGHNUTS of course!!!

I used this recipe: http://onsugarmountain.com/2013/09/11/baked-apple-cider-doughnuts/

The kids each got some pez and a pez dispenser in their stocking this year, so the plan was to bake a single piece of pez candy into one of the doughnuts and let someone find the lucky "diamond" from Miss Ender's missing bracelet.  But we just made regular doughnuts and enjoyed them as they were, pez free.  My kids loved them.  They are quick and easy to make, too.  Here's the little pan I bought for this fun recipe:

So hopefully this will inspire some of you to read this book as a family and you'll have as much fun with it as we did.  As four our dear, sick friends who missed out on this night with us: We wish you a speedy recovery!

PS: The author of this book, Robert McCloskey, has written some other great books that you're probably familiar with including Lentil, Blueberries for Sal, and  Make Way for Ducklings.  There is also a sequel to this book called   , which we plan to read.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Museum of Flight

We have been discussing the Wright brothers and very basic principles of flight in our science class. So this district sponsored trip to the museum of flight was very timely!

We got to explore the beginnings of passenger flight, military flight and space flight.  The kids also attended some classes taught by museum personnel.  My 5th grader got to build a computerized moon rover designed to pick up rocks. She also learned about drag and dropped parachutes from a balcony. 

The 3rd and 1st graders got to learn about the various parts of an airplane the control roll, pitch and yaw. Then they built their own paper planes and examined the different wing designs of airplanes in the museum.

Here are a few snapshots of our fun day!

This is a model of a space shuttle interior.  The kids are standing in front of a sleeping area where the astronauts zip themselves to the wall for a nap!

On our way to the airpark

This is how we ride in elevators.

Inside the air force one that carried Pres. Kenney the day he was shot.

Her model parachute earned second place with a drag time of 6.88 seconds

These were the coolest paper airplanes. They flew great!

Learning about Roll, Pitch and Yaw

She was 100% convinced that her "messages" were getting through to the pilots on the runway and she was helping them land or take off.  In actuality, we were able to hear live radio feed from 2 nearby radio control towers.  But this little girl was sadly not a part of that. (She'll never know!)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Celebrating Veteran's Day with the Kids

I don't really recall anyone taking time to explain veteran's day to me as a child.   Someone must have somewhere a long the line, because it's really important to me. I don't have any immediate family in the military, which makes it harder to give a personal "thank you" to all of our men and women in uniform. 

I wanted to make sure that my kids knew what Veteran's Day was and how to commemorate it.  So for our history club today we spent most of our time talking about this important holiday.

We began by reading two books:


The second book was used mostly to illustrate and explain the Tomb of the Unknowns and how it plays a part in Veteran Day observances.

The kids had very little knowledge of these things, so I was happy to share this information.

We also discussed the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran's Day.  This is a great website to help explain the differences and the history  of Veteran's Day.

We did talk a little bit about some of the kids' relatives that had served in the military.  This helped bring Veteran's Day a little closer to home.  But I wanted them to hear from a living Veteran. So I used Facebook to contact a high school friend of mine that I new had been serving in the Navy for many years. I asked him to message me about his experiences serving there and how he felt about Veteran's Day.

It was great to read his words to the kids and get their reactions.  We wanted to show our appreciation to him and all our service people.  So we made a banner (also a suggested activity in one of the books we read earlier) with a message of thanks.


We posted this on his Facebook page thanking him for his time spent teaching us about Veteran's Day and for his service to our nation.  He wrote back a fun message to the kids as well. 

But since we had the actual poster in our hands, we decided to take it over to the neighbor's house.  They are both Air force veterans and we wanted to show our thanks to them also.  Luckily the wife was home!  We also presented her with some cake that we had made from another part of our history lesson.

She was pleased and surprised by our visit, I think.  :)

Doing all of these things helped us earn our Veterans Badge for Frontier Girls/Quest Boys.  bonus.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Getting Ready for Baby

Baby #5 will be joining us in just 11 weeks or so.  The kids are very excited.  We've done a lot of talking about Baby Hazel and how she'll fit into our hearts and our home.

I thought that one good way of involving the kids in the preparation for her arrival would be to have them help me make a blanket for her.  So I chose to do a patchwork blanket this time around, allowing the kids to help me piece the squares together.

They helped pick the fabric and yarn, they helped me wash the squares and then iron them. They chose the pattern for the blocks (I bought them precut to save some time and effort) and then they helped sew them together!

Confession: Some of their sewing made for very uneven rows. I had to take a few of them apart and redo them on the machine. But I'm sure Hazel will still feel their love when she's wrapped up in it!

I'll post a final picture when it's done.  Give me a few weeks!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Homeschool Day at the Zoo

We have attended homeschool day at the zoo several times over the years. It's always a fun treat for us.  And it's even more fun to go with friends, of course.

We started at the Education Center to learn about a couple different animals from Africa.  Oddly enough, these two critters were from woodlands and desert climates.  Not really what you think of when you think "Africa".   We learned a lot about the diversity of Africa, it's climates and animal life.

We ventured out to the Savannah where we saw the Zoo's new baby giraffe, his mom and his auntie.

Apparently dad died of illness not long ago.

The fun part was watching the giraffes being herded back into their barn for the day.  Glad we didn't miss seeing them!

There goes baby.  Born at 6 feet tall, he's now about 8 feet.
Hippo Rides.  Two sets of Bffs.

More BFFs

The gorillas were very interactive!  The kids loved being able to get close and share hand pats through the glass.

Learning about raptors, I think. I was too busy handing out snacks to pay attention.
And who can resist a good pile of leaves?  These kids sure can't!

It was a great day at the zoo.  Happy kids.  Tired mom.  Time to go home.